In custody cases where a child has lived in multiple states, under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) the initial custody determination will generally be made in the child’s “home state.” If the child has been absent from their home state, the court will look to see what state the child lived in during the prior six months or during the six months immediately preceding the filing for custody.
But what happens when the child has not lived in the United States in the past six months?
Take the hypothetical case of John & Suzy Doe for example. John and Suzy have an 8-year-old son named Joe. Joe was born in England, but moved to Virginia with his parents when he was two years old. After six years in Virginia, Suzy takes Joe and heads back to England. Nine months later, Suzy files for … Read More »
The Washington, DC metropolitan area, and particularly Northern Virginia, has a highly transient demographic. Between the dense concentration of federal government jobs and the myriad military installations in and around the city, individuals and families are constantly moving in and out of the area. It comes as no surprise, then, that we often see parents who have children subject to a child custody and visitation order issued by a state other than Virginia. Many times, these parents want to modify the custodial arrangement set forth in their out-of-state order.
In Virginia, child custody and visitation orders are modifiable where (a) there has been a material change of circumstances and (b) the best interest of the child warrants a different custody arrangement. Upon filing a motion to modify a custody order in Virginia, however, it must first be determined which state or … Read More »
Paternity is a father’s assumption of legal rights and responsibilities to a child. An established legal father of a child has a duty and obligation to support that child, as well as the right to petition the court for custody or visitation of the child. Such rights and responsibilities do not apply and cannot be exercised unless and until paternity is established.
In addition to the emotional and quality of life benefits that building the father-child relationship can have for both parties, establishing paternity also entitles the child to other possible benefits, including the right to inherit, the right to share in social security, the right to collect disability and veteran’s benefits if applicable, and the right to receive insurance and medical health benefits. Establishment of paternity is also valuable to the child because knowing the mental and physical health history of … Read More »
Children are expensive; there is no doubt about it. When a third party steps up and receives custody of a minor child, that custodian has new, often times unplanned for, expenses. Many times custodians want financial support from the parents but do not know where to begin. Do they file against one parent? Both parents? Will the custodian’s income be a factor? The questions can be endless and the process can feel overwhelming.
Assuming all parties (parent(s) and custodian) reside in Virginia, a third party custodian can seek child support through the court in Virginia as follows:
First, the custodian would file a separate child support petition against each parent, and request that the court docket the two petitions together.
Second, once the matter is docketed, the parents would provide and exchange their income information, and the court or counsel would proceed to calculate … Read More »
At what age is it legal to leave a child home alone in Virginia?
It may come as a surprise that there is not a Virginia law that answers this exact question. There is no specific age at which you can legally leave your child at home alone unattended. However, there is guidance set forth from the Virginia Department of Social Services that parents should consider when making this determination:
Your child’s maturity level. You know your child better than anyone else does. Is your child physically and mentally capable of taking care of themselves? Think of it this way: when you give your child a specific instruction, are they able to follow it without any additional assistance?
How easily can your child reach you? It is not simply enough that an adult neighbor is available next door: you, as the parent and legal guardian, must be … Read More »
A central part of every divorce involving children is the determination of child custody and visitation rights. In Virginia, a variety of possible physical custody arrangements exist. For example, one parent may have primary physical custody while the other parent has visitation rights, or custody may alternate between parents on a weekly or monthly basis. Regardless of where the child stays on any given night, there are many ways in which he or she can spend time with both parents. “Virtual visitation” is a way for parent and child to maintain a close relationship with possible daily interaction, although they are not physically in the same place. It may be particularly helpful in situations where the parent and child have reduced face-to-face visits because they no longer live in the same geographical area.
Virtual visitation is the use of technology as a means … Read More »
In Virginia, a petition for custody or visitation may be filed by either parent or by any “person with a legitimate interest.” Virginia law defines a person with a legitimate interest broadly to include grandparents, stepparents, former stepparents, blood relatives and family members such as aunts, uncles or adult siblings. Once the court finds that a person seeking custody or visitation qualifies under this definition, then it will consider the best interests of the child in determining whether custody or visitation should be granted, and making any other rulings pertaining to the petition before it.
Any person who has had his or her parental rights terminated by a court, or who seeks access to a child for another who has had his or her rights terminated, voluntarily, involuntarily or by adoption, may not be considered a person with a legitimate interest—regardless of … Read More »
Family law attorneys are constantly asked what, if any, advantage there is to filing first. Whether it is for divorce, custody or support, the answer is both “yes, there is an advantage” and “no, there is not an advantage.”
The answer is “no,” because your allegations, evidence, and prayers for relief will be reviewed impartially by the court—whether you filed first or not. The judge will not favor either party because of the order of filing.
The answer is “yes” for two main reasons: (1) you get to set the pace for litigation and/or settlement, and (2) you get to speak first and last in the event your case goes to trial.
Setting the Pace
Filing first means having some degree of control over the pace and nature of litigation and/or settlement. Are you hopeful for a settlement, and do you want to demonstrate that to the opposing party? Are you … Read More »
As everyone knows at this point, same-sex marriage is now legal in the Commonwealth of Virginia. On October 7, 2014 Governor Terry McAuliffe signed Executive Order #30 titled “Marriage Equality in the Commonwealth of Virginia.” The order directed all state agencies, authorities, commissions and other entities within Virginia to quickly make any necessary policy changes to afford same-sex couples the same benefits as heterosexual couples.
Now that Virginia allows and recognizes same-sex marriages, same-sex couples will no longer need to travel outside the Commonwealth to resolve their family law issues. Below is a summary of the impact of marriage equality on four areas of family law in Virginia:
1. Divorce. Any couple with a valid marriage from Virginia, a foreign state or country may now file for divorce in Virginia, provided the parties were married in Virginia, last resided as a couple in Virginia, or one spouse has resided … Read More »
Parents going through a divorce or encountering custody or visitation issues can face a very difficult and stressful time. Each custody case is different, and there is no definitive “how-to” guide which will answer every question that might come up in your case. However, the following list of do’s and don’ts should provide a helpful starting point:
Do your best to cooperate and co-parent while your case is pending or while you are awaiting your hearing.
Explain to your children, depending on their age and maturity level, generally what is happening and why Mom and Dad may have to go to court. If the kids may have to go court, more conversations need to take place or perhaps a guardian ad litem (GAL) should be involved in the case.
Keep a journal and/or a calendar of what you do as a parent on a weekly or monthly … Read More »