Family Law

Divorce

Divorce can be simple or complicated, painful or less painful. It is my goal to help you end your marriage without unnecessary anguish.


Uncontested Divorce
Ending a marriage means tying up a lot of loose ends.  If you have agreed on everything – property, spousal support, child support, custody, visitation schedule – then your divorce is uncontested.  If you have agreed on nothing other than to divorce, or even on all issues but one, then your divorce is not uncontested. An agreement should be drafted by counsel to clarify all terms.


Contested Divorce
If there is any issue that you and your soon-to-be-ex have not agreed upon, you have a contested divorce.  Any time you resolve all the issues your divorce then becomes uncontested. If there are areas of contention that cannot be resolved by negotiation, then the matter is brought to court and put before a judge.

Separation
In order to divorce, you must first separate. If you have no children, and you resolve all matters of property and support in a written agreement, then you can file for divorce after a 6-month separation. If you don’t have–or cannot come to–a written agreement, then you must be separated for 12 months before you can file for divorce, whether or not you have children.  The Commonwealth of Virginia does not require any paperwork for separating. It is now possible to be separated while living in the same home, but there are parameters. Call our office to learn more about this.  It is best if the parties can move to separate residences by the time the divorce is filed.


Annulment

Granted only under very limited circumstances, such as one spouse having committed a felony prior to the marriage that the other spouse was unaware of, or if either spouse entered into the marriage under duress. There is no required separation period for annulment. Call our office to make an appoi whether an annulment or a divorce is appropriate for your situation.
 

Child Custody

There are two major categories of child custody determinations. These are:

 

Legal custody
Parents are able to make many decisions for their children – what their name will be, what religion, if any, the child will practice, where the child will live, which school they will attend, whether or not they may marry before the age of 18, get medical treatment, and more.  If a parent has sole legal custody, then that parent will make all of those decisions, without having to take the wishes of the other parent into account (although it is always good form to consult first, whenever possible).  If parents share legal custody, they must confer, and find a way to agree.  Sometimes mediation is used as a method for reaching agreement.

Physical custody
A child cannot live with both parents at the same time once the parents separate.  Determining which parent’s home is the best for a child is a difficult process, and it is far from foolproof.  There are 14 factors that a court will take into account. The most important ones are:

 

–  The relationship that each parent has with the child, including the parent’s ability to assess and meet the child’s differing needs;

–  Each parent’s ability or desire to support the child’s relationship with the other parent;

–  Whether or not there is a history of family violence;

–  The parents’ ability to resolve issues relating to the child, and, everyone’s favorite

 

–  other factors that the court may deem necessary or proper. 

 

The guiding principle is the “best interests” of the child.  A court can grant sole physical custody to one parent with visitation rights to the other parent, while granting joint legal custody.