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Falls Church Virginia Family Law Blog

Providing compassionate guidance in child custody matters

Divorce can be a difficult time for a child. They may not understand why their parents are no longer in love with one another. They may even think that the divorce was somehow their fault. If not handled properly, a messy divorce could affect a child for the rest of their life.

For these reasons, when it comes to child custody decisions, the standard Virginia courts will use is the best interests of the child. This standard is used when deciding whether parents will share legal custody or not. It will also be used when deciding which parents will have physical custody of the child.

What divorce processes are available to Virginia couples?

Some couple in Virginia who have decided to divorce may automatically assume this means going to court with their attorneys and having a judge issue a final ruling on their divorce legal issues. Sometimes litigation is the only feasible option for spouses with relationship so toxic that they are entirely unable to cooperate with one another to reach a settlement. However, this divorce option can be costly both in time and money, not to mention emotionally. Therefore, spouses who are on better terms with one another may want to consider other processes for settling their divorce.

One option they may consider is collaborative law. This option may be useful if the spouses have trouble communicating with one another, but still want to resolve their divorce legal issues out-of-court. In a collaborative divorce, each party will retain an attorney. Before collaborative divorce proceedings begin, the parties to the divorce will execute a signed statement that they will work to reach a settlement, and if they are unable to do so, they will have to start over with new attorneys. This provides an incentive for both parties to try to compromise so they can reach a settlement that they are both satisfied with.

Hidden assets can make property division inequitable

Part of the property division process is disclosing all of your assets and income. This is because in Virginia each spouse has the right to retain an equitable share of all the couple's marital assets. However, a divorce can cause bitter feelings and sometimes a spouse will act out of greed or spite and try to conceal assets or sources of income from their ex.

This can be a serious situation that, if not rectified, could lead to an inequitable division of assets. If you believe your spouse is hiding assets, you must take care in how you handle the situation. When investigating such incidents, it is all too easy to go too far and commit acts that are just as illegal as the hiding of assets. Therefore, it can help to retain an attorney who can assist in uncovering hidden assets without violating the law.

Online dating for seniors is on the rise

As medical advancements increase the average lifespan and the number of gray divorces rises, it should come as no surprise that the online dating opportunities for seniors have expanded.

In fact, the Pew Research Center found that the number of online dating users between the ages of 55 and 64 doubled from six to 12 percent between 2013 and 2015. The research group also conducted studies showing that the divorce rate for those who are 50 years and older has doubled since the 1990's.

Military divorce and the 20/20/20 rule

Our nation's service members deserve to be honored for the sacrifices they make for this country. Events such as deployment in protection of our nation are important and noble, but if a service member in Virginia or elsewhere has a spouse, a long deployment can take its toll on his or her marriage. Sometimes a military spouse's marital problems become too great, and they decide it is best to divorce.

The Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act or USFSPA addresses military divorce issues. One of these issues has to do with additional military benefits that may be accorded to a former spouse of a service member. Some of these additional benefits include being able to receive health care benefits, commissary and exchange after the divorce is complete.

There are consequences for a failure to pay child support

Children in Virginia deserve to have the financial support of both parents. When a child's parents are divorced, generally this means the noncustodial parent will pay child support to the custodial parent to help contribute to the costs of raising the child. In this way, both parents are meeting the child's needs, so the child can grow up in a healthy and stable environment.

Unfortunately, due to a wide variety of circumstances, sometimes the party paying child support fails to meet this obligation. This harms not just the parent receiving child support, but the child as well. Therefore, there are certain actions that the local child support enforcement agency can take to enforce an order for child support.

How are inheritances treated for property division purposes?

The death of a loved one can be devastating. However, there may be a silver lining if the deceased left a substantial inheritance to you. When it comes to divorce and inheritance in Virginia, in general, an inheritance is considered to be separate property. This means that should a person divorce, their inheritance will go to them and will not be subject to the division of marital property. However, an inheritance may be considered marital property subject to division if it has comingled with marital assets or has been used for marital purposes.

Comingling occurs when separate assets are blended with marital assets to the point where it is no longer possible to recognize what is separate and what is marital. When this happens, all the assets at issue will be considered marital assets, and thus, will be included in the divisible estate. For example, if an inheritance is placed in a joint bank account and the couple uses the inheritance to pay for joint marital expenses, such as upgrading the family home, the inheritance may lose its status as separate property.

The child's best interests must come first in child custody cases

Most parents in Virginia want their child to be raised in a healthy, loving and supportive environment. Therefore, if parents are getting divorced, they may want to make sure that the child custody and visitation arrangements made in the final divorce decree meet all of their child's needs. And, courts agree with this sentiment. Per Virginia Code, when making child custody and visitation decisions, courts will first and foremost focus on what is in the best interests of the child.

When determining what the child's best interests are, courts will consider a number of factors. The age and developmental needs of the child will be considered, as will the child's physical and mental health. The parents' health will also be considered. The relationship each parent has with the child and the extent to which the parent is involved in the child's life and can identify the child's needs will also be considered. Whether the child has relationships with brothers, sisters, other relatives and friends may be considered as well.

How to begin a judicial settlement conference

The expense and time commitment required to settle a divorce in court may not work for you and your ex-spouse. However, for those who still seek the counsel of a judge, another option is available.

In a judicial settlement conference, you and your ex-spouse select a retired judge to hear your case. Read on to learn more about this divorce process and how to get started.

How does an uncontested divorce work?

At the heart of every divorce are issues regarding the division of property, division of debt, child custody and the payment of child and/or spousal support. In an uncontested divorce, you and your spouse reach an agreement without going to court. This process will typically move through the system more efficiently.

Instead of appearing in court for the matter, you will file court forms and a "divorce settlement agreement" that details the agreements you've made on your own. Your settlement, and your final divorce, will have to be approved by a judge. Generally, the judge will approve a settlement unless it's clear to the judge that the terms of the agreement are unfair to one person or if one person was under pressure during the decision-making process.

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Maddox & Gerock, P.C.
8111 Gatehouse Road
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Falls Church, VA 22042
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