The Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic is raising special challenges for those facing separation, divorce, custody or support cases in Virginia. Couples who were experiencing marital difficulties before the crisis may find those difficulties magnified as they now spend much more time together at home. There are various custody and visitation issues raised by COVID-19, as well as issues of modification of support as many people are laid off from their jobs.
The Supreme Court of Virginia has issued an order temporarily limiting the types of cases that will be heard in Virginia. The order instructs Virginia courts to give precedence to certain emergency matters including emergency child custody cases, quarantine or isolation matters, and protective order cases. For more information, see Filing a New Family Law Case During the Judicial Emergency in Virginia.
The situation with COVID-19 does not mean that … Read More »
In response to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, on March 16, 2020 the Supreme Court of Virginia entered an order declaring a judicial emergency in Virginia. The initial judicial emergency order declared the judicial emergency through April 6, 2020, but the Supreme Court subsequently entered two additional judicial emergency orders, each time extending the emergency period by an additional 21 days. As of its most recent judicial emergency order, the Supreme Court has extended the judicial emergency period through May 17, 2020.
The judicial emergency order limits matters being heard in Virginia courts during this time—however, courts are not closed entirely. While courts are not operating at their normal capacity, judges are are still hearing cases. The order instructs Virginia courts to give precedence to certain emergency matters including emergency child custody cases, quarantine or isolation matters, and protective order cases.
The … Read More »
Your thoughts race as your heartbeat echoes in your throat. You feel like you have been walking on eggshells. Your partner had a short temper before the COVID-19 crisis, and now that you are both at home without being able to escape to the office, run daily errands, socialize with friends, family, or even your chatty neighbor, everything seems to set him or her ‘off’.
You are not alone. Many families are feeling heightened tension as we navigate the unknowns of this worldwide health crisis together. With the Temporary Stay at Home Order Due to Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) issued by Virginia Governor Ralph Northam on March 30, 2020, people are being exposed to increasingly dangerous situations, not just from the outside world, but from their spouses or significant others too.
What happens when pre-existing problems at home get worse, as spouses and … Read More »
Members of the Virginia legislature have concluded their work for the 2020 session. Included in their passed bills was a major change to Virginia Code § 8.01-223.1 concerning the assertion of constitutional rights in civil actions. The new law, which goes into effect on July 1, 2020, will make proving adultery easier in divorce and other family law cases in Virginia.
Parties in Virginia civil actions have previously had broad protection of their constitutional rights, and courts have been entirely prohibited from using any assertion of constitutional rights against them. Beginning July 1, 2020, when a party to a family law case invokes their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and refuses to answer questions regarding their alleged adultery, judges may now make an “adverse inference” against that party.
Adultery is a crime in Virginia—a Class 4 misdemeanor under Virginia Code § 18.2-365. … Read More »
Navigating through a divorce can be overwhelming for many people. Adding the complexities of military benefits, pensions, and acronyms on top of everything can add a tremendous amount of pressure to an already stressful situation. Both servicemembers and their spouses rely heavily on their friends and family for support during the difficult time of separation and divorce. However, many military families go through a divorce while stationed in another state, apart from their support networks.
Each state has its own set of laws governing divorce, and Virginia has a very particular set of divorce laws. However, the benefits to which servicemembers and their spouses are entitled both during and after a divorce are based on federal law—meaning they will remain the same in every state.
Given the complex interaction between state and federal law in every military divorce case, a large number of … Read More »
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 through April 6, 2020. The Supreme Court subsequently entered two additional judicial emergency orders, each time extending the emergency period by an additional 21 days. As of its most recent judicial emergency order, the Supreme Court has extended the judicial emergency period through May 17, 2020.
The judicial emergency order limits matters being … 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 »