An action for divorce in Virginia commences with the filing of a complaint for divorce by one spouse (the plaintiff) against his or her spouse (the defendant) in the appropriate circuit court. Once the complaint and summons are served on the defendant, he/she has 21 days to answer the complaint. The defendant’s answer may consist of denials and admissions to the plaintiff’s allegations and may include the pleading of other facts—providing their side of the story. The defendant may raise any and all defenses to the plaintiff’s alleged ground for divorce and even file a counter-claim against the plaintiff seeking similar relief.
In Virginia, a divorce can be filed on fault-based or “no-fault” grounds. The fault-based grounds include adultery, cruelty and desertion. The no-fault ground is (1) separation for at least twelve months or (2) separation for at least six months, with a separation agreement … Read More »
Passport applications for children under the age of 14 require the signatures of both parents. However, in situations where parents share joint legal custody, one parent may not consent and may actively seek to prevent the child’s removal from the United States. In these situations, state courts can authorize or restrict international travel, and may even order a parent to cooperate in securing a passport for their child.
In 2001, the U.S. government began requiring both parents’ signatures on a minor child’s passport application. This rule applies to new passports for children under the age of 14. Children over the age of 16 only require one parent’s signature. Prior to 2001, one parent was able to complete a child’s passport application without the other parent being in agreement or even knowing that an application was submitted. The new rule was created to … Read More »
Contested divorce cases can be extremely costly. The costs are often driven up by an aggressive opposing party or counsel, or through multiple actions being heard at the same time, sometimes even in different courts. If you find yourself in such a situation, you may not be able to completely prevent costs from rising. However, there are some steps you can take to help keep your attorney’s fees as low as possible. Here are three tips for keeping costs down in your divorce:
Consolidate communications with your attorney. Communication between you and your attorney will be essential in your divorce. However, in many cases a client will both telephone and email their attorney several times in the course of a day. Costs can add up quickly if you do not do your part to make each communication efficient and meaningful. If time permits, … Read More »
In today’s world, there is a wealth of information available over the internet. People often turn to the web when trying to find a cheaper method for preparing a separation agreement or “property settlement agreement.” Agreement templates are available online for a nominal fee, which makes them very attractive to many divorcing couples.
However, each divorce case is unique. Forms found online are general and may not adequately address your needs. You may find that the form you chose to use is tailored for a different jurisdiction or even a different state than where you live. The form may not reference the correct applicable law, or may fail to include provisions that are vital in your case.
Some choose to use a friend or co-worker’s previously drafted agreement and try to make that agreement work for their own case. However, the facts … Read More »
Virginia law allows a married person who is separated from their spouse to file a petition for “separate maintenance.” Separate maintenance is distinct from spousal support, and may be an attractive option to individuals who require support from their spouse but who do not want or cannot yet file for a divorce.
Separate maintenance initiated as a common-law remedy. It was developed to provide an equitable remedy when there was not an adequate legal remedy. Black’s Law dictionary defines separate maintenance as “money paid by one married person to another for support if they are no longer living together as husband and wife.” At common law in Virginia, there were essentially four elements to a case for separate maintenance: (1) the party from whom support is sought must be at fault, (2) the party seeking support and maintenance must be without fault, (3) … Read More »
Divorce proceedings are emotionally and financially taxing, but the complexity of the process increases significantly with added cultural issues surrounding the marriage. In Islamic cultures, the bride and groom enter into a marital agreement either on or shortly before the wedding date. This contract includes the promise of a gift from the groom to the bride, which is called mahr. The bride may claim the gift at the time of marriage, or at any later date of her choosing. The mahr is the wife’s separate property and the husband has no legal claim to it. Different cultures prescribe various forms of mahr, but generally the contract includes a future promise, at an unknown date, of gold or money. It is pertinent to note that mahr is not a price that the groom pays for the bride, but rather, a gift from the husband … Read More »
If you are facing a custody or visitation case in Virginia, it is especially important that you maintain and strengthen your co-parenting skills. Doing so will benefit your children, and can only help you in court.
As a parent, it is human nature to put your children’s needs first in every part of life. In Virginia, courts adopt this same view when making determinations regarding child custody and visitation. Virginia courts are statutorily required to take each of ten “best interest factors” into consideration before making a ruling. Although all the factors are important, two factors may have swaying power when the court is faced with two genuinely good parents:
“[t]he propensity of each parent to actively support the child’s contact and relationship with the other parent, including whether a parent has unreasonably denied the other parent access to or visitation with the child;” … Read More »
In Virginia, a grandparent, relative, or other interested party may seek and receive a court order granting them legal and physical custody of a child in their care. Such an order would give the custodian a feeling of security that the child cannot be taken from them unless a parent seeks to modify the custody order, in which case the custodian would presumably have an opportunity to object and have their day in court. However, under the Virginia Adoption Statute, that may well be a false sense of security. Under that act, parents who have lost custody nevertheless maintain their residual parental rights, including the right to consent to an adoption. The end result, as I will explain in detail below, is that third-party custodians with legal custody may actually lose the children in their care to an adoption without any notice or … Read More »
It is very common these days for both parents to work outside of the home, whether on a part-time or full-time basis. For many parents, this requires a juggling of responsibilities and it also requires making sure that children are supervised and looked after appropriately. It is difficult enough for many parents to find the appropriate care for their children when two parents are living under the same roof; however, the situation becomes even more complicated when parties are separated or divorced.
While Virginia law does not provide a specific age at which you can leave your child at home alone, many Virginia counties set their own guidelines for supervision of minor children. These guidelines are typically drafted and developed by social workers and other community members. These county-specific guidelines are not laws; however, not following them can have legal implications.
Virginia courts … Read More »
Many family law clients ask the same question during their initial consultation: “which court should I file in?” In Virginia, both the juvenile and domestic relations district court (“J&DR court”) and the circuit court handle family law cases. The J&DR court has the power to hear matters concerning custody, visitation, child support, and spousal support. The circuit court can hear all of the same issues, in addition to divorce and equitable distribution.
Unmarried couples with children must file in the J&DR court for custody, visitation, and child support to be determined. For couples who are divorcing, there are factual, procedural, and strategic considerations that come into play when determining which court to start in. Generally speaking, if one of the parties has grounds for a divorce, it may make more sense to begin the matter in circuit court, but this is … Read More »