Any person taken to court has certain rights that must be respected. The Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution require that neither the federal government nor individual states deprive anyone of life, liberty or property without “due process of law.” At its most fundamental level, due process requires the defendant be served with notice that a case has been filed against them, and given the opportunity to appear before the court to defend themselves.
The increasing mobility of individuals in our society has added complexity to the issues of due process. Pioneers took six months to travel across the country on the Oregon Trail in the mid-1800s, risking disease and death along the way. Today, someone can load up their belongings in a U-Haul truck and relocate across the entire country in about a week. This extreme freedom and ease … Read More »
Parents sometimes unintentionally sabotage their own custody cases. Sometimes the sabotage happens before the parent retains counsel, and other times it happens after an attorney is involved. Here are four pitfalls to avoid if you want to win your custody case:
1. Failure to cooperate with all attorneys involved. If you are represented by an attorney, it is extremely unlikely that you will speak to opposing counsel, except at trial. However, you will need to interact with your own counsel and possibly one other attorney—a Guardian ad Litem (GAL). It is imperative that you are cooperative and honest with both these attorneys.
Hopefully, you hired your attorney because he or she is competent, knows the law, and impressed you. It is important to listen to your attorney’s advice. If you believe you are not receiving good advice then seek a second opinion before you disregard your attorney’s advice … Read More »
Every parent involved in a child custody dispute is concerned about the kind of custody and visitation arrangement that will result. Regardless of whether the court decides custody or the parents reach an agreement which is then approved by the court, there are two aspects of custody that must be addressed in every case: legal custody and physical custody.
In Virginia, one possible custody option is one parent being awarded sole legal custody and sole physical custody, with a visitation schedule for the other parent. An alternative to that “sole custody” arrangement would be “joint custody.”
Virginia Code Section 20-124.1 defines joint custody as follows:
joint legal custody, where both parents retain joint responsibility for the care and control of the child and joint authority to make decisions concerning the child even though the child’s primary residence may be with only one parent;
joint … 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 juvenile and domestic relations district courts (“J&DR courts”) in the Commonwealth of Virginia have jurisdiction over cases to determine child custody and visitation. While this jurisdiction is “concurrent” with the circuit courts (meaning either court can hear such a case), a vast majority of custody disputes begin—and end—in J&DR courts. Parties to custody cases before a J&DR court do retain the automatic right to appeal any decision to the circuit court for a brand new trial, meaning that parents could potentially have to go through a complete custody trial not once, but twice, before being able to move on with their lives.
This reason is one among many that could lead parties to resolve a custody battle through a negotiated agreement. But the last thing a parent wants to face is the other parent backing out of an agreed-upon custody arrangement, … 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 »
Actor Jason Patric has a case in the California courts that has gained national media attention recently because it involves the paternity rights of sperm donors. Patric’s child was conceived by his former girlfriend through in vitro fertilization using Patric’s sperm. Now he’s fighting to be declared the legal father of that child and to have custody and visitation rights established.
In 2013, the Virginia Supreme Court decided a similar case involving assisted conception: L. F. v. Breit, 285 Va. 163; 736 S. E. 2d 711. The biological father in that case, William Breit, was also seeking to have paternity established, as well as custody and visitation rights, for a child that was conceived via in vitro fertilization using his sperm. Unlike the California parties, William Breit and his long time, live-in girlfriend entered into a written custody and visitation agreement, … Read More »
Last year, Virginia expanded the relief available to victims of domestic violence obtaining a final protective order. The typical remedies a victim of family abuse may seek in Virginia are found in Virginia Code Section 16.1-279.1, and include prohibiting acts of future family abuse, prohibiting some or all contact between the victim and the offender, and granting possession of the residence occupied by the parties to the petitioning party. The option of an abuse victim to terminate a rental agreement early, however, is not contained in this Section. It is instead located in Virginia Code Chapter 55, which deals with property and conveyances.
Virginia Code Sections 55-225.16 and 55-248.21:2 both provide that any tenant who has been a victim of (a) family abuse, (b) sexual abuse, or (c) other criminal sexual assault may terminate their rental agreement under certain circumstances. Those … Read More »
As discussed in Virginia Poised to Update Child Support Guidelines, on July 1, 2014 Virginia child support laws will significantly change. Parents with no child support order in place may benefit from waiting until July 1st to file new cases, as they may receive more support under the new guidelines.
But what about the parent with a child support order in place under the old guidelines? Can he or she request a review of child support based on the new laws? The short answer is: yes.
The longer answer is as follows. Virginia courts can modify any child support order based on a “material change of circumstances.” Case law provides that changes to state law are material changes that justify the court reviewing the previous support order. Parents therefore have the right to request a review and modification of child support based on the new … Read More »