The Difference Between Jurisdiction and Venue
Jurisdiction and venue are two very different legal terms that are often, and wrongly, used interchangeably.
Jurisdiction is the power of a court to adjudicate a case upon the merits and dispose of it as justice may require. Litigants cannot bestow this power on the court by waiver or consent; jurisdiction can only be granted to a court by constitution or legislation. In Virginia, a court has jurisdiction over a family law case if it has (1) jurisdiction over the subject matter, (2) jurisdiction over the person, and (3) jurisdiction to render the specific relief sought. For example, pursuant to Virginia Code Section 20-96, the circuit courts in Virginia have jurisdiction over suits for annulment, divorce, separate maintenance, and for affirming marriages.
In contrast, venue is the place where the power to adjudicate a controversy is exercised, and it can be waived … 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 »
“I’m Deploying! How does that affect my custodial or visitation rights to my child?”
Deploying is a unique and difficult fact of life for most every military family. For those parents involved in a custody or visitation dispute, deployment can be an even more stressful event, as the deploying parent must also be concerned with arrangements for his or her child during the required absence.
Given that Virginia has the second largest military population in the United States, it is not surprising that in 2008 the Virginia legislature addressed the concerns of deploying parents with a statutory scheme designed to protect the custodial or visitation rights of our men and women in uniform.
The Virginia Military Parents Equal Protection Act, incorporated into Virginia Code Sections 20-124.7 through 20-124.10, defines who is considered to be a deploying parent, including not only active duty but … Read More »
The central question for most parents facing a child custody battle is: “what are my chances at winning custody?” In many cases, the answer to this question depends upon the answer to another question: who is the primary caregiver? Many households are still arranged with one parent being the primary breadwinnner for the family and the other parent being the primary caregiver for the children. In those situations, the latter parent has a decided advantage in winning primary custody. However, Virginia law requires courts to look at the whole picture in deciding custody cases, and not determine custody solely on the primary caregiver factor.
Does Virginia Favor the Primary Caregiver?
Virginia law requires judges to base custody determinations on the best interests of the child, as determined by ten factors stated in Virginia Code Section 20-124.3. Neither parent is automatically favored in these … Read More »
Grandparents may seek custody or visitation of their grandchildren for any number of reasons. Perhaps one or both parents have become incapacitated, incarcerated, or otherwise unfit to have custody. Or perhaps a grandparent feels that a parent is preventing them from maintaining a health relationship with a grandchild. What recourse does a grandparent have in one of these situations? What are a grandparent’s rights to custody and visitation in Virginia?
Grandparent Custody Rights in Virginia
In Troxel v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57, 65 (2000), the U.S. Supreme Court established that parents have an inherent constitutional right in rearing their children. The Court stated that the “interests of parents in the care, custody and control of their children… is perhaps the oldest of the fundamental liberty interests recognized” by the Court. However, this right belongs only to parents—it does not belong to grandparents. … Read More »
In the course of your divorce or custody litigation, you may be required to answer written questions under oath (Interrogatories), provide copies of various documents that are relevant to your case (Requests for Production of Documents), and admit or deny various allegations from your spouse (Requests for Admissions). Along with depositions and subpoenas, this process is collectively referred to as “discovery.” And it’s no fun.
The purpose of discovery is to enable each party to determine the facts of the case and ascertain what evidence may be available for use at trial or to effect a settlement. This prevents a “trial by ambush,” with secret witnesses and exhibits being presented without advanced notice. Responding to discovery requests is not optional, and failure to answer fully and truthfully can result in punishment by the court. Discovery can easily become a boondoggle for … Read More »
When going through a contested divorce or custody case many clients struggle with the concept of discovery, why it is necessary, and how it can benefit their case. Discovery is the legal process in which a party may ask questions of the other party and request documents relevant to the case. Discovery is an integral part of the litigation process because it provides notice to each side of the specific issues in contest, and evidence to help build their case. Many clients find that discovery can be their greatest asset or their worst enemy. For those clients that struggle with the discovery process it is generally because they are unprepared. Here are five tips for making the discovery process work for you:
Prepare before or at the beginning of the case. Discovery is typically issued at the onset of the case. Once … Read More »
Modification to Virginia Code Would Allow Consolidated Petitions
The issues of child custody and visitation are about as connected as any two issues can be. If you have any experience with Virginia custody cases, however, you know that it can feel like each part of your case has its own case number. And that’s because, by and large, it does! The Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Courts here in Virginia will assign one identification number for a child custody case and give a second, different number to a visitation case… for the same child. If paternity is an issue that becomes a third case number. And if there are multiple children, well, each child gets his or her own set of unique case numbers for his or her custody matter. Parents in a custody dispute can find themselves with more than … Read More »
Parties in custody or visitation disputes often find themselves in two separate counties or even states. This frequently leaves the parties to wonder which court has the authority to resolve the outstanding issues. If parties to a custody dispute, in which no previous order has been issued, file petitions in two different states, the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) will dictate which state has the authority to make the custody determination. The UCCJEA is an act that has been adopted by 49 out of the 50 states, including Virginia, as an attempt to provide consistency between the states and prevent parents from moving to a certain state for a preferential outcome.
Generally, under the UCCJEA, a state will have jurisdiction to make an initial custody determination if it was the home state of the child when the petition was filed … Read More »
When a child is removed from the United States by a parent, or retained in a country not the United States beyond an agreed-to period of time, and in violation of a parent’s custodial rights, the left-behind parent is left feeling hopeless. Why? Because each country is a sovereign nation with its own judicial system, laws, and law enforcement, and a custody order from a United States court may not be recognized by a court abroad. In this age of increased international tourism and travel, as well as the growth of ethnically diverse, multi-national families, the widespread adoption of a piece of uniform legislation that facilitates the return of abducted children is paramount. Thus, we have the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (“Hague Convention”).
What is the Hague Convention?
The Hague Convention, concluded in October 1980 and … Read More »