When negotiating a marital settlement agreement or separation agreement, you will inevitably hear your counsel talk about certain standard “boilerplate” provisions. You will probably just glance over these provisions, and your attorney will likely only touch on them briefly while focusing on the meat of the agreement—custody and visitation, support, property, debts, retirement, etc. Unfortunately, such a crude review of these provisions could prove costly.
Take for example the case of Hale v. Hale (2003), wherein Wife was awarded a portion of both Husband’s employer-provided pension plan and his employer-contributed 401(k). Wife had sought an equitable distribution of both assets, while Husband had maintained that only the pension plan was to be divided per the parties’ separation agreement. The agreement referred in its retirement provisions to the “pension plan” in the singular. However, the heading of the retirement provisions and the parties’ boilerplate preamble language … 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 »
Virginia Code Section 20-107.1 provides that pursuant to a divorce, a court may reserve the right of a party to receive spousal support in the future. Furthermore, “in any case so reserved, there shall be a rebuttable presumption that the reservation will continue for a period equal to 50 percent of the length of time between the date of marriage and the date of separation. Once granted, the duration of such reservation shall not be subject to modification.”
What does this mean? This means that in lieu of a spousal support award, or in addition to a spousal support award, a Virginia court can grant a reservation for one or both parties to seek additional spousal support from the other in the future.
Why would a spouse not elect to immediately pursue his or her reservation? Because it’s not as simple as … Read More »
The Difference Between Jurisdiction and Venue
Jurisdiction and venue are two very different legal terms that are often, and wrongly, used interchangeably.
Jurisdiction is the power of a court to adjudicate a case upon the merits and dispose of it as justice may require. Litigants cannot bestow this power on the court by waiver or consent; jurisdiction can only be granted to a court by constitution or legislation. In Virginia, a court has jurisdiction over a family law case if it has (1) jurisdiction over the subject matter, (2) jurisdiction over the person, and (3) jurisdiction to render the specific relief sought. For example, pursuant to Virginia Code Section 20-96, the circuit courts in Virginia have jurisdiction over suits for annulment, divorce, separate maintenance, and for affirming marriages.
In contrast, venue is the place where the power to adjudicate a controversy is exercised, and it can be waived … Read More »
Divorce can be financially difficult for both parties, particularly in today’s economy. If you are the breadwinning spouse, you may face special difficulties—which include but are not limited to the following:
Your spouse doesn’t (or refuses to) work, so you may be looking at higher amounts of spousal support and child support.
Your name is tied to all of the marital debts because your spouse doesn’t have good credit.
You’re stuck paying everything: a mortgage, two car payments, and massive credit card debt that is more than you can afford.
Your spouse recklessly increases your debt, and only you are held responsible.
Your spouse has requested pendente lite support and attorney’s fees to help him or her carry on the divorce lawsuit.
Unfortunately, these are examples of some of the pitfalls that come with being the breadwinning spouse. Here are four tips to help protect yourself before, during … Read More »
Among the most common questions for many people facing divorce are those relating to spousal support: will the court order spousal support? If so, how much—and for how long? As explained in Spousal Support in Virginia, both local guidelines and the Virginia Code provide guidance on how trial courts are to go about determining the amount and duration of support. However, even with local guidelines and the factors stated in Virginia Code Section 20-107.1, awards of support vary greatly case by case. Nevertheless, the Virginia Court of Appeals recently reiterated the importance of the Code factors, in the Fairfax County divorce case Cleary v. Cleary.
The parties in Cleary were married for 17 years and had three children during the marriage. Both parties were employed, with the husband working as a financial advisor and the wife working as an independent contractor. The court granted the … Read More »
There was a time when divorce was never spoken about on television or in pop culture. In 1962, “The Lucy Show” became the first program to prominently feature the character of a divorced woman (with the character of Lucy’s housemate, divorcée Vivian Bagley).
Today, popular dramas like “The Good Wife” and “Mad Men” feature main characters who are divorced, and any stigma that once existed has disappeared. Reality programs like “The Real Housewives” and “Divorce Court” allow the masses to ogle the “private” lives of those seeking fame but settling for 15 minutes of uncomfortable notoriety.
Now comes a new twist on the portrayal of divorce on television: “Untying the Knot,” which premieres on the Bravo network on June 4th at 10:00 p.m., starring New Jersey matrimonial attorney Vikki Ziegler, along with “appraisal experts” Mark and Michael Millea.
Each episode … Read More »
Ever wonder whether the era of online dating has led to more separations and divorces? According to a recent survey of the nation’s top divorce attorneys, the answer is yes. Fifty-nine percent of respondents in the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) have seen an increase in the number of cases using evidence from dating websites during the past three years.
Online dating contributes to divorce rates, but is also assisting divorce lawyers across the country in building their cases with easy-to-obtain evidence that can become critical to litigation outcomes.
Of those divorce attorneys surveyed, 64% cited Match.com as a primary source, with eHarmony.com running a distant second at 9%. Fifty-seven percent of AAML respondents singled out the “Relationship Status” listed by users as the most common piece of evidence utilized in their divorce cases, while 15% noted Salary and 7% listed … Read More »
The Fairfax County Circuit Court recently issued an opinion that sheds light on an important aspect of Virginia divorce law: when divorcing parties include a provision for spousal support in a separation agreement that is incorporated into a divorce decree, that spousal support can only be modified later if the language of the agreement specifically allows for modification.
In Gordon v. Gordon, the parties divorced in 2003 after signing a separation agreement that provided for an award of spousal support (alimony). The Agreement made support non-modifiable, stating:
The husband agrees to pay to the wife, as and for her non-modifiable support and maintenance, the sum of One Thousand Dollars ($1,000.00) per month, the initial payment to be made on the first day of the month following execution of this Agreement by both parties, and to continue in consecutive monthly installments on the first … Read More »
Military divorce cases often involve discussion of military retired pay, the Survivor Benefit Plan, and continuation of the spouse’s medical benefits after divorce. A growing topic of discussion in these cases is the servicemember’s education benefits under the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Increasingly, these benefits are becoming a topic of negotiation in separation agreements between divorcing couples.
The GI Bill can cover all in-state tuition and fees at public degree-granting schools. It also provides for a housing stipend and book allowance while in school. The benefits may be used up to 15 years after the servicemember’s discharge from active duty. Eligibility for Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits requires a minimum of six years of service. Separate requirements apply for reservists. Servicemembers may transfer their Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to a spouse or child, but only after meeting an additional service obligation of four years.
Under 38 U.S.C. § 3020(f)(3), Post-9/11 … Read More »