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  • Who gets custody of a pet in a Virginia divorce?

    Divorcing Couple Holding a Dog's CollarWhile you may consider your pet a member of your family, they are considered personal property in Virginia. If you and your spouse cannot agree on who gets custody of your pet in the divorce, the judge will decide who gets to keep them as part of the division of your marital property.

    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?

    Woman Packing a Moving BoxIf you want to divorce your spouse in Virginia, you must establish specific grounds for an at-fault or uncontested divorce. In an uncontested divorce, you would need to live separately and apart for a certain period of time. This time period is:

    • 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

    Health Insurance Paperwork and StethoscopeYou 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

    Parenting Plan Word Clouds in the Shape of Family MembersA 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. Divorce Paperwork With a Gavel and RingsIt 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:

    • Adultery
    • Felony conviction
    • Physical cruelty
    • Desertion
    • 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?

    Gavel With Wedding Rings and PaperworkIn 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?

    Lawyer Talking to a Client About Divorce PaperworkWhether 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?

    Chalkboard Marriage Sign With Wedding RingsIf 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.

    Property Settlement

    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.

    Spousal Support

    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?

    A Young Girl Holding Paper People Cut OutsYour 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?

    Married Couple With Uncontested Divorce PaperworkYou 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?

    Sisters Facetiming Their Dad on a TabletGetting 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:

    • Skype
    • FaceTime
    • 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?

    Family Cutouts With a Wooden GavelGetting 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?

    Child Support Paperwork and MoneyIf 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?

    Man Using Dating App on His PhoneDating 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.

    Property Division

    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.

    Criminal Prosecution

    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?

    Legal Last Will and Testament Paperwork With a PenWhen 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?

    My Name Paperwork in a Name Change CaseIn 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
    • IRS
    • 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?

    Child Support Agreement With a Wooden GavelIn 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?

    Child Support Spelled Out With Fridge MagnetsIn 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?

    Estate Planning Word CloudA 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?

    Divorcing Spouses Working on PaperworkIn 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.