Family Law Attorney – Virginia
Marriage and family troubles present some of the toughest experiences you will face. All aspects of your life may be affected – – children, finances, career, business, home. Emotions (sadness, grief, anger) can further complicate the situation. The decisions you make today will have long-lasting consequences for you and your family. With so much at stake, it is crucial to have an experienced family law lawyer on your side.
At Walker Jones, our family law attorneys have decades of experience helping our clients navigate complex family matters, including divorce, custody/visitation, and support. Our approach to family law is personal and results-oriented whether you need an aggressive litigator to represent your interests in Court or a skilled negotiator to favorably resolve your case.
Couple Family Law: Divorce
The end of a marriage can be stressful and overwhelming. Divorce forces families to make complex decisions concerning property division, support, and custody/visitation. Situations such as substance abuse, blended families, financial issues, and relocation can make the process even more difficult.
Every family is unique and so is every divorce. The family law attorneys at Walker Jones use their decades of experience to tailor their strategy to each case, considering your specific circumstances, goals and priorities. Whether you need a vigorous advocate in Court or an assertive negotiator for settlement, our family law attorneys will help you protect your future.
In Virginia, the process of dividing marital property in a divorce is called equitable distribution. Equitable distribution does not mean equal. The Court focuses on fairly dividing the marital assets.
First, the Court classifies the property, determining whether it is separate, marital or hybrid (a combination of the two). The classification of a particular asset is determined upon the circumstances when the item was acquired, so documentation and proof is important. Once the Court identifies and classifies the property as either marital or hybrid property, the Judge determines the value for that property based on evidence presented at trial. Finally, the Court will divide the property between the parties again based upon the testimony of the parties, witnesses as well as the documents and evidence presented at a trial. According to Virginia law, the Judge must consider the following factors:
- The contributions, monetary and nonmonetary, of each party to the well-being of the family;
- The contributions, monetary and nonmonetary, of each party in the acquisition and care and maintenance of such marital property of the parties;
- The duration of the marriage;
- The ages and physical and mental condition of the parties;
- The circumstances and factors which contributed to the dissolution of the marriage, specifically including adultery, conviction of a felony and cruelty;
- How and when specific items of such marital property were acquired;
- The debts and liabilities of each spouse, the basis for such debts and liabilities, and the property which may serve as security for such debts and liabilities;
- The liquid or nonliquid character of all marital property;
- The tax consequences to each party;
- The use or expenditure of marital property by either of the parties for a nonmarital separate purpose or the dissipation of such funds, when such was done in anticipation of divorce or separation or after the last separation of the parties; and
- Such other factors as the court deems necessary or appropriate to consider in order to arrive at a fair and equitable monetary award.
Dividing some items of property can sometimes be difficult or impossible so the Judge may order one spouse to pay a monetary award to the other. The parties’ debts will also be divided by Judge. The Court will weigh the factors listed above to determine the method of payment for any monetary award and the allocation of the marital debt. The ruling of a Court must be based upon the evidence presented to the Judge at the trial — the testimony of each party and of witnesses, documents and records. Several aspects can complicate equitable distribution in a divorce case — a business, high value assets, complex real estate holdings, stock options and assets hidden by one party.
The family law attorneys at Walker Jones have decades of experience guiding clients through the equitable distribution process. With their background, they know when to collaborate with the right experts (business evaluators, forensic accountants, financial planners, and vocational rehabilitation evaluators) to build your strongest case. Whether it is zealously representing clients in the courtroom or negotiating a positive resolution by agreement, the attorneys in our family law practice will help you protect your interests and achieve your objectives.
Spousal support, sometimes referred to as alimony, is financial assistance from one spouse to the other. When a married couple divorces, each person has the option to seek spousal support. Under Virginia law, a court will consider a number of factors to determine whether to award spousal support, the amount to award, and how long payments will last. A court may award spousal support while a divorce is pending, and upon the entry of a final order of divorce. Spousal support awarded upon divorce can either be for a set period of time, or indefinite.
While some courts make regular use of a formula in their analysis, an award of spousal support must take into account the individual circumstances of each case. Certain findings by the court, such as that a spouse committed adultery, can bar that individual from receiving spousal support. Our experienced attorneys are well-versed in both the local rules and recent case law regarding spousal support.
Once spousal support is awarded by a court or agreed to by the parties, the spouse receiving support may need to assistance enforcing their right to timely payment. As life changes, either the payor or payee spouse may be entitled to seek a modification. The family law attorneys at Walker Jones have decades of experience handling every aspect of spousal support from an initial award of support, enforcement, or modification of a support order.
Child Family Law: Child Support
While the law is clear that parents have a responsibility to provide financial support for their children, determining a fair allocation of that responsibility between parents can be difficult. Generally, the noncustodial parent will be required to pay support to the other parent. Courts in Virginia award child support based on a formula that considers a number of factors, including the income of each parent, and the health, medical and educational expenses of the child. It is critical to carefully analyze the numbers being put into the formula, particularly when a parent has a new job, has inconsistent income, or has not worked recently. At Walker Jones, our family law attorneys have decades of experience helping clients navigate all issues regarding child support.
Virginia courts recognize two types of child custody, legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody is the right and responsibility of each parent to make decisions regarding the children’s health care, education, finances and general welfare. Physical custody is deciding which parent the child will live with primarily. Parties are encouraged to determine the parenting plan that is in their child(ren)’s best interest. If the parties are unable to do so then the Court will utilize the factors in Virginia Code section 20-124.3 to determine what is in the child(ren)’s best interest. A court can award primary physical custody to one party and visitation rights to the other party or, in the alternative, award shared custody to both parties. Contrary to popular belief, shared custody is not just a 50/50 split of time. Shared custody can encompass any other plan over the “standard” every other weekend and one dinner visit during the week. With both parents working outside the home, our Courts are, more and more, thinking outside the box and ordering parenting plans that deviate from the norm and work with the child(ren) and the parents’ schedules.
Custody disputes can become complex litigation cases, particularly when one parent wants to relocate, abuse or neglect allegations are made or grandparents or other third parties (parties with a legitimate interest in the child) seek custody and visitation rights. Complex custody and visitation cases are fact based and center largely around the corroborating testimony of professionals, the parties and ultimately, at times, the child(ren) either directly or through the Guardian ad litem. A Guardian ad Litem is a local licensed attorney who is appointed by the court and represents their ward (child)’s best interest. A Guardian ad Litem does not advocate for what a child wants but, instead represents to the court what is in their best interests. While ultimately, the judge makes the decision on custody and visitation, a good Guardian ad Litem can serve as the court’s eyes and ears and provide significant insight into the lives of the parties and their child(ren). The family law attorneys at Walker Jones have decades of experience handling every aspect of custody and visitation.
At What Age in Virginia Can a Child Choose Which Parent to Live With?
In the state of Virginia, the court takes into consideration the child’s preference when determining custody arrangements. However, there is no specific age set by law at which a child can unilaterally decide which parent to live with. The court typically considers the child’s age, maturity, and ability to make an informed decision.
It’s essential to understand that while a child’s preference can be a factor, it is not the sole determining factor in custody decisions. Virginia courts prioritize the best interests of the child when making custody determinations.
If a child expresses a clear and well-reasoned preference, the court may take this into account, especially if the child is older and demonstrates the capacity to make such decisions. However, the court will consider various other factors, such as the child’s physical and emotional needs, each parent’s ability to provide a stable environment, and any history of abuse or neglect.
How Is Child Custody Determined in Virginia?
Child custody in Virginia is determined based on what is in the best interests of the child. The court considers various factors to make this determination, including:
- Child’s Age and Needs: The child’s age, physical and emotional needs, and any special requirements are taken into account.
- Parenting Abilities: The court assesses each parent’s ability to provide a stable and nurturing environment. This includes factors such as their willingness and ability to meet the child’s needs, maintain a safe home, and foster a healthy parent-child relationship.
- Child’s Relationship with Each Parent: The court examines the child’s existing relationship with each parent and how custody arrangements might impact that relationship.
- Child’s Adjustment: The court considers how proposed custody arrangements might affect the child’s adjustment to school, community, and daily life.
- Mental and Physical Health: The mental and physical health of each parent is evaluated, as well as any history of substance abuse or domestic violence.
- Co-Parenting Ability: The willingness and ability of the parents to cooperate and facilitate ongoing contact between the child and the other parent are important factors.
- Child’s Wishes: While not determinative, the child’s wishes may be considered if they are of an appropriate age and maturity to express a preference.
What Is 50/50 Custody in Virginia?
In Virginia, “50/50 custody” typically refers to joint physical custody, where both parents share roughly equal parenting time with the child. This arrangement aims to provide the child with substantial time and contact with both parents. However, it’s important to note that a 50/50 custody arrangement does not necessarily mean an exact 50/50 split of time.
The court will consider the best interests of the child when determining custody arrangements. Joint physical custody can work well when both parents can provide a stable and nurturing environment for the child and can cooperate effectively in co-parenting.
In joint physical custody, the child spends significant time with both parents, and they share responsibilities for decision-making and caregiving. The specific details of a 50/50 custody arrangement, including the division of time and decision-making authority, are usually outlined in a custody agreement or court order.
It’s advisable to work with an experienced family law attorney in Virginia to navigate custody matters and ensure that custody arrangements align with the child’s best interests.
For couples seeking to avoid the conflict typically associated with a divorce, there is a form of alternative dispute resolution available known as mediation. In this approach, the parties and their attorneys work with a neutral mediator to resolve the fundamental issues in the divorce. While this is a more civil and cost-effective way to dissolve a marriage, the parties must cooperate and negotiate in good faith in order for mediation to be successful. At Walker Jones, our family law attorneys have decades of experience guiding clients through all forms of mediation.
Adoption establishes a legally recognized, lifelong relationship between a parent and child. The adoptive parent becomes legally and morally responsible for the child’s safety, education, healthcare, value development, development of life skills, as well as the day-to-day care of that child. If the child’s biological parent agrees or is absent, a step-parent may become a legally recognized parent to the child.
Adoption laws are complex, and having proper legal advice and guidance is required. Our attorneys represent parents and children in complex agency and private placement adoptions as well as all phases of stepparent adoptions. If want to learn more about step-parent adoptions and whether that may be appropriate for your family, or if you are seeking to adopt a child, contact the experienced family attorneys at Walker Jones for an explanation of your rights, preparation of the necessary paperwork and representation at adoption hearings.
Contact An Expert Fauquier County, Virginia Family Law Attorney Today!
With offices in both Old Town Warrenton and Washington, Virginia, Walker Jones, PC is centrally located to handle cases in all of Northern Virginia and the surrounding counties Whether you just need confidential information, your case is messy and complicated, you have agreed upon most matters, or only have a few issues that need legal counsel to resolve, our accomplished, award-winning attorneys are available to give your case the personal and professional attention it deserves. We apply our experience and knowledge to provide you an honest assessment of your best options. We then vigorously pursue your case for you in the Courtroom, at the settlement table, or in negotiations to reach the best possible result. Call our office today to schedule a private consultation or complete the contact form on our website.