The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted nearly every aspect of our lives. Aside from the health of those afflicted, perhaps the greatest damage has been economic. Unemployment has skyrocketed, affecting even people who previously felt secure in their employment.
Losing a job for any reason is stressful. For those who have a child or spousal support obligation, there is an extra level of concern. The good news for those people is that, with some exceptions related to spousal support, the law does provide relief to those who qualify and know how to seek it.
First the exceptions. In Virginia, a spousal support obligation is not modifiable if:
It is pursuant to an agreement (as opposed to ordered by a judge) that was entered into prior to July 1, 2018, and the agreement does not state that spousal support is modifiable; or
It is pursuant to … Read More »
On March 12, 2020, Governor Northam declared a state of emergency in the Commonwealth of Virginia in response to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. In further response to the spread of the COVID-19, Virginia has implemented travel bans, limited public gatherings, closed schools for the remainder of the school year and implemented telework policies in an effort to keep as many Virginia residents in their homes as possible during this time.
On March 16, 2020, the Supreme Court of Virginia issued an order declaring a judicial emergency in Virginia and limiting the types of cases that would be heard by courts across the Commonwealth. This order put such limitations in place until April 26, 2020. One effect of the Supreme Court’s order is that Virginia courts are not hearing non-emergency matters at this time, including routine, non-emergency custody and visitation matters. … Read More »
For those facing a divorce, custody or support battle, one of the most nerve-wracking aspects of their case is the prospect of testifying at trial. Especially since for many people it is their first experience being in court.
You may be one of these anxious individuals. However, you should not allow trial scenes from Law & Order episodes to scare you, because there are a number of ways you can prepare for the uncertainty of trial.
First, you should familiarize yourself with the trial process and the courthouse. A trial usually proceeds as follows:
Opening statement of the Plaintiff.
Opening statement of the Defendant.
Plaintiff’s case-in-chief, during which they present evidence and witnesses through direct examination. The Defendant’s attorney can cross-examine these witnesses; however, their questions are limited to the scope of the direct examination. If direct examination addresses topic A only, the Defendant’s attorney … Read More »
Marriage Story was released on Netflix in late 2019 to tremendous critical acclaim. The beautifully heartfelt film depicts the devastating unraveling of the marriage of two people, portrayed by Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver. Marriage Story artfully captures the emotional turmoil faced by many people after they make the decision to pursue a divorce.
If you are a Virginia resident facing a divorce, not everything you see in Marriage Story will apply to your own case. The film gets some details right, but other things that happen in the film are legally questionable, or at least would not apply to a case in Virginia. But, we can identify four lessons from Marriage Story that you can apply to your Virginia divorce.
Interstate Custody Jurisdiction
One legal detail that Marriage Story seems to get wrong relates to interstate custody jurisdiction. The child custody battle in … Read More »
You’re in a messy relationship with the other parent of your child—so messy that one of you has secured a no contact protective order against the other. How does that protective order affect the type of custody the court will award in your custody case? It might seem natural to assume that the court would refrain from awarding joint legal custody at a final custody hearing when the parties have a no contact protective order in place. After all, how would parents share the decision-making responsibilities of their child when they are prohibited from directly communicating with each other?
In most custody cases, courts are inclined to award joint legal custody because Virginia courts are statutorily mandated to assure frequent and continuing contact with both parents, when appropriate, and encourage parents to share in the responsibilities of rearing their children. Pursuant … Read More »
Mediation has long been a popular alternative to drawn-out, costly and emotional contested litigation in Virginia family law cases. However, mediation has up until recently most often been an avenue that the parties themselves must proactively elect to participate in. This has generally required that (a) the attorneys involved in the case be proactive about discussing and promoting mediation with their clients, (b) both parties in the case be receptive to the discussion and open to a form of alternative dispute resolution that occurs outside a courtroom, and (c) a mutually agreed upon mediator be selected and a mediation date be set prior to the final trial date in the case.
Recently, however, some courts in Virginia have begun making mediation a mandatory part of the litigation process for some cases, with the goal that the parties will be able to … Read More »
Though most states today have declassified adultery as a crime, adultery continues to be a criminally punishable offense (class 4 misdemeanor) in Virginia. Because adultery is still a crime in Virginia, a spouse accused of adultery in a Virginia divorce case may invoke his or her Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination. Which means that the opposing party’s divorce lawyer may not simply call the accused spouse to the witness stand and force them to answer questions pertaining to the alleged adultery.
However, there is a one-year statute of limitations on the crime of adultery in Virginia, which means that a person can no longer be punished for committing adultery one year after the last adulterous act. This means that, back to our divorce case, the opposing divorce lawyer can ask questions related to affairs where the last adulterous acts occurred more … Read More »
You have a court order that defines your child custody and visitation arrangement with the other parent. That court order says that it is a “final” order. Can you modify your visitation or custody order if new circumstances arise?
The answer to that question is yes. Custody of minor children is always based on what is in the children’s best interests, and those interests may change over time. In Virginia, a court may alter a custody and visitation arrangement as the circumstances of the parents and the benefit of the children may require. Specifically, Virginia Code § 20-108 allows for modification of a custody or visitation order when (1) there has been a material change of circumstances and (2) it is in the best interest of the children to modify custody or visitation.
The material change in circumstances that is required for … Read More »
Some parents of special needs children receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits to help towards the care of their son or daughter. A special needs child may qualify as disabled and receive benefits if they have a physical or mental impairment which causes severe functional limitations that could last for more than 12 months or could result in death. There are a broad spectrum of qualifying children, including but not limited to youths diagnosed with severe developmental delays or Leukemia. Although these SSI benefits may appear to be a godsend at first, they could have a negative impact on child support.
To calculate child support in Virginia, the court must consider the gross income of both parties, the cost of the health insurance premium for the child, work-related childcare costs and the custodial schedule. These figures are inputted into the Virginia Child … Read More »
Under Virginia law, cheating on a spouse is illegal. In Virginia, any married person who voluntarily has sexual intercourse with a person who is not his or her spouse is guilty of adultery, which is punishable as a Class 4 misdemeanor. The maximum criminal penalty for adultery is a $250 fine, but the ramifications in a divorce action may be much more severe. Adultery can be used as a fault ground to obtain a divorce, may be a bar to spousal support and can be considered regarding child custody and equitable distribution of marital property.
Even so, what happens when a cheating spouse invokes his or her Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination? In Virginia, a party can exercise his or her constitutional privilege against self-incrimination in both criminal and civil actions. Depending on the circumstances of the case, a cheating spouse’s … Read More »