Family Law FAQ

When it comes to family law, people often have many different questions. Family law is a complex process, involving several different topics and it will vary depending on your unique situation. While we recommend speaking to a family law attorney about your case, we have compiled a list of some of the most frequently asked questions about family law in Virginia and their answers! Read our last FAQ on Divorce here. 


I don’t want a divorce. Can I stop it?


No, in Virginia it only takes one party to request a divorce. It is important that you engage in the divorce process, or you could lose everything from custody of your children to your investment accounts.


Do we have to file for divorce in the same state we got married in?


No. Jurisdiction lies where you last resided together or where the Defendant resides. For example, if you last lived together in Virginia and your spouse moved to Maryland, you have the option of filing in Virginia or Maryland.


How long will my divorce take?


It all depends on whether it is uncontested or contested. If there is one issue that needs Court determination, it is considered contested even if both of you may want the divorce. If your case is uncontested and you have a written property settlement agreement, you are looking at around four to six weeks to be divorced. If it is contested, it could be over a year.


Can I change the locks on my house?


Yes, but if your spouse’s name is on the house, he/she can break in or get a locksmith to put on a new lock.


Will I have to pay alimony/spouse support?


This depends on a number of factors. If your spouse is at fault for the breakdown of the marriage due to adultery, physical abuse, or desertion, this would be a defense against having to pay spousal support. If you earn less money than your spouse, then it is unlikely that you will have to pay spousal support. Again, there are exceptions. For example, if you decide to quit your job so you do not have to pay support,  the Court can impute income to you and still make you pay spousal support. The Court also considers your spouse’s need for support and your ability to pay support.


Can I file for divorce if I don’t know the whereabouts of my spouse?


Yes. If we are unable to locate your spouse after a diligent search, we can obtain permission from the Court to publish the divorce action in a local newspaper.


How is child support determined?

Family Law FAQ


Virginia uses child support guidelines. First, we determine if we should use the sole guidelines or the shared guidelines. If you and your spouse each have more than 90 days with the child(ren) in one year, we use the shared guidelines. Both these guidelines have us input gross income for both parties, cost of the health insurance, if one or both parties are supporting other children, and the amount of work-related daycare, if applicable. After these amounts are put into the calculations, the child support amount is determined. 


Can I start dating before my divorce is finalized?


You can but you might be found guilty of post-separation adultery if you do not have a property settlement agreement. If you have minor children, I do not recommend dating before custody is finalized. Also, if you are asking for spousal support, you should not date until you have a property settlement agreement or final order of divorce. Assume your spouse has a private investigator watching you, and please act accordingly.


Am I a good candidate for mediation?


Most cases are good candidates for mediation. If there is domestic violence, then we would not recommend mediation. Likewise, if you have a spouse who suffers from narcissistic personality disorder, or has a power shift over you, I do not recommend mediation unless both parties have counsel, and a retired Judge is retained to mediate.


I am seeing a professional for help with depression/anxiety. Could I lose custody of my children because of this?


Generally not. Most people going through a divorce suffer from anxiety and depression. If it rises to the level that you are unable to take care of yourself, let alone your children, then you might lose custody.


How is legal custody different from physical custody?


Legal custody determines who makes the major decisions regarding your children. The Courts prefer joint legal custody as they want both parties to be involved in making these decisions. Physical custody is where do the child(ren) reside. With you, your spouse, or shared.


Can I change custody arrangements or visitation after the divorce?


Yes, so long as there is a material change in circumstances to warrant a modification.


Can I move to another state with our child?  


Unless you and your spouse have an agreement, I do not recommend leaving the state without prior Court authorization to relocate with the minor child(ren).


What happens if my ex files for bankruptcy?


You need to retain a bankruptcy attorney to protect your interests. We always have provisions for this in a property settlement agreement.


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