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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.
Whom should I choose as an executor of my will?
When you are creating a will or updating an existing one, one decision you will need to make is whom to name as the executor of your will. This person performs an important job for you after your death, so it is important to pick the right person.
What Is an Executor?
An executor of your estate is the person you appoint to distribute your assets according to your wishes that are stated in your will and to take care of your other financial responsibilities. An executor is also referred to as the personal representative. Some of the duties this person must perform include:
- Distributing your assets according to the terms of your will
- Paying bills for your estate
- Maintaining property until it is transferred
- Paying real estate taxes, insurance, and mortgage payments on real estate
- Selling real estate and other assets
- Keeping detailed records of assets and expenses of the estate
- Attending court hearings
Tips on Whom to Pick as an Executor of Your Estate
Most people pick family members, such as spouses or adult children to be the personal representative of their estate. This can be a good choice as long as they can perform the required duties and will honor your wishes. Here are some tips on whom to select:
- Pick a responsible person. You should select a person who is responsible, can communicate with other heirs, and can make hard decisions if necessary. While he does not need to be an expert in finances, he should be financially responsible and understand the importance of attention to detail. If you do not have a family member or friend that you feel comfortable appointing, you can select a lawyer or financial institution. Keep in mind that they would charge a fee for their services.
- Select an alternate. It is a good idea to appoint an alternate person who can step in as executor if your first choice dies before you or is unable to assume these duties. If possible, pick someone younger as the alternate.
- Consider the location of your executor. While it is not essential to pick someone who lives near you as your executor, it can be more convenient if you do so. A local person would be better able to maintain your property and have an easier time attending required court hearings than someone who lives out of state.
Do you need help drafting a will? Our experienced estate planning attorneys can create a will and other estate planning documents you need that are tailor-made to your family situation and your concerns. Fill out our convenient online form to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation to learn more about how we can help you.
How do I change my name after a divorce?
In Virginia, you can change your name, both in your divorce proceedings and afterward, to your maiden or another name that you used prior to your marriage. You do not need to get your spouse’s consent to change your name.
Changing Your Name in Your Divorce
As part of your divorce proceedings, you can request that your name be changed. You must request this in your initial divorce pleadings or orally at your final hearing on your judgement of divorce. The judge can change your name back to a name you used prior to your marriage.
How to Change Your Name After Your Divorce Is Finalized
If you decide to change your name after your divorce has been completed, you can still do this without your ex-spouse’s permission. You must have lived in Virginia for six months to qualify. You would need to follow these steps:
- Complete Virginia’s “Application for Name Change” form.
- Have your signature on the form notarized.
- Gather the required documents that support your application. This includes your marriage certificate, birth certificate, and divorce judgment.
- File your application and supporting documents in the Virginia Circuit Court near where you live. You will also have to pay a filing fee.
- The court may grant your application automatically if the judge is satisfied that you met the requirements for a name change. However, you could be required to attend a hearing before your application is approved.
What to Do After your Name Change Is Completed
Once your name has legally been changed, you can begin using it. You will also need to notify others of your new name. Some parties that you should be sure to inform include:
- Department of Motor Vehicles
- Social Security Administration
- Your bank
- Your retirement and other investment accounts
- Your credit card company
- Your health, auto, and home insurance companies
- Your utility companies, such as electric, phone, water, and cable
Do you have questions about changing your name or other aspects of your divorce? Call our Norfolk office to schedule a free consultation with a member of our family law legal team.
How long do I have to pay child support in Virginia?
In the Commonwealth of Virginia, both parents are responsible for paying child support for their children whether or not they were ever married. Parents are obligated to pay child support until their child is 18 years old or is legally emancipated.
However, there is an exception to this rule. A parent can be required to pay child support for a child who is 18 years old if all of the following conditions are met:
- The child is still in high school.
- The child does not support himself.
- The child lives in the household of the parent requesting child support.
In this situation, the non-custodial parent can be required to pay child support until his child graduates from high school or turns 19 years old, whichever is sooner.
Can Child Support Obligations Be Extended for a Child Who Is Disabled?
Another exception to the rule that child support stops when a child turns 18 years is if a child is disabled. In order for this rule to apply, he must be severely and permanently physically or mentally disabled. He must also reside in the custodial parent’s home.
Can Parents Agree to Extend Child Support Obligations?
Parents can agree to extend child support payments beyond the age of 18 in a divorce judgment or other agreement. For example, parents sometimes agree in a divorce judgment to continue child support obligations into adulthood if the child is reasonably pursuing a college education. Courts will enforce this agreement if it is in the best interests of the child.
Do you have other questions regarding your child support obligations? Do you need to ask the court to modify your child support agreement because the payment is too high? Our experienced family law attorneys are here to help. To learn more about your options, call our office or fill out the convenient form on our website to schedule your free initial consultation.
Does the judge have to follow Virginia’s child support guidelines in setting the amount of child support I pay?
In the Commonwealth of Virginia, both parents of a child are responsible for supporting him whether or not they are married. In most cases, the amount of child support an individual must pay is based on child support guidelines. However, there are exceptions when the judge can set a child support payment that is different than what is in the guidelines.
When the Family Court Does Not Have to Follow Virginia’s Child Support Guidelines
The child support guidelines use a formula that takes into account the number of children, the income of both parents, and child custody arrangement to set the amount of child support that must be paid. There is a rebuttable presumption that the amount of child support required under these guidelines is correct.
However, it is possible to challenge the child support guidelines and request that the judge order a higher or lower amount be paid. Both parents have the right to request this. The judge will consider these factors in determining whether to deviate from the guidelines:
- Support provided to other family members
- Custody arrangements for the children, including the cost of travel for visitation
- Imputed income for a parent who is voluntarily not employed or is underemployed
- Debts that a parent is incurring for the child’s care
- Life insurance, education, or other expenses for the care of a child that has been ordered by the judge
- Large capital gains, for example from the sale of a marital home
- Any special needs that a child has
- Child’s standard of living during the marriage
- Child’s independent financial resources, if any
- Both parents’ earning capacity, debts, and special needs
- Provisions made for marital property that has income-producing potential or earns income
- Tax consequences, including child support exemptions and child tax credits, for each parent
- Any written agreement between the parents about child support obligations
- Other factors that affect the fairness of the child support payment to the parents and children
It is not easy to rebut the presumption that the child support guidelines should be followed in Norfolk. If you plan to challenge this amount, you need the assistance of an experienced family law attorney. To discuss your situation, call our office to schedule your free consultation today.
What is a special needs trust?
A special needs trust is a type of trust used when a person wants to provide for the needs of a disabled individual in a way that will not disqualify him for government benefits. It is also known as a supplemental needs trust. It can be a good way for you to provide for a family member upon your death without jeopardizing his Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
Needs of a Disabled Loved One That You Can Provide for in a Special Needs Trust
Many disabled individuals cannot work due to their disability and receive monthly income and other benefits, such as SSI, Medicaid, and section 8 housing. In order to be eligible for these benefits, they must meet certain eligibility requirements, including the amount of income they can have and assets that they can own. For example, a person receiving SSI benefits currently can only have $2,000 in assets. However, they are also allowed to own a home, a vehicle, household goods and furnishings, burial plot, and life insurance policy of up to a face value of $1,500.
The SSI benefits a disabled person receives are to pay for his basic food, shelter, and clothing needs. To ensure that a disabled loved one continues to receive his monthly SSI benefits, a special needs trust cannot be used to pay for his basic needs. However, it can be a way to provide for a disabled person’s discretionary needs. Examples of what is permitted include:
- Summer camp or extracurricular activities for a child
- Airline tickets
- Vitamins and grooming supplies
- Television, kitchen appliances, and other household goods
- Funeral and burial expenses
What Clauses Should Be in a Special Needs Trust?
A special needs trust can be established in a person’s will or a trust. In order to be effective, a special needs trust should contain certain provisions. Here are some necessary clauses:
- Provide that the disabled person cannot demand distribution of the trust funds
- Prohibit the use of trust funds for the individual’s basic needs
- Specify that it is a discretionary trust to be used to supplement benefits that the person is receiving
- State that the trust should not be administered in a way that jeopardizes his benefits
Do you have a family member who is disabled that you want to provide for upon your death? Our experienced estate planning attorneys are here to discuss your concerns and options that will not put his government benefits at risk. Schedule your free consultation by calling our Norfolk office or filling out our convenient online form.
How is a business valued and distributed in a divorce in Virginia?
In Virginia, businesses and their property are part of the marital estate in a divorce whether one or both spouses own them. In general, divorce laws in the Commonwealth of Virginia require that all marital property be divided equally. However, valuing business property can be more complicated than real estate, investment accounts, and other property that married couples frequently own.
How Business Property Is Valued and Distributed in Norfolk Divorces
Business property is not valued by a fair market value or a willing buyer-willing seller standard in our state. Instead, the courts focus on the intrinsic value of the company, which is a more subjective standard that looks at its value to the divorcing couple. One of these approaches is used to arriving at its worth:
- Income-excess earning. This is often the approach used when valuing a professional practice. It compares the business owner’s income to the average income of someone in their peer group. If the person’s income is greater than those in his peer group, it is considered excess income and apportioned as part of the business’ value. Then this value is projected into the future.
- Asset valuation. When using this approach, the assets of the business are valued to determine its worth.
- Market valuation. The market value analyzes the selling prices of similar property to determine a company’s value.
When dividing a business in a divorce, the spouse who owns the business will most likely not be required to sell it or share operating it with the other spouse. If the company is a valuable asset, a portion of its value may be paid to the non-business owning spouse as part of the property settlement.Are you worried about how a business will be divided in your divorce? Our experienced family law attorneys are here to answer your questions and help you properly value the company so that it is fairly handled in your property settlement in your divorce. Call our Norfolk office or fill out our website form today to schedule your free initial consultation with a member of our legal team.
When is supervised visitation ordered in Virginia?
In custody and divorce actions in Virginia, the law favors keeping both parents fully involved in their children’s lives. In many cases, parents are encouraged to work out a visitation schedule that gives the non-custodial parent sufficient time with the children to maintain a relationship with them. However, in some cases, this type of open visitation may not be in the best interests of the children.
What Is Supervised Visitation?
Virginia judges have the authority to order a person’s visitation with his children to be supervised. When this is ordered, a parent is only allowed to see his children in the presence of a “supervisor.” This person plays the role of supervising the visitation sessions to ensure that the non-custodial parent’s behavior is appropriate. In some cases, the parents are allowed to pick the supervisor. In other cases, the judge will appoint an individual or order that visitation occurs at a facility where the parent’s behavior can be monitored.
When Is Supervised Visitation Ordered?
Supervised visitation is not ordered simply because the custodial parent requests it. It is only granted when the parent proves it is obvious that it is not in the best interests of the child to allow unsupervised visitation. It may be required in these situations:
- The parent has made poor parenting decisions that have endangered the children’s safety or otherwise negatively impacted their lives.
- The parent has a history of physically abusing the child, engaging in other family abuse, or exhibiting anger management problems.
- The parent has been uninvolved in the children’s lives over a period of years. This can include the parent being incarcerated or absent.
- The parent has a history of serious mental illness.
- The parent has a problem with drug or alcohol use.
Do you have questions about supervised visitation? Discuss them with our experienced family law attorneys and learn how we can help. Call our office in Norfolk today to schedule your free initial consultation.
Can my spousal support be terminated if I remarry?
Spousal support or alimony, as it is often referred to, is awarded in divorces in Virginia to help the recipient spouse avoid financial hardships caused by the divorce. Alimony can be awarded in a lump sum or a variety of payment methods, such as monthly or other periodic payments, for a specific duration or for the supported spouse’s lifetime. If you are receiving spousal support for life, it can terminate if you remarry or cohabitate with another person if certain circumstances apply.
How Remarrying Could Affect Your Alimony Payment
In Virginia, spousal support is automatically terminated if the payee spouse remarries. However, there are a few exceptions when alimony can continue. Here are details on how this all works:
- The automatic termination rule only applies to periodic or monthly payments.
- Any required lump sum payment of alimony is not terminated upon remarriage or death.
- In limited circumstances, the judge can order that spousal support will continue after the recipient remarries if she has an unusual financial burden or need.
Cohabitation: Another Reason That Your Alimony Could Stop
If you cohabitate with another person for one year or more, your alimony may also be terminated. Cohabitation is a live-in relationship where the couple acts like they are married that continues for at least one year. Occasional sleepovers do not meet this requirement. In addition, the supporting spouse has the burden of proving that the parties are living together. Even then, the termination of support will not be granted if the divorce judgment provides that cohabitation does not stop the spousal support obligation or the supported person proves that terminating financial assistance would be unconscionable.
Do you have other questions about spousal support obligations or other family law matters in Virginia? Schedule your free consultation with our experienced family law attorneys to discuss your concerns and learn how we can help you protect your rights. Call our Norfolk office to schedule your appointment today.
How can I be a good client for my attorney in my divorce?
Even an uncontested divorce can be complicated when deciding how to split up property and decide on the parenting of your children. You need an experienced family law attorney who is on your side and looking out for your interests. While it is important to have a good attorney, you need to realize that he is not the only one who needs to work on your case. You are team player with him, and you can help achieve a better outcome in your case by being a good client.
Ways to Be a Good Client in Your Divorce Action
Divorces are a stressful and emotional time, and some clients let their anger at their spouses spill out into how they treat their attorneys. This can damage their relationship with their lawyer. If the situation gets bad enough, the attorney could ask the court to allow him to withdraw from the case.
You never want to be in this situation with your attorney, and you should want to do what you can to help him in your case. Here are ways that you can be a good client during your divorce:
- Be reasonable. You need to be realistic about what you expect to achieve in your divorce settlement. In most cases, both spouses must compromise in what they are willing to accept.
- Follow the court’s rules. In some cases, the judge will issue an order requiring you to take a certain action. If this occurs, it is important that you follow the judge’s order. This makes your case stronger and your lawyer’s job easier.
- Provide information promptly. If your attorney is requesting information from you, it is because he needs it to move your divorce along. In divorces, the parties are required to exchange many financial documents that will be used in dividing your property and determining child support. Provide any requested information to your attorney as soon as possible.
- Keep your attorney informed. You want to communicate regularly—but not excessively—so that you know the progress in your divorce proceeding. In addition, you need to inform your lawyer if there are problems between you and your spouse. You do not want him to learn of these situations from your spouse’s attorney at court when he will be at a disadvantage with the judge.
- Follow your attorney’s advice. Hopefully, you hired your attorney because of his experience in family law matters. While you do not have to agree with everything he says, you should follow his advice—even if it is not what you want to hear. He knows the laws governing divorces in Virginia and how to resolve your case with your best interests in mind.
Are you considering filing for divorce? Call our office to schedule your free consultation to learn about our experience in family law matters and how we can assist you.
What should I do if I am behind in my child support payments?
If you get behind in your child support obligations in Virginia, you do not want to make the situation worse by doing nothing. You do have options, and it is important to exercise them so that you do not face harsh penalties, such as garnishment of your wages or suspension of your driver’s license. One of your first steps should be to retain an experienced family law attorney who can assist you in resolving your problem.
Filing a Motion to Amend Your Child Support Order
If you have a good relationship with the other parent of your children, you may want to first try talking about your financial situation with that person and trying to agree on a new child support amount that you can afford. You will need an attorney to file the appropriate paperwork to modify your child support obligations if you reach an agreement. If not, you will need to file a motion to amend or review your child support order as soon as possible.
In order to be successful, you will need to show a material change of circumstances that make it difficult for you to pay your child support payment or that you made a good faith effort to pay what was ordered. Your inability to pay must not be due to a voluntary act. Examples of changes in circumstances that may justify a reduction in your child support include:
- Medical emergencies
- Loss of a job
- Increased income of the other parent
- Changes in the child support guidelines
Your motion will only affect future child support obligations after you file the motion. You still will owe the back payments, which is why it is important to contact an attorney as soon as possible once you know that you are unable to pay. You will need to provide proof of your current income, and your attorney can file a subpoena ordering the other parent to provide proof of his or her income and expenses for the children. A hearing would be scheduled where the judge would decide how much child support you will have to pay.
Are you behind in your child support payments? Fill out our online form to schedule a free consultation with a member of our family law legal team to learn how we can help.
What are grandparent visitation rights in Virginia?
In many families, grandparents play an important role in the lives of their grandchildren. When the parents of the grandchildren divorce, the rights of grandparents playing a role in their grandchildren’s lives can change. While ideally the parents would work out visitation rights cooperatively, in some cases this does not happen. The negative feelings and anger the parents feel against each other can lead to custody disputes and denying grandparents the right to visit their grandchildren.
Do Grandparents Have Visitation Rights in Virginia?
Grandparents do potentially have the right to visitation time with their grandchildren. While there is no statute that grants visitation rights specifically to grandparents, Virginia law allows the court to grant visitation to parents and “persons of legitimate interest.” Parties who fall into this category include:
- Former stepparents
- Blood relatives
- Family members
In deciding a request for visitation, the judge will examine the child’s emotional and physical needs and the best interests of the child. The judge will also consider how the visitation will affect the parents’ relationship with their child. If both parents object to the visitation, the grandparents may need to prove actual harm to their grandchildren if no visitation is granted—which can be difficult to show. If only one parent is objecting to the visitation, the grandparents will only need to meet the best interests of the child standard, which can often lead to court-ordered visitation.
There are two situations where a grandparent will lose the right to visitation. If parental rights are terminated, the grandparents may also lose their visitation rights. Similarly, the grandparents will not continue to have rights if the grandchild is legally adopted.
If you are a grandparent and need to obtain visitation with your grandchildren, an experienced family law attorney can help you with your request to see your grandchildren. To learn about your legal options and how we can help, fill out our online form to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.
How can I obtain a protective order if I am the victim of abuse?
In Virginia, you can obtain an immediate protective order to protect you against acts of domestic abuse, which is defined as family abuse if the person abusing you is a family or household member. Under the law, domestic abuse can include acts of violence, force, or threats that put you in fear of death, sexual assault, or bodily injury. If you are a victim of abuse and need to obtain a restraining order, our experienced family law attorneys are here to help you get the immediate help that you need to stop the abuse, remove the abuser from your home, and prevent him from contacting you.
What Types of Protective Orders Are Available in Virginia?
There are three types of protective orders that you can obtain in Virginia, and they are all civil court orders. They include the following:
- Emergency Protective Order. An emergency protective order is an immediate order that is issued without a court hearing and can be obtained any day or night, even when the court is closed. It expires at the end of the third day after it was issued.
- Preliminary Protective Order. A preliminary protective order is the first step in obtaining a permanent protective order and can be issued if you suffered recent abuse or are in imminent danger of family abuse. The order is effective for 15 days but can be extended for up to six months.
- Permanent Protective Order. A permanent protective order will only be granted after a full hearing where both you and the abuser are present and testify as to what occurred. These orders can protect you for up to two years.
How Do You Obtain a Protective Order?
It is always best to retain an experienced family law attorney to obtain a protective order so that it is done properly, you obtain the full protections that you need, and you obtain it as fast as possible. However, it can be useful in understanding the basic steps in obtaining a protective order:
- File a petition. You can obtain the forms at the court where you live or download the forms through the Virginia Judicial System website. If you are in immediate danger and the court is closed, you may be able to obtain an emergency protective order by going to your police department. There is no filing fee to file this petition.
- Filling out the form. If you are completing the form yourself, you should understand that you are the “Petitioner” and your abuser is the “Respondent.” You should describe recent incidents of violence and use descriptive language to describe what was done to you. Sign the petition in front of the clerk.
- Bring ID and abuser information. You will need to bring your driver’s license or other type of identification as well as a photo, home and work address, and other information about the abuser.
- Review of order. Once you have filed the petition, the clerk will take it to the judge. He may have questions for you when he reviews it and decides whether to issue an order. A hearing will be scheduled before you can obtain a permanent protective order.
- Serve the papers. If the judge signs your order, you will need to arrange to serve the abuser with the order and any notice of hearing. Often, you can arrange to pay the sheriff or police to serve him.
- Hearing. A hearing will most likely be scheduled in your case if you are asking for more than an emergency order. This hearing could be scheduled within 15 days after you file your petition. You will be required to attend this hearing, and it is in your best interest to have an attorney represent you at this hearing. Other court hearings may be scheduled as necessary.
If you need a protective order to stop family abuse, contact our office immediately for assistance in obtaining it. Call our office to schedule your free consultation and be sure to let us know that you need immediate help.
Can my spouse stop me from getting a divorce in Virginia?
If you want a divorce in Virginia, your spouse cannot stop you from obtaining one. However, he can make the process more difficult. In addition, you would need to prove one of the grounds for divorce in Virginia before you could become divorced. However, this is possible whether or not your spouse will cooperate in the divorce.
What Grounds for Divorce Must You Prove?
In Virginia, there are two categories of grounds of divorces: those that allow an immediate divorce and those that require a waiting period. Whether you file for an immediate divorce or a divorce with a waiting period, your spouse could delay the process by disputing the grounds for divorce. To obtain an immediate divorce, you would need to prove one of the following:
- Your spouse engaged in adultery, buggery, or sodomy—which are difficult to prove. You also cannot have resided with your spouse after he committed one of these acts.
- Your spouse was convicted of a felony and incarcerated for one year or more. You cannot have lived with him after his release from prison.
If you cannot meet the grounds for an immediate divorce, you can obtain one based on grounds that require a one-year waiting period. Your spouse could still delay the divorce by disputing at least some of the grounds in this category. These are the grounds for this type of divorce:
- Your spouse engaged in physical cruelty.
- Your spouse deserted you without a good reason.
- Your spouse forced you to leave by his actions.
- You have been separated from your spouse for at least one year and have had no sexual relations during this time period.
Are There Other Ways That My Spouse Can Delay the Divorce?
Your spouse can also delay your divorce by raising other disputes in the proceedings. This could require your divorce attorney to engage in discovery, file motions, and attend additional hearings for your case—making your divorce take longer. Your spouse could dispute these issues in your divorce:
- Division of property
- Custody and parenting time with the children
- Child support
Any issues that you are unable to agree on with your spouse will require a decision by the judge in your divorce case after a hearing is held. If you want to file for divorce and your spouse will not agree to it, our experienced divorce attorneys can guide you through the process of obtaining a divorce. Call our office today to schedule your free consultation.
What are the different types of custody awarded in Virginia divorces?
If you are considering filing for divorce or splitting from a partner, it can become much more complicated when children are involved. You will need to reach an agreement on custody and visitation or let a judge decide this. Knowing the available options can help you make an informed decision that is right for you and your children.
How Is Custody of Children Awarded in Virginia?
Whether you are involved in a custody dispute in a divorce or other custody proceeding, the determining factor for who is awarded custody will be the best interests of the child. There are three custody options in Virginia:
- Joint legal custody. With this type of arrangement, both parents have the same rights and responsibilities to control and care for the child. The child may spend more physical time at one parent’s house, but both parents share equally in making decisions about him.
- Joint physical custody. Joint physical custody means that both parents share fairly equally in the physical care and time with their child. It does not necessarily mean that each parent gets exactly equal time. In addition, the parents would not also have joint legal custody unless the parties agreed to this as well or it was ordered by the judge.
- Sole custody. Sole custody gives one parent the right to make major decisions about the child’s life and responsibility for his care. However, the noncustodial parent will most likely have the right to visitation with the child.
It is important to keep in mind that visitation and custody are different. Visitation is the right to spend time with one’s child, and disputes deal with issues like how often and long visitation will be, where it can be, and whether it can be unsupervised or supervised where another adult must be present.
An experienced family law attorney can discuss your situation with you and advise you on the best custody options for you. This could lead to an agreement between you and your spouse about custody of your children or at least give you an idea of what to expect if you must let the judge make this decision for you. To find out more, call our office to schedule your free consultation.
When can an annulment of a marriage be obtained in Virginia?
Unlike a divorce that dissolves a marriage, an annulment voids a marriage. You can only have your marriage annulled in limited circumstances. The fact that your marriage was only of a short term or you want to annul your marriage for religious reasons are not grounds for an annulment. If you want an annulment of a marriage, you need to know the rules for getting one to determine if this is a good option for you.
What Are the Grounds for an Annulment in Virginia?
You must file a legal proceeding to have your marriage annulled. You can also use an annulment proceeding to establish custody of children, child support, and alimony like in a divorce. The following are grounds for an annulment:
- One of the parties was mentally or physically incompetent.
- One of the spouses entered into the marriage due to fraud or duress.
- A party was a felon or prostitute, and the other party did not know this before the marriage.
- One party suffers with impotence.
- The wife was pregnant by another man, but the husband did not know of this.
- The husband fathered a child with another woman without the wife’s knowledge within 10 months of the marriage.
- There is no marriage license or the marriage was not solemnized according to Virginia law.
- One of the parties was married to someone else at the time of the marriage.
- The marriage involves incest, such as between a brother and sister.
- One of the parties is under 18 years old, except that a 17-year-old can be legally married with parental consent.
A critical requirement is that the parties not live together once one of these grounds for annulment are discovered.
An experienced family law attorney can help you determine whether you qualify for an annulment or whether you should instead file for divorce. This will avoid you going through the expense and time of filing the wrong type of action and starting the proceedings again. To speak to our family law team, fill out our online form to schedule a free consultation.