As a family law attorney, I focus on resolving the problems that arise from the breakdown of a marriage. I am referring to the legal issues of custody, visitation, support, and equitable distribution, all of which must be addressed as part of any divorce case involving minor children. Nonetheless, when clients call on me for advice, often their questions focus not strictly on legal issues, but on how to deal with the more practical consequences of divorce. Frequently among them, where there are minor children, is the question of how one should go about speaking to a child about divorce.
Although there is no one best way to break the news to a child, here are five tips for talking to your son or daughter about divorce:
Try to focus on what will be immediately relevant and understandable to your child. In … Read More »
When going through a contested divorce or custody case many clients struggle with the concept of discovery, why it is necessary, and how it can benefit their case. Discovery is the legal process in which a party may ask questions of the other party and request documents relevant to the case. Discovery is an integral part of the litigation process because it provides notice to each side of the specific issues in contest, and evidence to help build their case. Many clients find that discovery can be their greatest asset or their worst enemy. For those clients that struggle with the discovery process it is generally because they are unprepared. Here are five tips for making the discovery process work for you:
Prepare before or at the beginning of the case. Discovery is typically issued at the onset of the case. Once … Read More »
Modification to Virginia Code Would Allow Consolidated Petitions
The issues of child custody and visitation are about as connected as any two issues can be. If you have any experience with Virginia custody cases, however, you know that it can feel like each part of your case has its own case number. And that’s because, by and large, it does! The Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Courts here in Virginia will assign one identification number for a child custody case and give a second, different number to a visitation case… for the same child. If paternity is an issue that becomes a third case number. And if there are multiple children, well, each child gets his or her own set of unique case numbers for his or her custody matter. Parents in a custody dispute can find themselves with more than … Read More »
Parties in custody or visitation disputes often find themselves in two separate counties or even states. This frequently leaves the parties to wonder which court has the authority to resolve the outstanding issues. If parties to a custody dispute, in which no previous order has been issued, file petitions in two different states, the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) will dictate which state has the authority to make the custody determination. The UCCJEA is an act that has been adopted by 49 out of the 50 states, including Virginia, as an attempt to provide consistency between the states and prevent parents from moving to a certain state for a preferential outcome.
Generally, under the UCCJEA, a state will have jurisdiction to make an initial custody determination if it was the home state of the child when the petition was filed … Read More »
When a child is removed from the United States by a parent, or retained in a country not the United States beyond an agreed-to period of time, and in violation of a parent’s custodial rights, the left-behind parent is left feeling hopeless. Why? Because each country is a sovereign nation with its own judicial system, laws, and law enforcement, and a custody order from a United States court may not be recognized by a court abroad. In this age of increased international tourism and travel, as well as the growth of ethnically diverse, multi-national families, the widespread adoption of a piece of uniform legislation that facilitates the return of abducted children is paramount. Thus, we have the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (“Hague Convention”).
What is the Hague Convention?
The Hague Convention, concluded in October 1980 and … Read More »
If you are going through a divorce or other family law case, it is advisable to hire an experienced family law attorney as early in the process as possible. Not only will your attorney help guide you through the process, he or she will also serve as your advocate and voice so that you can get the best possible result without having to stand alone. It is no secret, however, that legal fees in a family law case can be expensive—and you want to receive value for your money. Here are five tips for getting the most from the relationship with your family law attorney:
Pick wisely. Not all attorneys are created equal. Make sure you feel comfortable with your attorney’s personality, level of professionalism, and views about your case. Feel free to seek a second opinion with another attorney so that you … Read More »
When deciding the “best interests of the child” for purposes of a custody and/or visitation determination, Virginia courts look to Virginia Code Section 20-124.3. In large part, that code section asks Virginia trial courts to determine the mental and physical health of the parties and the child, the role each parent has played and will play in the child’s life, the ability and willingness of the each parent to support the child’s other familial relationships, the reasonable preference of the child, and any history of family abuse. Nowhere in the factors listed in Code Section 20-124.3 is the court explicitly asked to address the immigration status of either parent. However, immigration status can have an impact on your custody case if you, or your attorney, are uninformed, and immigration status can complicate the already difficult questions before the court.
Immigration Status … Read More »
The choice of a family law attorney is always very personal. Given the subject matter, you’ll want to work with someone you can trust, who is nonjudgmental and willing to listen and learn about your circumstances. Considering what may be at stake, your choice of lawyer should be experienced, hard-working and committed, but also willing to find ways to save you money and help you move on as soon as is practical. From my experience, here are three questions that every potential client should have answered before making a significant financial commitment to a custody or divorce attorney:
Will you work as hard to settle my case as you will to try it? At first, this may seem unusual. Working hard to settle means caving in, right? Doesn’t extending an olive branch equate to surrender? Far from it. Contrary to popular … Read More »
When preparing a client or witnesses for a hearing or a trial, I always find myself repeating one thing over and over – the hearsay rule! What is hearsay? Why is hearsay evidence inadmissible? Are there exceptions?
Without writing a dissertation, I will try to sum a few things up about the hearsay rule as it relates to custody, divorce and other family law cases in Virginia.
What is Hearsay?
The Supreme Court defines hearsay as “testimony given by a witness who relates, not what he knows personally, but what others have told him, or what he has heard said by others.” Cross v. Commonwealth, 195 Va. 62, 74, 77 S.E.2d 447, 453 (1953). Note that hearsay is not limited to oral statements. Hearsay includes conduct, gestures, writings, and even silence in some cases. Further note that in order for a statement to … Read More »
If you have a child custody or visitation dispute on your hands, you’ll want to be aware of what elements the court will consider in making a determination. Contrary to popular belief, courts no longer have legal justification to favor the mother over the father. Instead, Virginia Code Section 20-124.3 provides a list of factors that courts must weigh before ruling on what custody and visitation arrangement is in the best interests of a child.
From my experience, these are the six most important factors considered by Virginia courts in deciding custody and visitation cases:
The Status Quo. The power of the status quo can’t be overstated. If one party stays in the marital home with the children, they will start with a leg up. They can argue that the children are comfortable in a familiar environment, with established neighborhood friends nearby and … Read More »