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Do stepparents have custody rights in Virginia?
How Our Norfolk Family Law Lawyers Can Protect Your Rights to Visitation and Custody If You’re a Stepparent
The attorneys at Tavss Fletcher help individuals in Norfolk and Virginia Beach file for divorce and assist with other family law issues. If you are a stepparent, our experienced Norfolk family law lawyers can explain your options and will protect your rights to custody and visitation of your stepchildren.
If you are a stepparent in Norfolk or Virginia Beach, you may wonder about your rights regarding custody and visitation of your stepchild if you are getting a divorce or are separating from your spouse. In Virginia, the rights of stepparents in custody matters are limited, but they can be pursued under specific circumstances.
Stepparents' Legal Rights in Virginia
Stepparents do not have legal rights unless they have adopted a stepchild in Virginia. Unless you have legally adopted your stepchild, you do not have inherent rights to custody, visitation, or decision-making authority over the child. This means that in the absence of a formal adoption, you may not have access to the child or the right to be involved in decisions about their upbringing.
Stepparents' Ability to Pursue Custody or Visitation Under Virginia Law
Virginia considers stepparents to have a legitimate interest in a child's well-being. This recognition allows stepparents to petition the court for custody or visitation rights if the biological parent objects to this, provided they can prove that awarding such rights is in the best interests of the child under Virginia Code § 20.124.3.
To establish their case, a stepparent must demonstrate that the child would be harmed if custody or visitation is not granted and that the stepparent has an ongoing, sincere relationship with the child. Our experienced Norfolk family law lawyers understand the factors the court will consider when making this determination and can help you present evidence showing that your request is in the best interests of your stepchildren. Here are the factors the court will weigh.
- Length of relationship. The court will assess the duration and depth of your relationship with your stepchild.
- Stepparent’s involvement. The court will consider how actively you have been involved in the child's life, especially in the absence of the biological parent.
- Emotional and financial ties. If you can show that you have strong emotional ties with the child and provide for the child's financial support, this will help you convince a judge that you should be granted custody or visitation.
- Shared activities. The court will consider your shared activities and interests with your stepchild, which can demonstrate the strength of your bond with them.
- Harm to the child. You must establish the potential harm the child would suffer if custody or visitation is denied to persuade a judge to grant your petition.
Should I sell my house during my Norfolk divorce?
Deciding what to do with your house when going through a divorce in Virginia Beach or Norfolk can be a challenging and emotionally charged decision. Your marital home is often more than just a property. It is a place filled with memories and shared experiences.
However, making informed choices about your real estate assets during divorce proceedings is essential to secure your financial future. Our experienced Norfolk family law attorneys at Tavss Fletcher can help explain your options and guide you in making the right choice for your unique situation.
Options for Dealing with Your Marital Home in a Norfolk Divorce
In a Virginia divorce, the fate of your marital home is a significant consideration. Since a marital home is considered marital property, it is subject to equitable distribution, meaning it must be divided fairly. However, that does not necessarily mean it will be distributed equally. Here are some options you have when it comes to handling your marital home.
Buy Out Your Spouse
If you have the financial means and desire to remain in the marital home, you can buy out your spouse's share of the property. This typically involves refinancing the mortgage to remove your spouse's name and paying them their share of the home's equity.
If you are pursuing this choice, you need to have the home appraised to determine its current value accurately. Our knowledgeable family law attorneys can help you negotiate a fair buyout amount with your spouse.
Sell the Home
Selling the marital home is a common option, especially when neither spouse wishes to keep it or when selling is the most practical solution to divide the assets. If you co-own your house, you and your partner must agree on the sale of the home.
The proceeds from the sale are typically split between the spouses based on the agreed-upon distribution formula or court order. This distribution aims to ensure an equitable division of marital assets.
Co-Own the Residence
In some cases, divorcing couples choose to continue co-owning the marital home. This decision is often made for the children's sake or due to financial constraints.
This arrangement can be complex, as it involves determining each party's responsibilities for mortgage payments, property maintenance, and other costs and how to handle a potential future property sale. It is essential to have a clear and detailed co-ownership agreement in place to address these issues in your judgment of divorce.
What types of retirement accounts and pensions are common in Virginia divorces?
A retirement account may often be one of the most substantial assets accumulated during a marriage. When going through a divorce in Norfolk or Virginia Beach, you need to understand the various types of retirement accounts that must be divided as part of the property settlement. Hiring an experienced Norfolk family law attorney can help protect your rights and ensure you receive a fair share of the retirement accounts or pension accumulated during your marriage.
Types of Retirement Accounts That Must Be Divided in a Virginia Divorce
There are several different retirement accounts and pensions that your spouse and you may have. A skilled family law lawyer can help you divide them and complete the specific requirements, such as entering a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) to transfer retirement assets. Here are common retirement accounts in Virginia divorces:
A 401(k) plan is a popular retirement account offered by many employers. This retirement plan allows employees to contribute a portion of their salary on a pre-tax basis, which grows tax-deferred until withdrawal. In a divorce, a 401(k) plan is subject to equitable distribution, meaning the court will determine a fair division based on various factors, including the length of the marriage and the contributions made by each spouse.
Similar to a 401(k) plan, a 403(b) plan is designed for employees of certain nonprofit organizations, public schools, and tax-exempt organizations. Employees contribute to a 403(b) plan on a pre-tax basis, and the account grows tax-deferred until retirement. During a divorce, a 403(b) plan is an asset that must be considered as part of the property settlement.
Individual Retirement Account (IRA)
An individual retirement account, commonly known as an IRA, is a personal retirement account that individuals can establish. It allows individuals to contribute a certain amount annually, which can grow tax-free or tax-deferred depending on the type of IRA. In a divorce, an IRA is also considered a marital asset.
A pension plan is a retirement plan sponsored by an employer that provides a regular income stream to employees after retirement. The value of a pension plan is typically based on factors such as the length of employment, salary, and years of service. In a divorce, a pension plan is subject to division, and the non-employee spouse may be entitled to a portion of the benefits accumulated during the marriage.
Federal Civil Service Pension
For individuals employed by the federal government, the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) may provide them with pension benefits based on their years of service and salary. Another retirement benefit they may have that needs to be addressed in a divorce is a federal Thrift Savings Plan (TSP). It is a defined contribution plan similar to a 401(k).
Military pensions are retirement benefits earned by individuals serving in the armed forces. The Uniformed Services Former Spouses' Protection Act (USFSPA) allows military pensions to be split during a divorce.
What is considered a contested divorce in Virginia?
If you want to get divorced in Norfolk or Virginia Beach, it is essential to understand your options and know the difference between a contested and uncontested divorce. An experienced family law attorney can help you decide the best choice for your circumstances.
Differences Between a Contested and Non-Contested Divorce in Virginia
An uncontested divorce can be filed when both spouses agree on all the issues related to the divorce, including property division, child custody, child support, and alimony. They must file a contested divorce if they cannot agree on one or more issues, and a judge must resolve the disputes.
To obtain a no-fault divorce in Virginia, a couple must have a written and signed separation agreement and be separated for at least six months (or one year if they have children). Both parties must agree to the divorce and all issues, or the court will not grant a no-fault divorce.
Grounds for a Contested Divorce in Virginia
If both parties cannot agree on getting divorced or all the issues that must be decided on, the divorce is considered contested. One party must establish fault to obtain a divorce. Here are the grounds that must be established in Virginia.
Adultery happens when one spouse engages in a sexual relationship outside the marriage. The spouse claiming adultery must provide clear and convincing evidence of the affair.
Desertion or Abandonment
Desertion can be grounds for divorce if a spouse leaves the marriage and has no intention of returning. The abandonment can involve the spouse leaving the marital home or can be established if they constructively desert the marriage. To establish desertion, the spouse claiming desertion must prove that the other spouse has been absent for a year or more with no intent to return.
A criminal conviction is also a fault-based ground for divorce in Virginia. If one spouse is convicted of a felony and is sentenced to more than one year in prison, their partner may file for divorce.
Cruelty is another ground for divorce in our state. To establish cruelty, a spouse must prove that the other spouse has been physically or mentally abusive and that they are in danger of bodily harm.
What is constructive desertion in Virginia?
What Is Constructive Desertion?
Constructive desertion is a type of desertion where a spouse does not leave the marital home but acts like they have left the marriage. Examples of what is considered constructive desertion in Virginia include the following:
- Sex. The deserting spouse refuses to have sex or sexual intimacy without just cause.
- Marital responsibilities. A partner refuses to share marital responsibilities, such as communicating with their spouse, contributing financially to the household, or taking care of the children.
- Safety of spouse. A spouse acts in ways endangering their partner’s safety, health, or self-respect.
- Relocation. The partner refuses to relocate when their spouse is required to move.
How Do You Prove Constructive Desertion in a Norfolk Divorce?
If you are trying to obtain a divorce based on this ground for divorce, you must prove that your spouse constructively deserted you. You will need evidence to establish this, such as:
- Photographs. Take photos of your dirty, unkempt house or yard to show your spouse neglected their responsibilities.
- Missed appointments. Collect medical and school records to establish that your partner missed your children’s doctors, dentists, and school appointments.
- Bank and credit card records. Your bank and credit card statements can help prove that your spouse has stopped financially contributing to household expenses.
- Communications. Save texts and emails between you and your spouse showing they are not communicating with you. You should also keep a record of your unsuccessful attempts to talk to your partner.
- Police records. If your spouse physically abused you, obtain a copy of the police report and medical records if you sought medical treatment for your injuries.
Can a husband get alimony in Virginia?
If you are a husband filing for divorce and need support from your spouse to pay for your basic monthly needs, you need to understand when you are eligible for alimony and the factors the judge will consider if they agree to award you spousal support. You should also retain an experienced family law attorney to file your divorce and protect your rights.
When Is a Spouse Eligible for Spousal Support?
In Virginia, a husband or wife can be eligible for alimony if they can show they have a financial need for it and that their spouse can provide financial support to them. However, they would be ineligible for spousal support if they committed adultery.
Spouses may be awarded temporary alimony during the divorce. When the divorce is finalized, they could be awarded rehabilitative or permanent alimony. Temporary alimony is often awarded if a husband or wife left their job to take care of their family. A husband or wife would only be entitled to permanent alimony if they can show that they cannot obtain employment due to their age, disability, or long-term absence from the job market.
What Factors Are Considered in Awarding Alimony in Virginia?
The judge will consider many factors in deciding whether to grant a request for spousal support, how long the alimony should be paid, and the payment amount. Factors considered include the following:
- The financial needs, obligations, and financial resources of both spouses
- Length of the marriage
- Standard of living the spouses maintained while they were married
- The health, age, and mental condition of both spouses and any special circumstances they or children of the marriage face
- Financial and nonmonetary contributions of both partners during the marriage
- Husband’s and wife’s financial assets
- Opportunity and ability of the spouse requesting alimony to receive training or education to increase their ability to support themselves and their current employability
Are you a husband planning to file for divorce? Do you have questions about your right to spousal support in Virginia? Our compassionate family law attorneys can answer your questions and will fight for your rights in your divorce. Call our Norfolk office at 757-625-1214 or complete our convenient online form to schedule your consultation today.
Who gets custody of a pet in a Virginia divorce?
Factors the Court Will Consider When Decides Who Gets Custody of a Family Pet
Virginia is an equitable distribution state. In a divorce, the judge must distribute the property fairly but does not have to split the property evenly. Factors the court would consider when deciding who will get custody of a pet include:
- Pet’s acquisition. The judge would consider when the pet was acquired or adopted. If one spouse owned the pet before the marriage, they would most likely be awarded custody of the pet.
- Primary caretaker. Another factor to be considered is who the primary caretaker of the pet is. If one partner has taken on the responsibility for the animal care, the judge may determine that they should be the pet’s owners.
- Best living environment. The judge would also consider which spouse can provide the best living environment for the pet and has the most time and finances to care for the animal. The spouse awarded custody of the children will most likely also get the family pet.
- Abuse and neglect. If either spouse abused or neglected the pet in the past, it is unlikely that the judge would give them ownership of the animal.
How to Increase Your Chances of Being Awarded Custody of a Pet
The best way to increase the likelihood of keeping a family pet may be to work out an agreement with your spouse. You may have to bargain with them and give up other property you may be entitled to or work out a visitation schedule where they have some time with the pet too. You can also collect evidence to help convince the judge to award you the family pet. Helpful evidence can include:
- Adoption paperwork, bill of sale, veterinarian bills, and other documents with your name on them
- Statements and testimony of family and friends who can confirm you are the pet’s primary caregiver
- Pet’s name tag if it has your name and cellphone number on it
- Pet’s license with your name and signature
Are you planning to file for divorce in Norfolk or Virginia Beach? Do you have questions about your right to keep a family pet? Call our Norfolk office at 877-960-3441 or complete our convenient online form to schedule your free initial consultation with our experienced family law lawyers to get answers to your questions and learn how we can help you.
What does it mean to live separate and apart before filing for divorce in Virginia?
- Six months if there are no minor children of the marriage
- One year if you and your spouse have minor children together
What Does it Mean to Live Separate and Apart?
If you are filing a no-fault divorce, you will need to prove the date you separated from your spouse and that you lived separate and apart for the required time period. You must establish two things:
- Physical separation. In many divorces, partners become physically separated when one spouse moves out of the marital residence. However, it is possible to prove that you are physically separated from your partner even if you continue to live together if you meet certain requirements that show you are really living apart.
- Intent. You must also show that at least one of you decided that your marriage was over and that you wanted a divorce. While this is often communicated through a conversation, it is best to follow up with an email, text, or letter that confirms your decision.
Factors the Court Considers in Deciding the Date of Living Separate and Apart
You will need to present facts to the court that shows the date you and your partner began living separate and apart. If there is a dispute about when this began, or the judge has questions about it, they would consider the following:
- Whether there is a signed and dated separation agreement
- The date you and your spouse started identifying as being separated to friends and family members
- Whether you continue to go out or attend events together
- Whether you live in the same home and how you live apart if you do, such as having separate bedrooms
Do you have questions about how to prove you are living separate and apart from your spouse? Are you planning to file a divorce in the Virginia Beach or Norfolk area? Contact our office to schedule a free initial consultation to get your questions answered and learn how our experienced family law attorneys can help you every step of the way through your divorce.
Will I lose my health insurance when I file for divorce?
Filing for divorce can be very stressful, especially if the divorce is contested. You will need to resolve complicated issues, such as how to divide property and debts, child custody, and child support.
One ramification of your divorce that you do not want to overlook is its effect on your health insurance coverage. Because health insurance costs are expensive, this can be a difficult issue if you do not have your own insurance coverage through your employer.
Health Insurance While Your Divorce Is Pending
You are entitled to continue with your current health insurance coverage while your divorce proceedings are pending. This is true whether you or your spouse filed for divorce.
If your partner tries to cut off your health coverage, you can take action to force them to reinstate your coverage. Under Virginia law, the judge in your case can order that your current health insurance plan continue until your divorce is finalized.
Your Options for Health Insurance After Your Divorce
Once your divorce is finalized, your spouse would not be able to keep you on their health insurance policy, even if they wanted to. Unless the court orders them to pay the cost of your health insurance as part of an alimony award to you, you will need to purchase your own health insurance coverage. Your options include:
- COBRA. Under COBRA laws, you have the right to keep your health insurance through your former spouse for 36 months if you pay for it. You would need to notify the administrator of the plan within 60 days of the finalization of your divorce.
- Your employer’s health insurance. You could sign up for health insurance coverage through your employer if you have this benefit. A divorce is a triggering event that permits you to obtain health insurance benefits even if you are not in the open enrollment period.
- Private insurance. If you do not have health insurance through your job and cannot afford to stay on your spouse’s policy under COBRA, you will need to purchase your own health insurance through a private company. You may be able to reduce the costs of your premiums through the Obamacare Marketplace.
Are you considering filing for divorce in Virginia Beach or Norfolk? Our experienced family law lawyers are here to help. Fill out our convenient online form to schedule your free initial, no-obligation initial consultation today to learn about your options and to get your questions answered.
What is a parenting plan?
It can be hard to take the step of filing for divorce, especially if you have children. Unfortunately, the stress and challenges you could experience may not end when your divorce is finalized. One way to make your divorce easier on your children is to develop a parenting plan with your spouse.
Understanding What a Parenting Plan Is
A parenting plan is a legal document that helps divorcing parents understand their joint responsibilities in parenting their children. The plan can detail how many issues will be handled in the future, such as custody, visitation, child support, other anticipated expenses, and how to resolve disputes. Having a parenting plan in place when you divorce can make parenting your children go smoother and reduce the costs of divorce and post-divorce proceedings.
What to Consider When Creating a Parenting Plan
You are not required to have a parenting plan in a divorce in Virginia. However, having one will make things easier for you, your kids, and your spouse. You and your partner will need to develop the plan together if you want it to work. Things you should consider when creating a parenting plan include:
- Your child’s age. Your child’s needs will change as they grow older. There could be additional costs as they go through middle and high school. Their interests and activities could also change over time, which can affect a visitation schedule. It is important to deal with any known future changes and recognize that you may have to change your parenting plan in the future as your child grows older.
- Where you and your spouse live. When creating your plan, you will also have to consider how far away your partner lives from you. If your spouse lives nearby, you will be able to split up your time with your child more equally. You will have to be more creative about a visitation schedule and how to pay for travel costs if you and your partner live far away from each other.
- Holidays and special events. You will need to develop a schedule for seeing your child at their birthdays, holidays, and special events so that you and your spouse get an equal amount of time with your child during these important times in their life.
- Flexibility. You may need to be flexible about changing your parenting plan in the future. It can help to spell out when and how modifications to the plan will be made to avoid disputes and the costs of fighting about the changes in court.
Do you need to file a divorce in Norfolk or Virginia Beach? Do you need help creating a parenting plan? Our experienced family law attorneys are here to explain your options and to make your divorce go as quickly and smoothly as possible. Fill out our online form to schedule your free consultation today.
How long does it take to finalize a divorce in Virginia?
If you have decided to get divorced, you want to get the process over as quickly and smoothly as possible. However, how long the process will take will depend on whether your divorce is contested or uncontested. Here, we explain the timeframes for completing both types of divorces in Virginia so that you know what to expect.
How Long it Takes to Obtain an Uncontested Divorce
A no-fault divorce is one where you and your spouse agree to all the issues in your divorce, such as your property settlement, custody, child support, and alimony. It can be completed much quicker than a contested divorce. However, you must be separated for six months if you do not have minor children or at least one year if you have children with your spouse.
Once you have been separated for six months or one year, the steps in an uncontested divorce can be completed relatively quickly. Depending on how fast you can agree on and sign a property settlement agreement and the judge's availability, your divorce can be finalized in approximately one to two months. You may even be able to complete it by filing an affidavit or deposition and avoid the need to attend a court hearing.
How Long Does it Take to Complete a Contested Divorce?
If you and your spouse do not agree on getting divorced or about the issues in your divorce, you would need to file a contested divorce. Depending on why you are seeking a divorce, you may be required to be separated for one year. Even if there is no separation requirement, the process can be lengthy.
First, you would need to establish valid grounds for your divorce. In Virginia, you would have to prove one of the following:
- Felony conviction
- Physical cruelty
- Constructive desertion
In addition, it could take you a long time to go through the process of litigating your divorce. After you file your complaint and your spouse answers it, you could go through a lengthy discovery phase where the lawyers for both you and your partner obtain financial and other information from each other. Discovery can include interrogatories, which are written questions to be answered, requests to produce documents, and depositions.
Once this stage of your divorce is completed, your case would be scheduled for a trial if you do not reach an agreement. The whole process could take a year or more to complete.
If you are planning to file for divorce in Virginia Beach or Norfolk, our experienced family law attorneys are here to protect your rights and help you through the process as quickly as possible. To find out more about how we can assist you, fill out our convenient online form to schedule your free consultation today.
Can I finalize my divorce by filing an affidavit so I don’t need to go to court?
In many divorces in Virginia, an individual must attend a court hearing in order to complete their divorce. However, you may be able to avoid the time and cost of attending a lengthy court proceeding to finalize your divorce by filing an affidavit.
Who Can File a Divorce by Affidavit in Virginia?
In order to obtain a divorce in Virginia, you must establish a legal ground to file for divorce. In addition, there are specific requirements that you must meet in order to qualify for a divorce by affidavit. They include:
- You must have an uncontested divorce where you and your spouse have agreed to all the terms of your divorce, such as custody of your children, child support, alimony, and the division of your property.
- You must have been legally separated for at least six months if you do not have children with your partner or for one year if there are children of the marriage.
- You must plan to file a no-fault divorce where neither spouse is claiming that the other partner caused the divorce.
How Does the Process of Obtaining a Divorce by Affidavit Work?
To finalize your divorce by filing an affidavit, you and a witness will need to sign an affidavit in front of a notary public. You should be able to sign the affidavit at your lawyer’s office.
In your affidavit, you would need to state the date of your marriage, the date you separated, any children you had together, and whether you have a signed property settlement agreement. You would also need to have a corroborating witness. They must be 18 years old or older, not have a mental deficiency, and have personal knowledge about your marriage and separation. Their affidavit must state:
- How often they have spoken to you since your separation
- Whether they visited your home after you separated from your spouse
- How long you and your spouse have been separated
Consult With a Family Law Attorney Today
Are you considering filing for divorce? Are you planning to file an uncontested divorce and want to avoid attending any court hearings? Our experienced family law lawyers in Norfolk are here to protect your legal rights and help you go through the process of obtaining a divorce. Call our office to schedule your free consultation today to learn more about how we can assist you.
My spouse served me with divorce papers. What should I do?
Whether you have discussed divorce with your spouse or it is a complete surprise to you, getting served with divorce papers can be a traumatic experience. It is important to know what to do so your legal rights are protected.
Actions to Take If You Are Served With Divorce Papers in Virginia
If your spouse files for divorce, you would be served with a summons and complaint. Under Virginia law, they must be served upon you by a process server, local sheriff, or another appropriate person. Here is what you should do after you receive them.
Do Not Refuse Service of the Divorce Papers
You should not refuse to accept the service of the divorce papers. It will not delay the legal process to do this. If you refuse to be served, it could cost more to serve you, or you could be served in another way where you do not actually receive the court documents.
Read the Summons and Complaint
You should not ignore the legal documents you received. Your first step should be to read the summons and complaint. Here is what these documents are:
- Complaint. The complaint is the petition for divorce filed by your spouse. It will state the grounds for divorce that they are relying on and what they are requesting in the divorce, such as custody of any children, child support, spousal support, and property acquired during the marriage.
- Summons. The summons advises you that you must file a written answer to the complaint and the deadline to file it with the court. In Virginia, you have 21 days to file your answer. If you do not file it within this deadline, a default judgment could be entered against you giving your spouse what they are requesting in the complaint.
Retain a Lawyer
You should hire an experienced divorce attorney immediately after being served with the divorce papers so that they can file an answer on your behalf. Even if you and your partner are in basic agreement on the issues in your divorce, your interests are different. Your lawyer will ensure that your rights are protected and that a custody agreement, child support obligations, and property settlement are fair to you. Were you served with divorce paperwork in the Norfolk or Virginia Beach area? Call our office today to schedule your free consultation to learn how we can assist you.
How can my spouse’s adultery affect our divorce?
If you discovered that your spouse committed adultery, it can be emotionally devastating. It could also have an impact on your divorce in Virginia. However, the financial implications may not be as major as you might think.
Adulty Is Grounds for Divorce in Virginia
It is considered adultery for a married person to have sexual intercourse with someone that is not their spouse. Adultery is grounds for an at-fault divorce in Virginia. In addition, there is no waiting period for filing the divorce when it is based on your spouse cheating on you.
How Adultery Impacts on Issues in a Divorce
Under Virginia’s divorce laws, the fact that your spouse cheated on you may not have much of an effect on the issues that must be decided in your divorce as you would wish. Your spouse will not be punished or be forced to give up many of their rights in the divorce. Here is how it could impact on the judge’s decisions.
The court must consider adultery in deciding how to split up marital property and debts. However, you will most likely not receive more assets than you would have been awarded if there was no cheating unless your spouse used marital assets in pursuing their secret relationship.
Child Custody, Support, and Visitation
Similarly, a spouse’s infidelity will have little impact on a judge’s decisions on who should have custody of your children and parenting time. The court must be guided by the best interests of the child in deciding custody and visitation issues, and adultery is not one of the factors that is to be considered. However, the court may not allow a new partner to be present during parenting time until the divorce is finalized.
Your child support also would not be impacted by your spouse’s cheating. A non-custodial parent’s child support payments are calculated using child support guidelines.
The one issue in a divorce that can be significantly affected by adultery is spousal support. In most cases, the cheating spouse is prohibited from receiving alimony. However, there are exceptions to this rule, and the judge can consider these factors in awarding spousal support:
- Financial situation of each spouse
- Degree of fault of each party in the marriage
Do you suspect that your spouse is committing adultery? Are you considering filing for divorce for other reasons? Our experienced family law attorneys are here to help. Call our Norfolk office to schedule your free consultation today.
Can my child decide who to live with after our divorce?
Your child cannot decide which parent they want to live with after your divorce. However, their preferences may be considered by the judge in making a custody decision. Here’s what you need to know about this important issue, so you are prepared if your child wants to live with you or you are worried that they will pick your spouse.
How Child Custody Is Determined in Virginia
In our state, parents can agree on custody and parenting time and ask the court to approve it, or the court can decide these issues in a contested divorce. The judge would base their decision on the best interests of the child. Many factors are considered and include:
- Age, physical condition, and mental health of the child
- Child’s relationship with each parent and their involvement in their child’s life
- Child’s needs, which include their relationships with siblings, friends, and other family members
- Role that the parents have played in raising their child and their role in parenting in the future
- Each parent’s ability to foster a close relationship with their child
- Child’s preference, depending on their age, intelligence, and experience
When Will a Child’s Preferences Be Considered in Custody Decisions?
A judge must consider the child’s age, intelligence, and experience when deciding whether their preference on which parent to live with should be considered. There is no set age when a child’s opinion on custody will be seriously listened to by the judge. However, children who are 12 years old or older are more likely to have the maturity, intelligence, and experience to make a reasonable decision on who to live with.
In addition, a judge can weigh the child’s reason for wanting to live with one parent over the other one. For example, wanting to live with a parent because they let the child stay up later or eat more junk food would not be given any weight by the court. However, if a child is genuinely closer to one parent and spends much more time with them, this could be an important factor in granting the child’s preference.
Are you worried about who will be awarded custody of your child in your divorce? Call our Norfolk office to schedule your free consultation with a member of our family law legal team to find out what to expect in your divorce and how we can help protect your rights.
Do I need an attorney for an uncontested divorce?
You can avoid the expenses of a contested divorce and may be able to obtain it sooner if you file an uncontested divorce in Virginia. However, you should still retain an experienced family law lawyer to protect your legal rights.
What Is an Uncontested Divorce?
In Virginia, spouses with or without minor children can obtain an uncontested divorce. In order to file for one, they must have come to an agreement on issues in their divorce and must have lived separately for at least six months if there are no children and one year if there are minor children. In addition, one spouse must have lived in the district where the divorce will be filed for at least six months. Here are the major issues that must be agreed on before the divorce is filed:
- Division of real estate, personal property, and other assets
- Division of marital debts
- Child custody and parenting time for the non-custodial parent if there are minor children
- Amount of child support and health insurance payments
- Alimony and spousal support payments and the length of time they will be paid
- Any other issues related to the divorce
Three Reasons You Need an Attorney in an Uncontested Divorce
You may be tempted to file an uncontested divorce on your own to save on the cost of attorney fees. However, here are three crucial reasons why you should retain a lawyer.
Filing the Correct Legal Documents
A lawyer will understand the legal forms that must be completed to file your divorce, and the court processes that must be followed. If you try to do this on your own, you may not file the correct documents or make mistakes when preparing them, which can make your divorce take longer and be more expensive to complete.
Protecting Your Legal Rights
Even if you and your spouse agree on the terms of your divorce, you should consult with an attorney to be sure that your legal rights are protected and that your partner is not taking advantage of you. For example, you would probably not want to pay more child support than you are required to under Virginia law. A family law lawyer will know how child support payments should be calculated and can advise you on how much your payment should be.
Avoiding Unnecessary Court Hearings
Your divorce will need to be approved by the judge before it can be finalized. However, you may be able to do this without going to a court hearing. Your lawyer may be able to get your divorce finalized by requesting a divorce through a deposition or affidavit.
Are you planning to file an uncontested divorce? Call our Norfolk office to schedule a free consultation to learn how we can help through the process so that your divorce goes smoothly and you can move on in your new life.
What is virtual visitation?
Getting divorced is never easy, but it can be even harder when children are involved—and they have to adjust to not seeing the non-custodial parent every day. One way to increase the non-custodial parent’s involvement in their children’s lives is through the use of virtual visitation on days when they do not have parenting time.
What Is Virtual Visitation?
Virtual visitation is the use of technology that parents can use to stay in touch with their children when they cannot be with them. While using the telephone has always been an option, there are now many other technologies that can be used, such as:
- Zoom or other video calling services
- Facebook messaging
- Email or text
- Video games
How to Get Virtual Visitation in Your Divorce
There are only a few states that have laws on virtual visitation, and Virginia is not one of them. However, judges do permit virtual visitation in divorces and other custody proceedings. Parents can come up with an agreement on virtual visitation as part of a parenting plan and include this in the judgement of divorce or custody agreement. They can specify the types of technology to be used, how it would occur, and for how long.
If custody is contested or the custodial parent objects to virtual visitation, the non-custodial parent can ask the judge to order it as a part of his court-ordered visitation schedule. In making a decision on this, the judge would be guided by the best interests of the child.
Are you considering filing for divorce? Is your spouse or ex-spouse denying you parenting time or refusing to give you virtual visitation? Our experienced family law attorneys are here to discuss your situation with you and explain your legal rights. We can file your divorce or other custody action and will be here every step of the way to help throughout the process.
Take advantage of our offer of a free initial consultation to learn more about how we can help. Call our Norfolk office or fill out our online form to schedule your appointment today.
How much will it cost to hire a divorce attorney?
Getting divorced is an emotional and expensive process. Hiring an experienced family law attorney is essential so that your legal rights are protected. However, one of your big worries can be how much it will cost you to retain one.
How Attorney Fees Are Charged in Divorces
Even if you and your spouse agree on most issues in your divorce, it is important to hire your own lawyer because you each still have conflicting interests. One attorney cannot adequately represent both of you. Before retaining someone, you should know how much it will cost you. Attorney fees in divorces are often charged in one of these ways:
- Hourly rate. The most common way that lawyers charge their fees in a divorce is at an hourly rate for the time they spend working on a case.
- Flat fee. In uncontested divorces with few or no issues to resolve, some lawyers may charge a flat fee for handling a divorce. However, if disputes arise, they may charge additional fees.
- Retainer fee. Attorneys who charge on an hourly basis will often collect a retainer fee, which is a deposit on the attorney fees that will be owed, before starting a divorce for a client.
In addition to attorney fees, you will owe other costs associated with your divorce. They include:
- Filing fees for your complaint and pre-trial motions
- Service fees to serve your divorce complaint on your spouse
- Record copying fees
- Expert witness fees
- Deposition costs
Factors That Can Affect the Cost of a Divorce
Every divorce is unique, and several issues can affect the cost of a divorce. Some of these are:
- Contested divorce. If a divorce is contested, the cost will be far more expensive than in an uncontested divorce because the attorneys will need to work more on the case and attend more court hearings.
- High net worth. If the couple is wealthy and has a high income and assets, it can be more costly to hire experts to value the marital property and can take more time to reach an agreement on the division of property and alimony.
- Children. When there are children of the marriage, issues of custody, visitation, and child support must be decided. This could become costly if the spouses fight about these issues, and an attorney must attend numerous court hearings to get them resolved.
Depending on your situation, you may be able to ask that your spouse pay all or part of your attorney fees in your divorce. To learn more about your legal options and how we charge our fees in divorces, call our Norfolk office to schedule a free consultation with a member of our legal team.
Do I need to register my out-of-state custody and child support order in Virginia?
If you obtained a custody and child support order in a divorce or other child custody action in another state and moved to Virginia, your orders can be enforced in Virginia. Our commonwealth has adopted The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, which provides that the custody and child support orders entered in another state are recognized by our state courts. However, you need to register your out-of-state orders.
What Is the Benefit of Registering Your Out-of-State Custody and Support Orders?
The benefit of registering your custody and support orders from another state within a Virginia court is that it will be easier for you to enforce the orders if you need to. Once you register your orders, you can file any necessary motions to change the orders or compel your ex-spouse or partner to comply with them in a state court. If you do not register your orders, you would have to file your motions in that state and incur travel costs and miss work to attend required court hearings.
How Do You Register Your Out-of-State Family Law Orders in Virginia?
The process of registering your child custody and support orders from another state is relatively simple. You must follow this procedure:
- File a letter or other document requesting to register your out-of-state orders with the court in the county or city where you reside after you have lived there at least six months.
- File two copies of the order to be registered with an affidavit that there are no modifications of the order. One copy of the order must be a certified copy, which you can obtain for a fee from the court that entered the order.
- Serve notice of the registration of your orders on your ex-spouse or partner. He will have the opportunity to object to your request, and a hearing will be scheduled if he files an objection.
If you need to enforce an order from another state quickly, you can file a petition for expedited enforcement of the order.
Do you have questions about enforcing an out-of-state custody or support order? Do you need to file an action to enforce these orders? Our skilled and compassionate family law lawyers are here to help. Call our Norfolk office to schedule a free consultation to get the answers and legal assistance you need.
Can I date after I separate from my spouse?
Dating after you split up with your spouse may not be a good idea in Virginia. Unlike other states, the Commonwealth of Virginia does not recognize legal separations. You are either married or divorced.
How Dating Can Hurt Your Divorce Case
If you enter into a romantic relationship with someone after you stop living with your spouse, you are doing so while you are still married. Here is how this can be used against you in your divorce.
Virginia is an equitable division state, and marital property should be divided fairly in a divorce. However, the judge can consider fault in determining what is fair. Dating while separated is technically committing adultery. This could be used by your spouse to argue she is entitled to more of the marital assets.
Child Custody and Visitation
When deciding custody and visitation issues, the court must consider the best interests of the child, which involves considering many factors relating to a child’s welfare, needs, and care. If you are dating someone new, the judge may consider this as negatively affecting your fitness as a parent and the ability to take care of your children. You may not be granted primary physical custody, and your visitation with your children may be impacted as well.
Adultery is a crime in Virginia. While it is unlikely, you may be charged with a criminal offense if you are involved romantically with someone else during your divorce proceedings.
How to Protect Yourself in Your Divorce
While there is no law that prohibits dating, it may be in your best interests to not date until your divorce is finalized. If you are considering dating, you should contact an experienced family law lawyer for advice on your rights and how to avoid the potential negative consequences before doing so. Call our Norfolk office today to schedule a free consultation with a member of our legal team to get the answers you need to your questions and to learn how we can help you move forward with filing for divorce.