Category:Family Law


Third-Party Custodians and Adoption in Virginia

Posted on July 10th, 2017, by Anne Prentice in Family Law. No Comments

In Virginia, a grandparent, relative, or other interested party may seek and receive a court order granting them legal and physical custody of a child in their care. Such an order would give the custodian a feeling of security that the child cannot be taken from them unless a parent seeks to modify the custody order, in which case the custodian would presumably have an opportunity to object and have their day in court. However, under the Virginia Adoption Statute, that may well be a false sense of security. Under that act, parents who have lost custody nevertheless maintain their residual parental rights, including the right to consent to an adoption. The end result, as I will explain in detail below, is that third-party custodians with legal custody may actually lose the children in their care to an adoption without any notice or … Read More »


Impact of Leaving Children Home Alone on Your Custody Case

Posted on July 5th, 2017, by Jonathan McHugh in Custody, Family Law. No Comments

It is very common these days for both parents to work outside of the home, whether on a part-time or full-time basis. For many parents, this requires a juggling of responsibilities and it also requires making sure that children are supervised and looked after appropriately. It is difficult enough for many parents to find the appropriate care for their children when two parents are living under the same roof; however, the situation becomes even more complicated when parties are separated or divorced.

While Virginia law does not provide a specific age at which you can leave your child at home alone, many Virginia counties set their own guidelines for supervision of minor children. These guidelines are typically drafted and developed by social workers and other community members. These county-specific guidelines are not laws; however, not following them can have legal implications.

Virginia courts … Read More »


Which Court Should You File In?

Posted on June 26th, 2017, by Sarah Collins in Custody, Divorce, Family Law. No Comments

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 »


Change in Virginia Family Law Regarding Life Insurance

Posted on June 20th, 2017, by Brianna Salerno in Family Law. No Comments

A new law goes into effect in Virginia on July 1, 2017, giving courts the authority to order a party paying spousal support to maintain an existing life insurance policy for the benefit of the payee spouse. This change to Virginia family law will come from a new statutory provision, Va. Code § 20-107.1:1.

The existing life insurance policies must be on the payor spouse’s life, not the payee spouse’s life. Additionally, the policy must have been issued during the marriage, through the insured’s employment, or be within effective control of the insured provided that the insured party has the right to designate a beneficiary during the marriage and the payee is a party with an insurable interest.

This new Virginia code provision effectively overrules the holding under Lapidus v. Lapidus, 226 Va. 575 (1984). In Lapidus, the Supreme Court held that nothing … Read More »


Divesting Jurisdiction in Virginia Family Law Cases

Posted on May 24th, 2017, by Jenna Maresco in Custody, Family Law. No Comments

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 »


Service by Publication in Virginia Divorce Cases

Posted on May 15th, 2017, by Caitlin Higgins in Divorce, Family Law. No Comments

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 »


Rental Income and Child Support in Virginia

Posted on May 8th, 2017, by Laila Raheen in Family Law. No Comments

For purposes of calculating child support, the Virginia Child Support Guidelines take into account each parent’s gross income. Virginia Code § 20-108.2(C) defines “gross income” as “income from all sources,” including but not limited to:

income from salaries, wages, commissions, royalties, bonuses, dividends, severance pay, pensions, interest, trust income, annuities, capital gains, social security benefits except as listed below, workers’ compensation benefits, unemployment insurance benefits, disability insurance benefits, veterans’ benefits, spousal support, rental income, gifts, prizes or awards.

§ 20-108.2(C) further provides that “[g]ross income shall be subject to deduction of reasonable business expenses for persons with income from self-employment, a partnership, or a closely held business.”

Pursuant to this code section, Virginia courts have consistently deducted expenses associated with rental properties from the rental income on those properties in calculating gross income. Some of the expenses commonly deducted include: mortgage payments, taxes, insurance, … Read More »


Sole Custody of Children in Virginia

Posted on April 13th, 2017, by Amanda Stone Swart in Custody, Family Law. No Comments

People undergoing the process of separation and divorce face many major, life-changing events all at one time. First and foremost in the minds of most parents in this situation is the issue of child custody. The initial question on the minds of many is: “Can I get sole custody of my kids?” While many parents are inclined to seek sole custody of their kids, very few are familiar with what the term “sole custody” actually means, and the difficulty that comes with trying to win sole custody of children in Virginia. 

In Virginia, there are two types of custody: legal and physical. Legal custody is the right to make decisions for your children, including major decisions such as healthcare, education, and religious upbringing. Physical custody is where the children live. Visitation is a subset of physical custody, and can be generally … Read More »


Unenforceable Custody and Support Provisions in Separation Agreements

Posted on March 28th, 2017, by Ariel Baniowski in Custody, Divorce, Family Law. No Comments

It is not uncommon for people undergoing divorce to approach their attorneys with a laundry list of terms regarding their children that they would like included in their separation agreement, or for people who already divorced to approach attorneys with child-related terms of an existing separation agreement which they need enforced. What many people are surprised to hear is that some of those terms which they would like included, or some of the terms that may already be in their agreement, are actually unenforceable under Virginia law.

The first thing to understand in this area is that provisions in agreements regarding child custody, visitation and child support are always modifiable based upon a material change in circumstances. Always! So, any provision in an agreement which indefinitely prohibits the modification of custody, visitation or child support would be unenforceable.

Secondly, there are plenty of … Read More »


Leaving Real Estate in Your Will in Virginia

Posted on March 21st, 2017, by Carolyn Eaton in Divorce, Estate Planning, Family Law. No Comments

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 »


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