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 »
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 »
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 »
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 »
Custody disputes can be very contentious and it is often the case that at least one of the parents is dissatisfied with the court’s decision once all is said and done. However, the dissatisfied party can take some solace in knowing there is additional recourse available to them. That recourse is to appeal the decision of the court that entered the custody and visitation order to a higher court. The process for appealing a custody and visitation order in Virginia differs based on whether the order was entered by a juvenile and domestic relations court (“J&DR court”) or circuit court.
Appealing a J&DR Court Custody and Visitation Order
In the event your custody and visitation order was entered by a Virginia J&DR court, you have the automatic right and option to appeal the order to circuit court. See Virginia Code § 16.1-296(A). The right to … Read More »
If you have a custody and visitation matter before a Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court in Virginia, there is a chance that the court will appoint a guardian ad litem (“GAL”). The GAL will be a local attorney certified to serve as a GAL. The purpose of the GAL, per Virginia Supreme Court Rules 8:6, is to “vigorously represent the child, fully protecting the child’s interest and welfare.” It is the GAL’s job to tell the court what he or she believes is in the child’s best interests.
Following the appointment of the GAL, the parties to the case will receive an order containing the name and phone number of the GAL. The court has the discretion to appoint a GAL even over the objection of both parties to the case. The GAL will not be permitted to speak with any … Read More »