FAMILY LAW ATTORNEY SERVICES
Family Law involves legal relationships between individuals as married couples, parent and child, as socio-political force and economic unit. The legal facets of these relationships involve vast areas of law such as the statutory regulation of marriage and divorce, equitable remedies, property and support rights, tort law, criminal law, and constitutional law. Marriage between individuals is more than a personal commitment to each other but its status is rooted on contract and established law and also becomes a statement of who we are as a society. Governments have considered this institution to be of the highest interest to society and the general welfare of the state. Our Supreme Court of the United States eloquently and powerfully described marriage and the government’s role “as creating the most important relation in life, as having more to do with the morals and civilization of a people than any other institution.” Maynard v. Hill, 125 U.S. 190, 205, 8 S.Ct. 723, 726, 31 L. Ed. 654 (1888).
In Virginia, a divorce may be granted on fault grounds and no-fault separation grounds. There are three fault grounds: 1) adultery, sodomy, or buggery committed outside the marriage; 2) conviction of a felony subsequent to the marriage and 3) cruelty and desertion after a period of one year from the date of the act. A no-fault separation ground can also be used for a divorce. The court can make any order (called “pendent lite”) during anytime pending the divorce regarding spousal support, health care coverage, payment of secured and unsecured debts, attorney fees to carry on s suit, prevent a spouse to infringe on the personal liberty of the other, provide custody and support for the children of the marriage, use of the family residence, and the preservation of assets. For the final divorce the court can make orders for spousal support and maintenance, child custody, support and maintenance, equitable distribution of marital property (real and personal, tangible and intangible) and attorney fees.
We recognize that divorce is wrought with hurt, pain and emotion and that many times it touches and concern the most important individual(s) in your life, your children. We have over 20 years of experience in this area of law.
2. Spousal Support and Maintenance
In Virginia a court has the absolute power to grant spousal support and maintenance, either in a suit for divorce or in a suit for alimony alone. This is a mutual duty recognized in statute for one spouse to support the other based upon the court’s consideration of specific stator criteria.
3. Child Support
Child support actions are purely statutory that take place in either: 1) civil actions in the juvenile domestic relations district court; 2) the enforcement of administrative orders pursuant to §§ 63.2-1900 et. seq. or orders entered by another state filed in Virginia, 3) a criminal petition for failure to provide support pursuant to § 20-61 in juvenile and domestic relations district court; 4) actions for support filed pursuant to the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act in the proper juvenile and domestic relations district court; 5) actions filed in circuit court for divorces; 6) petitions for modification or revision of circuit court or juvenile domestic relations district court orders; 7) enforcement of agreements entered by the parties and affirmed, ratified and incorporated in a decree of a circuit court; 8) enforcement of child support orders by the circuit court or by the juvenile and domestic relations district court where transferred by the circuit courts; or 9) administrative support orders entered by the Department of Social Services. Virginia law clearly establishes a duty for both parents to support their child during the child’s minority or until the statutory extension where a child is a full-time high school student, not self-supporting and living in the home of the parent seeking support until the child reaches the age of 19 or graduates from high school, whichever first occurs. This duty can also extend past this time where a child is severely and permanently disabled and unable to support themselves. Under Virginia law there is a “rebuttable presumption” in any judicial or administrative proceeding for child support be awarded based on statutory guidelines set forth in §20-108.2.
4. Equitable Distribution (Distribution of Marital Property)
Virginia has adopted the legal concept of equitable distribution for the division of marital assets. It recognizes that marriage is a partnership or shared enterprise. It recognizes that both spouses contribute both economically and non-economically, monetary and nonmonetary to a marriage. The classification of property as marital, separate or a hybrid is paramount in any case. After such classification the court must apply specific statutory factors in determine the distribution to the parties.
5. Child Custody and Visitation
Nothing can more emotionally intense and have the potential for conflict, both present and future, than the issue of child custody and visitation. If parents are unable to come to an agreement, the court is bound to determine what is in the best interest of the child as set forth in §20-124.3. Also, under current societal trends areas of law such as the primacy of parental rights against grandparents or other parties of interest and relocation cases are quite common.
6. Premarital Agreements
Premarital, antenuptial, or prenuptial agreements are contracts utilized when prospective spouses’ desire to contract to set forth terms that may limit or relinquish certain marital rights in property and support they would otherwise have by reason of their marriage. Under Virginia law these agreements and their legality are guided by the Virginia, Uniformed Premarital Agreement Act.
7. Separation Agreements (Property Settlement Agreements)
These agreements are between spouses who decide to formally wish to live separate and apart with the intent to eventually divorce. The parties contractually agree upon a division of their marital property and other assets, custody of their children, child support, spousal support, pension and retirement plans, insurance coverage for spouse and children, tax planning and other important issues prior to and after divorce. This will usually lead to an uncontested divorce. The benefits of these agreements are sometimes immeasurable in that a mutual and voluntary agreement can lead to a more peaceful dissolution of the marriage and be less traumatic to the children of the relationship. Further, the costs of such proceeding are drastically less than that of a contested divorce. These agreements may be made into court orders pending the divorce.
Under Virginia law adoptions are entirely statutory and all matters concerning children, the overriding public policy consideration is to promote the welfare and best interest of the child. This may include direct placement adoptions, agency adoptions, adoption of children with special needs, and close relative adoption.