If you and your spouse have decided to end your marriage, you may be contemplating negotiation, rather than litigation. Divorce can be mentally, physically and emotionally exhausting to you, your children and your extended family. The effects of divorce may be reduced if you and your spouse can negotiate a settlement, rather than going to trial and having the court decide. A negotiated divorce will require some give and take by both parties, and neither one of you will get all you want. If successful, a negotiated divorce will result in a final agreement that both of you are willing to accept.
There are several possible options for negotiating a settlement in your divorce:
A negotiated divorce can be achieved via direct communication between the attorneys who represent the respective spouses. If there are only a few contested issues, the attorneys should … Read More »
One question that often arises in Virginia custody cases is whether a child can simply tell the judge that he or she wants to live with one parent or the other. The answer to that question is: maybe.
Virginia Code § 20-124.3 lists the factors that courts must consider in determining child custody and visitation in Virginia. One factor listed is “the reasonable preference of the child, if the court deems the child to be of reasonable intelligence, understanding, age and experience to express such a preference.”
The Code does not provide a set minimum age where a child is deemed able to express their preference. Instead, courts are left to decide on a case-by-case basis whether to consider the child’s preference, based on the individual child’s age and maturity level.
And, there is no precise age at which a child’s preference is controlling. § 20-124.3 lists a child’s preference as … Read More »
Weighing the Legal Benefits of Marriage vs. Long-Term Cohabitation in Virginia
With same-sex marriage now legal in Virginia, it would seem that marriage would be on the rise. However, a Parents magazine article reports a trend among millennial couples to forego marriage for a number of practical reasons, including financial, personal preference, and the fear of divorce.
As a family law attorney, this trend concerns me. The laws of most states and the federal government allow certain protections and benefits to married couples. Those things that the LGBT community fought so hard for are being dismissed by many millennials as “unnecessary.” The Parents article does not warn of the legal risks that accompany maintaining long-term cohabitation relationships without entering into marriage, and it is important to consider all the risks and benefits of marriage before you make the decision to forego getting married.
One of the … Read More »
In many divorce cases, the most valuable asset to be divided is a pension. Pensions, or “defined benefit plans,” pay retirees a specified recurring benefit upon retirement that the retiree receives for life. Examples of defined benefit plans are the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS), Virginia Retirement System (VRS), and military retirement benefits. Two main characteristics of pensions make them so valuable: first, the payments received can add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars throughout the life of the retiree; and second, the pension pays its benefits in regular (usually monthly) intervals, creating a guaranteed stream of income for the recipient.
Another feature of defined benefit plans is that they only provide the benefit to the retiree—when the retiree passes away, all benefits cease. This is generally of no concern to a retiree in a divorce proceeding. But a former spouse could … Read More »
Divorce and child custody proceedings are often contentious, time consuming and expensive. It is understandable that parties to litigated divorce or child support cases would never want to see a courtroom again, or even think about having to reopen old wounds. The reality is, however, that parties who want to adjust child support need to follow certain steps and procedures, because the consequences for not doing so can be severe.
Pursuant to Virginia Code § 20-108, Virginia courts have the authority to revise and alter prior orders concerning the custody, care and maintenance of a child or children and make new orders, “as the circumstances of the parents and benefit of the children may require.” The amount of child support ordered by a judge may be increased or decreased at any time based on a “material change of circumstances.”
Parties seeking a modification of … Read More »
Advancements in technology have allowed couples to have a child even if they are not able to conceive on their own. One such technology is in vitro fertilization (“IVF”). IVF is the process of extracting eggs from a woman’s body, combining them with sperm in a laboratory and then implanting them in the woman’s uterus. The excess embryos can be frozen and stored for later use. When the couple is ready to have a child, a frozen embryo can then be thawed and implanted in the uterus. This process is known as cryopreservation.
Couples who are undergoing a divorce may find themselves in a contentious legal battle over the disposition of their frozen embryos. For example, if one of the parties fears not being able to have a biological child due to age or other physiological reasons, then that party may want to … Read More »
As a divorce attorney, I often hear the word “narcissist,” typically used by my client to describe his or her spouse, or vice versa. Usually the condemned partner is someone who is overly conceited or excessively self-centered, and not necessarily a narcissist. Although being particularly self-absorbed can come off as supercilious and arrogant, narcissism is much more than that. Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a real psychological disorder exemplified by a need for admiration and lack of empathy for others. Generally, narcissists genuinely believe the world revolves around them.
It is no secret that going through a divorce is extraordinarily difficult. However, divorcing a narcissist increases the conflict and turmoil tenfold. While there is nothing one can do to fully eliminate the effect of a narcissist on the divorce process, there are certain actions that can help minimize the emotional toll on … Read More »
When making an award of custody or visitation, Virginia courts look at the factors listed in Virginia Code Section 20-124.3 to determine the best interests of the child. One of these factors is whether there has been a history of violence or abusive behavior. This could be a history that has previously been documented by police reports, protective orders, or criminal convictions, but it could also present itself in the form of allegations made against one parent by the other parent during litigation of the custody case.
Allegations of abuse or neglect of a child made against a parent during custody litigation are sometimes referred to as the nuclear bomb of family law. Such allegations can drastically raise emotions and tensions in an already very difficult situation, and can swing the balance in a custody case from one parent to the … Read More »
Due to modern medicine and a societal focus on healthier lifestyles, people are living longer than ever before. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics, the average life expectancy in the United States for men is now 76.4 years, and 81.2 years for women. It makes sense then that Americans over the age of fifty are headed toward divorce at an unprecedented rate. Sociologists at Bowling Green State University found that one-quarter of all divorces in America involve spouses over the age of fifty—the “gray divorce”—a rate which has doubled since 1990. One in ten divorces now are between spouses over the age of sixty-five.
In addition to the fact that people are simply living longer, we can speculate on other reasons why individuals over the age of fifty are seeking divorces at such … Read More »
Divorce can be a lengthy process in Virginia. In no-fault cases, Virginia law requires parties to be separated for at least twelve months, or for at least six months with a separation agreement and no minor children, prior to even filing for divorce. And contested or fault-based divorces can take much longer than no-fault cases—sometimes dragging on for years, depending on the jurisdiction and issues involved. However, in many cases the parties have very real needs that must be addressed prior to the final hearing in their divorce. Thankfully, Virginia law allows courts to enter orders granting “pendente lite” (pending final resolution) relief to address those needs.
Virginia law grants the court the authority to issue pendente lite orders in any divorce case. Either or both parties may file a motion for pendente lite relief, either when the case is initially filed or at any time … Read More »