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Family Law, Domestic Law, or Divorce Law, whatever you want to refer to it as, can cover a variety of issues and situations. Each being as unique as the individuals in the middle of it.
These areas of law can cover topics related to child custody, child visitation, child support, spousal support, property settlement agreements, divorce and all the issues that arise out of divorce including but not limited to spousal support payments, property division, legal custody of the kids, visitation, and support.
Divorce Lawyers Manassas VA
A Manassas Divorce can cover a wide variety of issues from child custody, visitation, child support payments, spousal support, and property division, all of which will be handled in the Circuit Court.
Divorce can be based upon the parties being separated for a specific period of time, or it can also be based on fault-based grounds, which include adultery, cruelty, and desertion.
Does Virginia Allow Legal Separation?
In Virginia, there is no legal separation. In order for parties to be considered separated one individual must have a specific intent to be separate from the other member with the purpose of getting a divorce. This can occur even if both parties still reside in the same residence, so long as both parties abide by some specific conditions, for example sleeping in different rooms.
FAMILY LAW IN VIRGINIA
In Virginia, parties must be separated for one year if they have minor children or if they do not have a Property Settlement Agreement. If the parties do not have any minor children and have signed Separation Agreements, then they only need to be separated for six months.
What is a Property Settlement Agreement?
A Property Settlement Agreement deals with all legal issues that the parties want to include in their divorce. This includes issues with the children, property division, and anything else that the parties wish to agree upon.
If the provisions are not illegal or against public policy, the parties can agree to provisions they wish and can even agree to provisions that are not within the power of the Circuit Court, such as the payment by one or both parties for expenses related to college for the children.
What makes a settlement agreement legally binding?
A Property Settlement Agreement (PSA) must be agreed to by the parties. Each party must sign the Agreement, in front of a notary, for the Agreement to be binding. Parties should always have a PSA reviewed by a family lawyer prior to signing it. Once it is signed it becomes extremely difficult to nullify the Agreement.
Once the Agreement is made the parties either need to wait out the statutory separation period or if that is met simply go through the no-fault divorce process of filing a Complaint for Divorce and ultimately having a Final Decree of Divorce entered.
When the parties have a signed Agreement that finalizes all the issues of their divorce no one will need to go to Court to finalize the divorce. If parties are not able to resolve their issues via a Property Settlement Agreement, then litigation is the next option, which begins by filing a Complaint for Divorce.
Either party can file a Complaint for Divorce if they meet the separation requirements, or they can plead fault-based grounds.
What is a Complaint for Divorce?
The complaint includes details of the marriage, kids that resulted from the marriage, and grounds for divorce. The Complaint offers all the factual issues that give rise to the divorce and asks for the specific relief that the party is seeking, such as custody of children, payment of spousal support, and division of property.
There is no advantage to be the first one to the courthouse, meaning it doesn’t matter who files first or who is labeled as Plaintiff or Defendant.
Once a party has filed a Complaint for Divorce, the other party has twenty-one days to file an Answer to the Complaint for Divorce and, if applicable, a Counter-Complaint for Divorce.
Pendente Lite Motion
Parties may also wish to file a Pendente Lite Motion for temporary relief. But what is a Pendente Lite Motion?
A Pendente Lite Motion is where a party asks the Court for temporary relief on issues such as child custody, visitation, child support, and spousal support payments.
A Pendente Lite hearing can last up to two hours, and the Court will issue a temporary order that the parties must follow until a final hearing can be had.
The Court will not deal with the division of property at the Pendente Lite hearing. Once parties are engaged in active litigation like this, there will undoubtedly be discovery propounded. This can be in the form of Interrogatories, Requests for Production of Documents, Requests for Admissions and Depositions.
DIVORCE CASES IN COURT
When it comes time for the final hearing, the Court will deal with all the issues that have been properly brought before it, such as child custody, visitation, child support, spousal support, and division of property.
Division of Property
The Court, pursuant to Virginia Code §20-107.3, must consider all property whether it is real or personal, tangible, or intangible and determine if the property is separate, marital or hybrid.
- Separate property is any property acquired before the marriage, after the date of separation, inherited property, and a variety of other property.
- Marital property is any property that was acquired during the marriage, meaning from the date of marriage to the date of separation.
- Hybrid property is either separate or marital property that has been commingled, where the property will be considered part-separate or part-marital.
- Debt – An equitable distribution hearing will determine what debt is considered marital or separate and divide up the party’s retirement accounts. Generally, all debt incurred during the marriage, from the date of marriage to date of separation, will be considered marital unless a party can prove that the debt was incurred for a non-marital purpose.
- Retirement accounts – The Court may award the other party no more than 50% of the other party’s retirement accounts. Retirement accounts include but are not limited to 401(k)s, IRAs, TSPs, pension plans, and FERs.
The biggest thing to keep in mind when looking at the property to be divided, other than how it is classified, is that the court will use the factors laid out in Virginia Code §20-107.3 to determine what is equitable. Every case is unique.
After the trial is over and the Judge has made his or her ruling, a Final Decree of Divorce will be entered by the Court, which will mean that you are officially divorced.
Child Support in Manassas Virginia
Child Custody, Visitation and Child Support cases can be adjudicated in two different Courts in Virginia, which are the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court and the Circuit Court. Your situation will determine what court you will be in.
Cases in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court are where the parties were never married, but they have children in common.
Parties that are married can utilize the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court as well if they are unable to file for divorce in Circuit Court to have an Order entered while they wait out the separation period.
Parties that are in Circuit Court to decide these legal matters are there because it is part of divorce proceedings, or they are seeking a modification from a previous Order of the Circuit Court.
No matter what Court decides child custody and child visitation, the standard is the same, what is in the best interest of the minor children. The Court reviews several factors, which are found in the Virginia Code §20.124.3, to determine what is in the best interests of the minor children.
Not one factor is more important than the other, and the facts and circumstances around a particular case will determine which elements are the most important in determining what is in the best interest of the children.
How is Child Support Determined in Virginia?
Child support is determined using the Virginia Child Support Guidelines, which means that there is a statutory presumption as to the amount of child support that should be paid. Virginia Code §20-108.2, specifically outlines how much child support a party may have to pay in VA.
Child Support Deviation
Virginia does allow for a deviation to the child support guidelines for a variety of reasons, including but not limited to the agreement of the parties and extraordinary expenses for minor children such as medical or educational needs.
Other issues that factor into child support are any work-related childcare expenses and the cost to have the minor children covered under health insurance.
Work-related childcare expenses are exactly what they sound like, how much money do you have to pay a babysitter, daycare provider, etc. to watch your children while you are at work. This does not cover if you want to go out on the weekend or if you do not work and want to place your children in daycare.
The amount that the custodial parent pays for work-related childcare expenses will be factored into how much child support an individual should receive.
Health Insurance – With regards to health insurance, one party, if one is able, will be ordered by the Court to provide health insurance for the minor child/children. The amount that the party pays to provide health insurance only for the children will be factored into the child support amount determination as well.
Spousal Support Rulings and Laws
Spousal Support can be adjudicated in both the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court and Circuit Court as well. Married individuals who do not meet the statutory separation period can file for spousal support in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court before filing a Complaint for Divorce in Circuit Court.
Circuit Court will hear issues of spousal support award either as part of an initial divorce proceeding or as a modification hearing after the divorce has been granted.
Spousal Support, unlike child support, does not have any presumptive guidelines that the Courts are bound to follow. The Courts will review several factors, which are found in Virginia Code §20-107.1, to determine what is fair. Depending on the situation and the issues surrounding your case will determine which factors prove to be the most important.
MANASSAS VA DIVORCE ATTORNEYS
Battlefield Law Group PLLC is located in Northern Virginia and can help you deal with any type of Manassas family law issue you may have.
Manassas Family Law Attorney Robert Dellinger heads up the company’s family law division. With more than 10 years of experience, Mr. Dellinger practices family law and can help with any family law matter including divorce mediation, custody and visitation, military divorce, divorce custody, equitable distribution, legal separation, alternate dispute resolution, and legal forms such as a prenuptial agreement.
As a senior associate at Battlefield Law Group PLLC, Mr. Dellinger can provide legal representation for a Virginia divorce throughout Prince William County, Northern Virginia, and is currently representing clients in Manassas, Fairfax, Arlington, Alexandria and other nearby cities in Virginia. Be sure to check out Mr. Dellinger’s reviews on Super Lawyers and Avvo.
Battlefield Law Group PLLC is committed to delivering the highest quality legal representation for all of their clients with a prominent level of integrity and commitment in all areas of law.
In addition to being top rated Manassas VA divorce lawyers, we also practice criminal defense law and personal injury legal advice including wrongful death, help with workers compensation, traffic tickets, traffic violations including felony speeding tickets, estate planning, DUI representation, domestic violence, and more.
Each member of our team believes they are responsible for protecting their client’s future. Contact the VA divorce lawyer today to schedule your consultation.