If you are going through a divorce or other family law case, it is advisable to hire an experienced family law attorney as early in the process as possible. Not only will your attorney help guide you through the process, he or she will also serve as your advocate and voice so that you can get the best possible result without having to stand alone. It is no secret, however, that legal fees in a family law case can be expensive—and you want to receive value for your money. Here are five tips for getting the most from the relationship with your family law attorney:
Pick wisely. Not all attorneys are created equal. Make sure you feel comfortable with your attorney’s personality, level of professionalism, and views about your case. Feel free to seek a second opinion with another attorney so that you … Read More »
The choice of a family law attorney is always very personal. Given the subject matter, you’ll want to work with someone you can trust, who is nonjudgmental and willing to listen and learn about your circumstances. Considering what may be at stake, your choice of lawyer should be experienced, hard-working and committed, but also willing to find ways to save you money and help you move on as soon as is practical. From my experience, here are three questions that every potential client should have answered before making a significant financial commitment to a custody or divorce attorney:
Will you work as hard to settle my case as you will to try it? At first, this may seem unusual. Working hard to settle means caving in, right? Doesn’t extending an olive branch equate to surrender? Far from it. Contrary to popular … Read More »
When preparing a client or witnesses for a hearing or a trial, I always find myself repeating one thing over and over – the hearsay rule! What is hearsay? Why is hearsay evidence inadmissible? Are there exceptions?
Without writing a dissertation, I will try to sum a few things up about the hearsay rule as it relates to custody, divorce and other family law cases in Virginia.
What is Hearsay?
The Supreme Court defines hearsay as “testimony given by a witness who relates, not what he knows personally, but what others have told him, or what he has heard said by others.” Cross v. Commonwealth, 195 Va. 62, 74, 77 S.E.2d 447, 453 (1953). Note that hearsay is not limited to oral statements. Hearsay includes conduct, gestures, writings, and even silence in some cases. Further note that in order for a statement to … Read More »
If you have a child custody or visitation dispute on your hands, you’ll want to be aware of what elements the court will consider in making a determination. Contrary to popular belief, courts no longer have legal justification to favor the mother over the father. Instead, Virginia Code Section 20-124.3 provides a list of factors that courts must weigh before ruling on what custody and visitation arrangement is in the best interests of a child.
From my experience, these are the six most important factors considered by Virginia courts in deciding custody and visitation cases:
The Status Quo. The power of the status quo can’t be overstated. If one party stays in the marital home with the children, they will start with a leg up. They can argue that the children are comfortable in a familiar environment, with established neighborhood friends nearby and … Read More »
Most parents in separation, divorce or custody cases seek as much time as they can get with their child. Additionally, many parents find it difficult to decide between them what is in their child’s best interests regarding visitation, and must file petitions with the court to resolve custody and visitation. Often times, parents hire custody evaluators or request the appointment of a Guardian Ad Litem to assist in determining what custody and visitation schedule is appropriate. The task of deciding what is in the child’s best interests can become even more difficult where the child is an infant. Judges, attorneys, and medical professionals are aware that infants have different developmental and attachment needs than toddlers and young children.
A new national study may provide more insight into what visitation arrangements are best for an infant child. University of Virginia researchers found … Read More »
So you’re getting divorced and you have kids. If they are of a certain age, chances are good that they already know plenty about the reasons for the dissolution of your marriage. No matter how you’ve tried to shield them from it, they have lived it too. They probably hear the fights or feel the tension when you and your spouse are in the same room. And maybe they have already begun to experience the routine-shattering effects of a shared custodial schedule or divorce-related relocation.
We know that kids are affected by divorce, and that to a certain extent, those effects can’t be avoided. But how can we minimize them and put our children on the pathway to a “new normal”? Here are four do’s and don’ts to put the children first and limit the collateral damage in your divorce:
Don’t speak … Read More »
Agreeing on child custody and the visitation schedule for the children can be difficult for two parents who are no longer together, especially if the parents have different parenting styles and/or different notions of what is best for the children. When parents are unable to reach a custody agreement, it is the occasional practice of the courts to order a child custody evaluation. Absent a court order, parents may also elect this option.
What is a Child Custody Evaluation?
A child custody evaluation is, essentially, an investigation of the children’s home, home environment, family relationships, and other matters of the children’s lives. The goal of the investigation is to determine the best custody and visitation outcome for the children, and the results of the investigation are used to aid the court in making its custody and visitation decision.
What is the Process?
Once a … Read More »
If a guardian ad litem (GAL) is appointed by the court in your custody case in Virginia, what do you need to know? First of all, the GAL is an independent operator on behalf of the children’s best interests. They are like a “roving judge” in your case, empowered to interview parents, children, third parties, and to observe the home environment. They eventually report back to the judge at trial with their findings and recommendations.
Black’s Law Dictionary defines a GAL as “a guardian, usually a lawyer, appointed by the court to appear in a lawsuit on behalf of an incompetent or minor party.” Rule 8:6 of the Rules of the Supreme Court of Virginia describes the role of GALs as follows:
The role of counsel for a child is the representation of the child’s legitimate interests. When appointed for … Read More »
If you are in the process of getting a divorce or fighting for custody of your children in Fairfax County, you may need information from the opposing party concerning his or her assets, living situation, sources of income, etc. This is where the discovery process comes in. The discovery process is an evidence-gathering opportunity for you to gain information that you would not otherwise have on your own. There are two types of discovery: (1) informal discovery, where parties and their attorneys voluntarily exchange documents and information, and (2) formal discovery, where litigants extract information from each other through written discovery requests, which carry deadlines for response and may be enforced by court action.
The discovery process may vary according to the court in which you file. In the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court you must request permission from the court … Read More »
If you have a hearing or trial scheduled in Fairfax County, the Fairfax County Courthouse (called the “Jennings Judicial Center”) may at first seem overwhelming. The busiest courthouse in the Commonwealth of Virginia sees approximately 20,000 people enter on a weekly basis, and the enormous, $120 million expansion, which was completed in 2008, only adds to the potential for intimidation.
When arriving, it’s important to note that the public parking garage is a 5-10 minute walk to the main entrance. Long lines will often develop at the security checkpoint that everyone must traverse, so be sure to arrive early. An information desk is available past the security area to provide further assistance.
For cases in family law, which is my area of practice, the Circuit Courtrooms are located on the fourth and fifth floors, and the Juvenile and Domestic Relations (JDR) Courtrooms … Read More »