Many family law clients ask the same question during their initial consultation: “which court should I file in?” In Virginia, both the juvenile and domestic relations district court (“J&DR court”) and the circuit court handle family law cases. The J&DR court has the power to hear matters concerning custody, visitation, child support, and spousal support. The circuit court can hear all of the same issues, in addition to divorce and equitable distribution.
Unmarried couples with children must file in the J&DR court for custody, visitation, and child support to be determined. For couples who are divorcing, there are factual, procedural, and strategic considerations that come into play when determining which court to start in. Generally speaking, if one of the parties has grounds for a divorce, it may make more sense to begin the matter in circuit court, but this is … Read More »
In Virginia, there are two types of courts that handle family law cases: juvenile and domestic relations district courts (“J&DR courts”) and circuit courts. Circuit courts have the authority to hear divorce cases and all matters stemming from divorce, including child custody, visitation and support, spousal support and equitable distribution. J&DR courts can hear cases of custody, visitation, child support and spousal support, but have no authority over divorce matters. J&DR courts thus hear many cases involving unmarried individuals who share children—but are not off limits to married persons by any means.
In some instances, married individuals may file petitions for custody, visitation or support in J&DR court, even if they intend to ultimately seek a divorce in circuit court. In many cases, neither individual of the married couple has grounds to file for divorce in Virginia, but still needs a determination … Read More »
Probate is the legal process that includes proving the validity of a decedent’s will, identifying the decedent’s assets and transferring those assets to the decedent’s heirs, beneficiaries and/or creditors. “Probate assets” are assets that pass to your heirs or beneficiaries pursuant to your will. “Non-probate assets” are assets that pass to your heirs or beneficiaries by some means outside of your will, thereby avoiding the probate process that involves qualification of a fiduciary, costs, and delay, as well as other aspects of probating a will.
Some examples of non-probate assets in Virginia are:
Assets with a Named Beneficiary. Life insurance contracts payable to a designated beneficiary, and retirement benefits payable to a designated beneficiary, such as 401(k)s and IRAs, pass directly to the named beneficiary at the death of the policy or account owner, rather than by a will.
Payable on Death (POD) … Read More »
If you do not know the whereabouts of your spouse, it is still possible to proceed with a divorce. Because each party in a divorce must have notice of any claims asserted against them, an absent spouse becomes an issue for purposes of service, which is the process by which parties to a case are provided with notice of the legal proceedings. In these cases, notice can be provided by using “service by publication.” Service by publication is the method of publishing an order, which acts as sufficient notice of the divorce proceedings to the spouse whose location cannot be found.
There are several potential issues with service by publication that you should be aware of if you intend to use this method in your divorce case.
First, service by publication is only to be used when one spouse truly has no … Read More »
How you hold title to your real estate (real property) may have an impact on whether or not it can be left to someone in your will. When having a will drafted and considering who you want your real property to pass to upon your death, it is important to know how title to your real property is held. It is also important that you provide your attorney with the title or deed of trust for each piece of real property that you own so that it can be properly addressed in your will.
Title refers to legal ownership and the right to use property. There are several forms of ownership of real property in Virginia, including:
Sole ownership. Title to real property held in the name of one person is sole ownership. The person who is the sole owner of the property … Read More »
In Virginia, a spouse who spends or disposes of marital property for an improper purpose (a) anticipating a separation or divorce or (b) after the final separation of the parties may have committed “marital waste.” The court has the authority to consider such behavior in making an equitable distribution award.
Marital waste (or “dissipation of assets”) typically occurs when one party transfers funds out of a marital account or otherwise misuses marital funds after the marriage begins deteriorating. The aggrieved spouse must only show that the funds were withdrawn or used by the other spouse. The burden of proof then shifts to the alleged wrongdoer to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the funds were spent on a proper purpose. It should be noted that Virginia courts have held that spending money on living expenses post-separation does not usually constitute … Read More »
A written agreement between parents or a court order regarding custody and visitation are the most common methods by which custody and visitation are determined between parents who are no longer together. However, in the event that one parent will be absent from the country, a power of attorney may be an appropriate means of giving someone who is not a custodian or guardian of your children the ability to act on your behalf during their absence.
Virginia law provides for children’s enrollment in school when living with relatives who are not their parents, by use of special “kinship care arrangements.”
Virginia also allows military families to have a power of attorney regarding the care of minor children, by recognizing the military power of attorney instrument provided in 10 U.S.C. § 1044(b). See Virginia Code § 64.2-1604 and the Interstate Compact on … Read More »
In most cases, when one thinks of adoption, they imagine a child being taken into a loving “forever” home. Virginia law, however, allows for the adoption of an adult, though specific circumstances must apply. For instance, a stepparent may adopt an adult stepchild if that stepparent has stood “in loco parentis” to the child for at least three months. Standing “in loco parentis” means standing “in place of a parent.”
In addition, a close relative of an adult may institute proceedings for the adoption. Under the applicable Virginia Code § 63.2-1242.1, a close relative is defined as a “grandparent, great-grandparent, adult nephew or niece, adult brother or sister, adult uncle or aunt, or adult great uncle or great aunt.”
The Virginia Code also permits a petitioner to adopt an adult if the person to be adopted is the birth child of the petitioner … Read More »
Are you separated from your spouse, or otherwise undergoing marital difficulties? If so, you may find yourself wondering whether your spouse can disinherit you. In Virginia, the short answer is no. Virginia law protects surviving spouses from being disinherited by allowing the surviving spouse to claim an “elective share” of the decedent’s estate if the decedent died without a will, if the spouse is omitted from the will, and even if the decedent explicitly disinherited the surviving spouse in the will. The right to an elective share continues even where the parties are separated or pending divorce, until a divorce is final.
What Are You Entitled to Under the Elective Share?
The answer to this question is going to change for decedents dying on or after January 1, 2017, based on some 2016 revisions to the Virginia Code.
For decedents dying before January … Read More »
Powers of attorney are valuable tools for managing your business and personal affairs, and health care. If you are considering one, here are seven things you should know about powers of attorney in Virginia:
1. What Is a Power of Attorney? A power of attorney is a legal document that allows you (the “principal”) to appoint someone (the “agent”) to act on your behalf. A limited power of attorney contains language that restricts the agent’s authority to a specified act or specified period of time. A general power of attorney is effective upon signing and gives the agent authority to do anything you could do for yourself, but it is no longer effective if you become incapacitated. A springing power of attorney (also called a conditional power of attorney) becomes effective if and when you become incapacitated; it can also be … Read More »