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 »
The first step for most people in obtaining legal counsel for a custody, divorce or other family law matter is to have an initial consultation with an attorney. Most consultations are scheduled for one-half to one full hour and most family lawyers in Northern Virginia do charge a consultation fee. The consultation is your opportunity to describe your situation to an attorney and receive an overview of the legal issues in your case, and perhaps a proposed course of action. It is also your opportunity to interview the lawyer in order to decide if they are the person to best represent you and your legal interests. Likewise, the consultation allows the attorney to determine if the case is one in which they can offer assistance.
Here are ten tips to help you make the most of your family law initial consultation:
Seek advice as … Read More »
As the calendar turns to September and football season begins anew, children all over the country have returned to school. For them, the carefree days of summer give way to the structured rigors of academic pursuits. But their parents may enjoy the respite that school hours provide.
With the start of a new school year upon us, perhaps it’s a good time to revisit some of the most contentious issues that separated or divorced parents grapple with when their children are in school.
Information Sharing. A classic area of animosity involves the use of children as a conduit for information between parents, which should generally be a no-no. This places your child squarely between you and your ex-spouse, and will lead to unintended negative consequences. There should be no need for Jimmy to tell mom about the parent-teacher conference next week, because … Read More »
Parents sometimes unintentionally sabotage their own custody cases. Sometimes the sabotage happens before the parent retains counsel, and other times it happens after an attorney is involved. Here are four pitfalls to avoid if you want to win your custody case:
1. Failure to cooperate with all attorneys involved. If you are represented by an attorney, it is extremely unlikely that you will speak to opposing counsel, except at trial. However, you will need to interact with your own counsel and possibly one other attorney—a Guardian ad Litem (GAL). It is imperative that you are cooperative and honest with both these attorneys.
Hopefully, you hired your attorney because he or she is competent, knows the law, and impressed you. It is important to listen to your attorney’s advice. If you believe you are not receiving good advice then seek a second opinion before you disregard your attorney’s advice … Read More »
Summertime! It is the time of year where many of our military families are going through their permanent change of station (PCS) moves, and many of our civilian families are moving before the new school year begins.
What does relocation mean for separated or divorced parents who are co-parenting a child in Virginia? The juvenile and domestic relations district courts of Virginia will examine the best interests of the child in each case by applying the statutory factors of Virginia Code Section 20-124.3; but a relocating parent has a significant burden beyond those factors.
Where there is a current court order in place, an impending relocation is always considered a material change in circumstances which allows the court to re-examine the facts of the case.
Unfortunately for the parent hoping to relocate, the current trend of the Virginia Court of Appeals in the … Read More »
When a couple decides to separate and pursue a divorce, there are countless questions and issues that can arise. However, there are also some difficult questions that await the teenage child or children of divorcing parents. Perhaps the most difficult question to answer is: “Who do I want live with after Mom and Dad are divorced?” The answer to this question can go a long way towards determining the final custody and visitation arrangement for that child.
In making a custody or visitation determination, a Virginia court will consider what is in the best interests of the child, according to the factors laid out in Virginia Code Section 20-124.3. One of the most important factors listed in that code section is: “The reasonable preference of the child, if the court deems the child to be of reasonable intelligence, understanding, age and experience … Read More »
Every parent involved in a child custody dispute is concerned about the kind of custody and visitation arrangement that will result. Regardless of whether the court decides custody or the parents reach an agreement which is then approved by the court, there are two aspects of custody that must be addressed in every case: legal custody and physical custody.
In Virginia, one possible custody option is one parent being awarded sole legal custody and sole physical custody, with a visitation schedule for the other parent. An alternative to that “sole custody” arrangement would be “joint custody.”
Virginia Code Section 20-124.1 defines joint custody as follows:
joint legal custody, where both parents retain joint responsibility for the care and control of the child and joint authority to make decisions concerning the child even though the child’s primary residence may be with only one parent;
joint … Read More »