Family law encompasses many issues affecting families, including but not limited to divorce, child custody and visitation, child and spousal support, protective orders, pre/post-nuptial agreements and equitable distribution. With so much information on the internet, it may be difficult to get accurate answers about certain issues. Below, we debunk four common myths of family law in Virginia.
Myth #1: once a divorce is filed, the court cannot grant any relief until the end of the case.
This is false: circuit courts can grant temporary relief while a divorce suit is pending. Once a divorce suit is filed in circuit court, either party may file a motion for “pendente lite” (pending final resolution) relief. Pursuant to Virginia Code § 20-103, the court may then enter a pendente lite order:
to compel a spouse to pay monies necessary for the maintenance and support of the petitioning … Read More »
Divorce can be a lengthy process in Virginia. In no-fault cases, Virginia law requires parties to be separated for at least twelve months, or for at least six months with a separation agreement and no minor children, prior to even filing for divorce. And contested or fault-based divorces can take much longer than no-fault cases—sometimes dragging on for years, depending on the jurisdiction and issues involved. However, in many cases the parties have very real needs that must be addressed prior to the final hearing in their divorce. Thankfully, Virginia law allows courts to enter orders granting “pendente lite” (pending final resolution) relief to address those needs.
Virginia law grants the court the authority to issue pendente lite orders in any divorce case. Either or both parties may file a motion for pendente lite relief, either when the case is initially filed or at any time … Read More »
A key step in every contested divorce case in Virginia is the pendente lite hearing, where the court puts in place a number of ground rules to govern the parties until the divorce is final. “Pendente lite” is a Latin term which essentially means “pending the litigation” or in this context, “pending the final divorce.” In many cases these pendente lite ground rules include an order for temporary child and spousal support.
Each county has their own set of procedures regarding these hearings. For example, pendente lite hearings in Fairfax follow a very rigid structure, including a strictly-enforced 30 minute time limit. Stafford County also follows a schedule with most all hearings being 30 minutes, but Stafford is unique in its near universal drive to have parties attempt mediation before their temporary hearings.
The Virginia Code authorizes courts to refer any contested civil matter (such as a divorce … Read More »
The Fairfax County Courthouse (called the “Jennings Judicial Center”) is the busiest courthouse in the Commonwealth. The Fairfax Circuit Court judges strive to ensure that the Circuit Court criminal and civil dockets run as smoothly and expeditiously as possible. As per the Constitution of the United States, persons charged with crimes are guaranteed the right to a speedy trial. This requires the Circuit Court to implement strict procedures to guarantee that the civil docket, including divorce cases, can proceed in a timely manner.
As discussed by Matthew Smith in Navigating The Fairfax County Courts, civil motions are heard on Fridays in Fairfax Circuit Court. One of the most common motions heard on Fridays are motions related to “pendente lite” (pending final resolution) relief. A divorcing party can use a motion for pendente lite relief to seek a number of different remedies including, … Read More »
The status of child custody, when the parents of a child separate, is unsettled until an order for child custody is entered by a court. Much discussion, during consultations for divorce and/or child custody, focuses on which parent has custody rights. The answer is both parents do, but then again, neither parent does. It sounds complicated but is actually very straightforward.
Until a court in the county where the child resides grants an order for custody, both parents have the ability to “assume” custody of the child at will. What this boils down to is that either parent can physically remove the child from the other and assert that the child will remain with them.
Unfortunately, I have seen cases where the child is residing with one parent and the other parent refuses to return the child after visitation or after picking up the … Read More »
Virginia Code Section 20-103 provides that in any case where spousal support or child support is in dispute, a Virginia court may enter an order of temporary support pending the conclusion of the suit. Section 20-103 applies in suits for divorce, annulment, and separate maintenance and also in spousal support and child support proceedings brought in the juvenile and domestic relations district court (“JDR Court”).
Such a “pendente lite” order of support will last until the conclusion of the case, at which time the court may order more or less support, or no support at all, depending upon the facts of the case.
For child support, the statewide guidelines, which establish a “presumptively correct” amount of support, apply equally at both pendente lite and final hearings.
For spousal support, a JDR Court that is determining a request for pendente lite spousal support must … Read More »