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 »
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 »
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 »
With the rising costs of college education, many families are establishing college savings accounts for their children. While this is certainly a good and well-thought out plan for the future, it is unlikely that parents ever consider this question: What happens to the college savings accounts upon a divorce?
College savings accounts, including Virginia 529 plans, are usually titled in names of one or both parents, who are technically the “owner” or “owners” of such accounts. The child is then listed as the beneficiary on the account. Depending on the type of account and the plan’s rules and regulations, a child will have a certain number of years to use money from the college savings account for their educational pursuits.
In a Virginia divorce which involves the division of assets and liabilities, Virginia Code Section 20-107.3 mandates that the court must classify … Read More »
Parties facing a divorce or other family law litigation in Virginia often ask the question: would it help their case to record telephone conversations with the opposing party? The answer to this question may surprise you.
The Virginia Code sets out a surprising barrier for the use of recorded telephone conversations. Virginia Code Section 8.01-420.2 sets a general bar to the admissibility of recorded phone calls in civil court proceedings, unless all parties are aware that the conversation is being recorded. Unlike voicemails and recorded physical interactions, a telephone conversation would provide the opportunity to record without all parties’ awareness that the recording was being made. In a voicemail, the party intends that the message will be recorded, and pulling out your phone and placing it on the table is a tipoff that you may be recording an in-person interaction.
For telephone conversations, however, Section 8.01-420.2 … Read More »
Many times when it becomes obvious that a marriage is heading towards failure, the question arises whether it would be best to seek an annulment or a divorce. To answer that question, one must first understand how annulment differs from divorce, and the different remedies a court may award upon a divorce vs. upon an annulment.
Many people confuse the legal annulment with a religious annulment. A legal annulment is a determination by the court that the marriage never existed. It can only be granted in a limited number of circumstances that are very rare.
A very small number of marriages may be annulled because they were void ab initio—meaning they were never valid marriages. Those marriages include bigamous and polygamous marriages, incestuous marriages, and underage marriages. See Virginia Code Section 20-38.1. These “void” marriages are deemed to have never legally existed, … Read More »
Due to hard economic times, more and more parties are considering filing for bankruptcy. Even if you have not contemplated filing yourself, if you are facing the dissolution of your marriage you may find that your spouse has filed. Here are three things to know if you find yourself facing a separation or divorce in Virginia where one spouse has filed for bankruptcy:
Joint Debts. One of the most frequently asked questions when one party files for bankruptcy, either Chapter 7 or Chapter 13, is whether or not the non-filing spouse will be responsible for the discharged debts of the spouse who filed for bankruptcy. The answer is: it depends on how the debts are held. If a discharged debt is one that the filing spouse solely incurred and held solely in their own name, then the non-filing spouse will not be responsible for such debt. … Read More »
Determining how to handle a business asset is one of the most complicated issues in many divorce cases. Under Virginia divorce law, circuit courts are given the responsibility of fairly dividing the value of any marital property of the parties. Marital property includes any property acquired by either party during the marriage, regardless of how it is titled. Sometimes the parties own and work in a business together, in which case the value of the business is less important than how the business will evolve into the new situation where the owners are no longer married. More often than not, however, one spouse has an ownership interest in a business while the other does not, in which case the value of the ownership interest becomes increasingly important.
So How Do Virginia Courts Value a Business in Divorce?
The Supreme Court of Virginia … Read More »
“Am I going to have to pay spousal support?”
“I’ve been out of the workforce for fifteen years. Will I get any support?”
“It was my military service! Why should my spouse get a portion of my retirement?”
“I paid the mortgage every month. Why aren’t I getting a bigger percentage of proceeds from sale?”
“My spouse has never even attended a parent-teacher conference.”
Family law attorneys hear the above questions all the time. And, all the time, we have to tell our clients, whether good or bad, what their realistic expectations for their case should be. It would be irresponsible if we didn’t accurately represent possible realities to our clients. Sometimes when I review expectations with my clients, I like to ask that they assess their marriage as a business partnership. What were the terms of the partnership, what was its goal, what ethical and moral framework … Read More »