“I want my kids to get the best education possible.” I hear this statement, or some similar variation, from many clients. While this is a worthwhile goal, it becomes much more complicated when the parents are going through a divorce. Very often, the parties share very different opinions of what path would lead to a child receiving the “best” education possible.
After a divorce, parties typically share “legal” custody of their children. Legal custody does not have one definition, and in Virginia the court has the statutory authority to fashion a legal custody decision which it deems to be in the best interests of the child. The judge can order that the parties share equally in decision-making authority for educational matters related to the child, or can give final decision-making authority to one party or the other.
When parties decide to resolve … Read More »
Going through a divorce results in a whirlwind of emotions—everything from extreme sadness and disappointment to elation and acceptance. Regardless of how the marriage ended, or whether the divorce is amicable or contested, people are often unprepared for the immense changes that come from a separation and divorce.
That being said, there are certain steps that you can take to better equip yourself for dealing with the transition from marriage to separation and, ultimately, to divorce. Consider doing each of the following six things at the outset, before seeking a divorce from your spouse in Virginia:
Go to a marriage counselor. This is especially true if you have children with your spouse. There is a reason why you got married in the first place, and you owe it to yourself, your spouse and your kids to see if there is an option other … Read More »
Are you a divorced or unmarried parent? If so, have you ever wondered what would happen to your child in the event you died? If you are a noncustodial parent, have you wondered what would happen if the custodial parent died? Are there third parties with a legitimate interest in the child who would want custody in the event you or the other parent died?
These are all good questions and things that you should be thinking about now.
The Typical Case
Typically, if one parent dies, the other parent will assume custody in total. In the event both parents die, or in the event a single-parent dies (i.e. there exists no other legal parent), then hopefully there exists a valid will that appoints a guardian to the child, as well as an appointed trustee as to the child’s inherited property. In Virginia, a … Read More »
Can You File for Custody If Your Parental Rights Were Terminated in Virginia?
If your parental rights to a child have been terminated, under Virginia law you do not have standing to file a petition for custody of that child. Under Virginia Code Section 20-124.1, a petitioner seeking custody of a child must be a “person with a legitimate interest.” The statute specifically provides that a person with a legitimate interest does not include a party whose parental rights have been terminated by a court order, either voluntarily or involuntarily. However, in 2013, the General Assembly enacted Virginia Code Section 16.1-283.2 to provide a procedure for restoration of parental rights. Once a parent’s parental rights are restored pursuant to that code section, he or she can file a petition for custody.
Who Can Petition for Restoration of Parental Rights?
The statute distinguishes as … Read More »
If you find yourself in the middle of a contested divorce and the stakes are high, you may need more assistance than your attorney can provide. With an eye toward preparing your case for trial or simply aiding in the settlement process, several categories of experts can be utilized to bolster your position and create compelling evidence in your favor.
These experts are typically experienced as trial witnesses, and the best ones come armed with CVs that add weight to their testimony and shield them from withering cross-examination. Experts can also prepare reports for use as evidence in court or as tools to bring the parties closer to settlement.
You should consider whether hiring any of the following six types of experts would be a worthwhile investment of time and money in your ongoing divorce:
Business Evaluator: This expert can be critical in cases … Read More »
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 »