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 »
The Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA) recognizes the ability of state courts to distribute a portion of a servicemember’s military retirement to a former spouse. Notably, USFSPA specifies that the maximum amount that can be paid to a former spouse is fifty percent of a servicemember’s “disposable retired pay,” which does not include retired pay that he or she waives in order to receive VA disability pay. In Mansell v. Mansell, 490 U.S. 581 (1989), the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed this rule and held that state courts may not divide upon divorce the military retired pay that a servicemember waives in order to receive disability pay.
The exclusion of retired pay waived for disability pay from division by state courts created perceptions of inequity in divorce cases, particularly where a servicemember had a high VA disability rating and could waive … Read More »
A Kansas man is garnering national attention because he is being required to pay child support after donating sperm to a lesbian couple. The Kansas man, William Marotta, answered an online advertisement to donate sperm to a lesbian couple. In 2009 the couple and Mr. Marotta entered into an agreement in which he gave up his parental rights to the lesbian couple and was absolved of any financial responsibility.
After the birth of the child, the lesbian couple ended their relationship. The child received more than $6,000 in state benefits. As in Virginia, Kansas requires that the Department of Children and Families (or the Department of Social Services in Virginia) attempt to recuperate those expenses through biological parents.
The state of Kansas says that because Mr. Marotta did not work through a clinic or doctor, as the state law requires, he can … Read More »
Beginning in 2014, retired servicemembers eligible for Concurrent Retirement and Disability Pay (CRDP) will no longer have to waive any portion of their military retirement in order to receive VA disability compensation. The CRDP program, enacted in 2004, allowed military retirees with a VA disability rating of 50% of higher, and 20 or more years of military service, to receive both military retired pay and VA disability compensation at the same time. This has been commonly referred to as the “concurrent receipt” of disability pay and retired pay.
Before creation of the CRDP, military retirees were forbidden by law to receive both military retirement benefits and VA disability compensation. Parties seeking disability benefits were required to waive an equivalent portion of their military retired pay.
The CRDP program was structured to phase in the disability payments over a ten-year period. In 2013, eligible retirees will … Read More »
Beginning the divorce process is chaotic, emotional, and often times overwhelming. Many people believe that coming to an agreement as fast as possible is the best resolution. People research online and find phrases such as “Property Settlement Agreements” or “Marital Settlement Agreements” and conclude that such a document will solve their problems.
In trying to reach such an agreement, many people take it upon themselves to negotiate and sign documents without the assistance of counsel. For many reasons signing any agreement or contract without having an attorney review it is a poor decision. You know your life and marriage better than anyone else, but unless you are a family law attorney it is unlikely that you know the potential ramifications and pitfalls of signing a Property Settlement Agreement.
Here is an example to illustrate the power of a Property Settlement Agreement. Assume … Read More »
The division of marital property (property acquired during the marriage that is not separate property) can be a major hurdle in the divorce process. Examples of marital property include retirement funds, automobiles, furniture, and most notably, the marital home. The marital home is often a point of special contention. Parties fight over the marital home because they attach sentimental value to it, because they want to maintain stability for their children, and/or because of other financial considerations. For example, a party may want to hold on to the home because its current value is not necessarily indicative of its future value (assuming, as is often the case today, a bad housing market).
In the unlikely situation that your contested divorce goes all the way to an equitable distribution trial, Virginia Code Section 20-107.3 requires that the court consider a variety of … Read More »
Under Virginia law, is it possible for a parent to kidnap his or her own kid? People in general seem to understand that kidnapping or childnapping involves the “taking” of a child. However, the underlying presumption many make is that the “taking” is of someone else’s child. How could it ever be illegal for a parent to take custody of their own child?
Virginia law is clear: anyone, even parents, can be convicted of kidnapping their children. However, the consequences are much worse if the child is removed from the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Virginia Code § 18.2-47 states that any person who, by force, intimidation or deception, and without legal justification or excuse, seizes, takes, transports, detains or secretes another person with the intent to deprive such other person of his personal liberty or to withhold or conceal him from any person, … Read More »
In any separation, divorce or custody dispute, a party might seek financial support. It may be a request for spousal support to get back on their feet. It may be a request for child support. Whatever the type of family support sought, there are two basic strategies for resolving the dispute: negotiating an agreement or litigating a case through the courts. If one party is a military servicemember, however, there may be alternate methods available to settle these issues.
Each service branch has regulations requiring servicemembers to support their families in the event of a separation. The service branch involved can have a great deal of impact when deciding to pursue support through the servicemember’s command. Some branches, like the Army, issue very specific regulations, spelling out the exact dollar amount they will provide, the length of time it will be … Read More »
Many clients come to me expecting the worst from their spouses during the divorce process. They talk about how their husbands or wives will never settle, how they’re out for blood, and how they’ll stop at nothing to make the process as miserable as possible for everyone involved.
As a result of this fear, whether founded or not, many people want to begin their divorce case by taking overly aggressive and unnecessary actions that tend to diminish the possibility of settlement. I think part of an attorney’s job is to dissuade clients from embarking down that road unless it’s necessary to do so.
That’s not to say that anyone should roll over. There are clearly cases where the parties are playing a zero-sum game, and there are certainly parties to a divorce (and even family lawyers, unfortunately) who have no interest in … Read More »
One of the most frequently asked questions of Virginia family law attorneys is how a parent’s parental rights can be terminated. Often times a custodial parent wants to terminate the rights of the noncustodial parent because (s)he is not paying support, has not seen the child in years, and or is not a positive influence in the child’s life. Other times the noncustodial parent wants to terminate their own parental rights in an effort to avoid paying child support. Termination of parental rights is extremely serious. If a parent’s rights are terminated (s)he no longer has any parental responsibility, including financial, and can at no point in the future legally ask to be involved in the child’s life.
In Virginia, the parental rights of one parent can be terminated only if there is a third party, such as a step-parent, willing to … Read More »