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 »
Relationships, custody disputes and divorces can all be volatile, with emotions running high. The emotions can spill over into harsh words or abusive behavior. Virginia law allows courts to enter protective orders, both long term and short term, to protect individuals against family abuse. These protective orders can protect not only the party seeking the protective order but also any other members of the household, such as children, other family members, or roommates.
Virginia Code § 16.1-253.1 provides courts the statutory authority to enter “preliminary protective orders” in Virginia. A preliminary protective order is usually done ex parte, meaning without the alleged abuser present, and is done either on an affidavit by the petitioner or by sworn oral testimony of the petitioner. If the court finds that “within a reasonable period of time” the petitioner has been subjected to “family abuse,” … Read More »
The Supreme Court of the United States issued a landmark decision on June 26, 2015 when Obergefell v. Hodges, 135 S. Ct. 2584 (2015) allowed for same-sex marriage in all fifty states. What this opinion did not address, however, was parentage of children born into those same-sex marriages or legal rights of non-birth parents to children born into those marriages through assisted conception.
Under Virginia law, a marriage creates a presumption of parentage. Virginia Code § 20-158 states that the gestational mother or “birth mother,” and the spouse of a birth mother, are the two parents of a child resulting from assisted conception. This allows for a birth mother and her wife to both be listed on their child’s birth certificate when the Department of Vital Statistics records the child’s information.
However, the presumption of parentage does not necessarily convey legal … Read More »
Now that you are separated from your spouse, you may be asking yourself: “I want to move on with my life and meet new people. Can I reenter the dating world? What happens if I become romantically involved with someone?” Unfortunately, under Virginia law there are no simple answers to these questions. For those who are currently separated and either dating or are thinking about dating, there are several factors to consider.
First, unlike some states, there is no such thing as a “legal separation” in Virginia. Under Virginia law, you are either married or divorced, so even though you may be separated from your spouse physically, you are still married in the eyes of the law. With that being said, no one can prevent you from dating during your separation. It is not a crime to do so, and … 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 »