Family Law

Virginia Attorneys

Family Law

This most personal of all legal issues involves complicating factors and often strong emotions. Protecting your interests may include complexities such as child custody & support, asset distribution, and complicated issues related to business & investments. We focus on listening to your concerns, evaluating your situation, and guiding you to a resolution which ensures your future and family are protected. 

Areas of Concentration

Just as every person and every marriage is unique, each divorce case presents its own specific set of needs and challenges. The decision to pursue a divorce is often difficult, and the details that must be sorted out are typically very personal. For some, a divorce represents an exciting opportunity for a fresh start, while to others a divorce can be scary and overwhelming. For everyone, it means the start of a new chapter and new possibilities. To get there, however, individuals must navigate the complex legal system.


Understanding Grounds for Divorce in Virginia


Over 25,000 divorces are granted every year in the Commonwealth of Virginia for a wide variety of reasons. For some, the cause of divorce is contentious, while other couples have a much more diplomatic approach. Regardless, individuals can choose to file for one of two types of divorce:


Fault: In these cases, one spouse must show that the other spouse has acted in such a way as to permanently damage the marriage. Reasons can include adultery, cruelty, a felony conviction, and abandonment.


No-fault: If the couple has separated and lived apart for one year (or six months if there are no children and the parties have a written property settlement agreement) without interruption, they may be able to obtain a no-fault divorce. The spouse who files for divorce in these cases does not have to prove that the other spouse did something wrong.


Every divorce situation is different, and the specific details of each marriage arrangement can dictate which route is the best to take.


Do I Need an Attorney for my Virginia Divorce?


Virginia law does not require those who wish to divorce to retain the services of a lawyer, but the state bar association acknowledges that the emotional element involved in a divorce can make it very difficult for most couples to sort out their divorce issues on their own. A skilled and experienced attorney can help couples understand their rights fully and make sure they fulfill all their obligations to expedite a successful divorce.


Divorce is perhaps the most personal of all legal issues, and for many couples involves a number of complicating factors which an attorney can help address. It can be necessary to make a case to protect your interests that have resulted from years of marriage, including child custody, support, businesses and investments, and asset distribution. A skilled attorney can help you file and serve papers, appear at hearings, arrange a settlement, and finalize the divorce. 


It is not uncommon for spouses to disagree about the many complex decisions that must be made when it comes to separating their lives after many years and ventures together. When this happens, there is a legal process to follow to reach a final decision. For some, this leads all the way to court. However, we can help couples through mediation or arbitration to possibly avoid litigation. Seeking legal guidance and representation early in the process can help reduce the need for costly and time-consuming litigation.


Whether you are approaching divorce with trepidation or excitement, it can be a trying and complicated time. This is your case, and we want to be your partner in finding an efficient and effective resolution that meets your unique goals. Life after divorce can be successful, secure, and happy.


Your case is intensely personal. You need counsel you can trust.

When you were first married, you and your spouse both came to the marriage offering unique talents and resources. Over the years, you worked to earn and acquire property, business interests, savings, and other assets that helped you build the life you have today.


Now, as you navigate the process of divorce, you’ll face the question of just how to divide all those things you worked so hard to maintain. In some cases, spouses easily agree on what should go to whom, but in many other cases, it can be more difficult.


What is Equitable Distribution in Virginia?


Every state addresses the question of asset division a little differently; where you live matters. Virginia, like many other states, uses a system known as equitable distribution. Equitable distribution is the idea that the assets should be divided fairly between the parties. Under this system, the courts look at each asset and determine which category it would fall under:


  • Marital property: Marital property is defined as all property, other than separate property, acquired from the date of marriage until the date of separation.
  • Separate property: Separate property is “all property acquired by either spouse before the marriage or all property acquired during the marriage by inheritance or by a gift.” Each spouse will retain sole possession of any separate property.
  • Hybrid property: This category can be complex. It is often related to property that originated as separate property, but some influence or work by both spouses in the marriage has maintained its value or led to an increase in worth. In some situations, it refers to property that is simply impossible to identify after having been mixed with other marital property over the years, such as inheritance put into a joint savings account many years ago. The most common form of hybrid property are retirement accounts.


Once an asset or a debt is categorized, then it must be decided which party will take possession. Separate property remains with the spouse who brought it to the relationship. Marital property must be examined to determine who will take possession.


Fair Does not Always Mean Equal in a Virginia Divorce


It is important to note that the state’s goal of “fairly” dividing marital property does not necessarily mean equal division. The distribution is affected by a number of factors, and Virginia’s system leaves a considerable amount of leeway for a judge to decide what should be awarded to whom. Some factors that are typically considered include:


  • Contributions to the well-being of the family, including both monetary and non-monetary contributions;
  • Contributions to the acquisition and maintenance of property;
  • The length of the marriage;
  • The age and health of each spouse;
  • The circumstances of the divorce (if one party is at fault, for example);
  • How and when property was acquired;
  • The debts of each spouse and how they were accrued; and
  • Tax consequences of the division.


This means that a parent who spent time at home can still be successful in securing marital assets, even if he or she did not contribute financially to acquiring those assets. Retirement or investment accounts, even if they are only in the name of one spouse, can also be shared by both spouses. Additionally, division does not always mean physical distribution. In some cases, the judge will award one party a part of the value of the property and work that percentage into the overall division.


Over the course of a marriage, especially those with many assets, the line between “what is mine and yours and ours” can become blurry. This can make it difficult to divide both assets and debt. In some cases, spouses and their lawyers can negotiate an agreement that is acceptable to all parties. In many others, however, this is not possible and it will be up to the courts to decide who gets what. In either case, it is important to have a vigorous, experienced advocate on your side to make sure your rights are protected and your future will be secure.


When your future is at stake, you need a powerful advocate in your corner.

Spousal support, also known as alimony, is money paid to a former spouse. The purpose of spousal support is to prevent a non-wage-earning or lower-wage-earning spouse from suffering undue economic hardship because of the divorce. This type of support assumes that the spouse sacrificed the ability to earn income for the good of the family during the marriage, most commonly in cases of stay-at-home parents. There are many different ways the Virginia courts can award spousal support. The most common arrangements include:


Permanent support: Also known as open-ended support, this type of payment sets a specific sum of money to be paid on an ongoing basis. This is most common after a long marriage or when the spouse will have a difficult time entering the workforce.

Rehabilitative support: This type of support is meant to continue just for as long as it takes the former spouse to be able to support himself or herself. This may mean the former spouse takes classes or simply gains traction in the workforce.

Lump sum: With permanent and rehabilitative support, there cannot be a total set amount to be paid, as it cannot be determined how long the support will continue. A lump-sum payment can be paid to the spouse in different ways but sets an exact figure that will be awarded.

Temporary support: This type of support is meant to continue only as long as the divorce process is ongoing.


The court considers many different factors when determining spousal support, and unlike child support, the judge is given more discretion to set the payment amounts. Some common considerations include:


  • Standard of living during the marriage
  • Length of the marriage
  • The age and physical condition of the spouses
  • The earning capacity of the spouses
  • The extent to which one has contributed to the education, training, position, or profession of the other spouse
  • Tax consequences to each spouse
  • The monetary and non-monetary contributions of the spouses to the family during the marriage
  • Other factors can prevent a spouse from receiving support, such as in cases of adultery or abuse


Support issues can be both key to your security and open to broad interpretation by the courts. When your future is at stake, it is important to have an experienced advocate who can make sure that your contributions to the marriage are valued. We’ll stand up for what you deserve.


We’ll fight for your future with compassion and skill.

The question of “What will happen with the kids?” is usually the one that worries parents most when considering a divorce. While in many cases the parents’ separation can be good for the children, each parent rightly wonders how it will impact their relationship with their kids and what can be done to ensure that their parent/child bond will remain intact.


A major factor in the success of these relationships can simply be time, and a child custody agreement seeks to divide the child’s time between the parents. There are many factors that may help determine the amount of time a child spends with each parent, and a skilled custody attorney can help a parent secure as much of that time as possible.


Determining Parenting Plans in Virginia


The Virginia court system seeks to determine a custody arrangement that is in the best interest of the children. While opinions may differ on what truly is in a child’s best interest, it is the goal of the legal process to ensure that children are always in a safe, secure, and loving environment. Some common considerations include:


  • The age and physical and mental condition of the child
  • The age and physical and mental condition of the parent
  • The role each parent has played in caring for the child in the past
  • The living conditions of each parent’s home
  • The ability of the parent to support the child
  • Any history of abuse or neglect by either parent
  • The wishes of the children if they are old enough to express themselves
  • Each parent’s willingness to work with and respect the other parent.


Under Virginia law, both parents have an equal right to physical custody of their children, even if those parents are not married. So, it is possible to successfully seek at least some custody of your children even if you cannot meet all the criteria on this list. Today, no preference is to be given to the mother over the father. Additionally, state law stipulates that custody does not have to be limited to parents. Grandparents, stepparents, and other relatives may be able to pursue custody of children in certain situations.


Common Virginia Parenting Plan Arrangements


There are many different types of custody arrangements. Every family is different, so what works for one family may be inappropriate for another. There is no such thing as a “typical” custody arrangement. However, custody usually falls into one of these categories:


Legal Custody/Decision Making: Decision making can be joint or sole. Courts prefer joint decision making related to major decisions that affect the child. However, shared decision making may not be appropriate in cases where one parent refuses to work with the other parent, where there are issues of drug and alcohol abuse, when one parent is incarcerated, or when there has been spousal or child abuse.


Primary Physical Custody v. Shared Physical Custody/Parenting Plans: In the past decade, there has been a major shift from every other weekend to more of a shared parenting plan. This does not necessarily mean 50-50 but family law practitioners and the courts have been much more creative. An example is every Thursday overnight and every other weekend from Thursday evening to Monday morning.


Whatever the custody arrangement, a parent cannot be kept from seeing his or her child. Unless your parental rights have been terminated, you are entitled to at least some form of visitation with your child or children. For parents with a history of child abuse, substance abuse, or other complications, it may be necessary to have supervised visitation.


The Legal Process to Secure Child Custody

Often, child custody arrangements can be made between parents with the help of a skilled lawyer. Parents can negotiate an agreement they feel is in the best interest of everyone involved without the involvement of a third-party decision-maker. Other times, it can be more difficult to reach an agreement. In those cases, the decision could fall to a mediator, arbitrator, or judge. In those cases, it is important to have an experienced advocate on your side who understands local child custody law and can present your case to the best advantage. This is especially important as once a court has dictated a custody order, it cannot be modified unless there has been a significant change in some factor relevant to the case that occurred since the decision was made.


While there are many personal considerations that need to be made when navigating the divorce process, child custody continues to be one of the most impactful. If you have children, the stakes are too high to move forward without trusted and tenacious representation to protect your rights and interests. Whether you expect your spouse to be amenable to a custody agreement or you anticipate a fight, it is best to be prepared and make sure your rights are protected to ensure the continued strength of your relationship with your children.


Skilled, trustworthy counsel when it matters most.

There are many things about a divorce that are highly personal and important, but none so much as what happens with the children. If you have kids, the stakes are too high to move forward without trusted and tenacious representation to protect your rights and interests. 


Child support agreements can come in many different forms. While there are many mitigating factors, in Virginia, the courts generally follow what is known as the child support guideline. At its most basic, this guideline assesses:

  • Each parent’s monthly gross income;
  • Daycare expenses for the child or children; and
  • Monthly costs for the child’s health care insurance premium.


It is expected that parents fairly share the monetary costs of raising the child or children, but that can mean a number of different outcomes for different family situations. If parents do not equally share custody, it is usually expected that the parent who spends less time with physical custody of the child will make up that difference through payment to the other parent. Additionally, the courts do try to maintain the same standard of living for the child that he or she experienced before the divorce.


There can be significant tax consequences associated with child support. First, only one parent can claim the child as a dependent on the yearly income tax forms. Typically, the parent who had custody of the child for a larger part of the year is the parent recognized for tax purposes. However, it is possible to make tax considerations part of your support agreement. Also, child support payments are tax-free. Neither parent has to pay taxes on support payments, but the payments are also not deductible by the paying parent.


There are many complicating factors that can affect a child support agreement, but an experienced attorney can help you understand your rights and ensure that your child can be taken care of.


Questions about child support? We’re here to help.

Divorce can be emotionally charged, which sometimes leads people to think that a contentious, litigious process is unavoidable. This isn’t true. In many situations, a collaborative, or at least cooperative, process is possible and recommended. If you’re getting a divorce, it’s important to know that you have options. 

Mediation is a process wherein the parties reach a resolution through negotiation with the assistance of a neutral third party. To reach a resolution during mediation both parties must agree. It’s also possible to mediate some issues and let a judge decide others, so it’s not an “all or nothing” process. 

 In arbitration, a third party hears evidence presented by both parties and makes a decision. While it still puts decisions in the hands of a third party, it takes place outside of court, and can thus save clients money and avoid some of the animosity that can occur during the traditional divorce process.

Our attorneys are committed to using whatever means possible to get you through your divorce as smoothly and cost-effectively as possible. There are a lot of decisions to be made in a divorce, and we’ll guide you through them to your desired outcome.

Wondering if mediation or arbitration is right for you? Call us today.

While no one begins a marriage expecting it to end in separation or divorce, it can sometimes be advantageous to plan for the worst before you begin a marriage relationship. In some cases, especially where there are children involved or substantial assets, these types of agreements can protect your interests.


A prenuptial marriage agreement establishes both parties’ financial expectations at the outset of a marriage. It memorializes which assets a spouse may want to give to children or other family members in the aftermath of their death, as well as establishing each party’s financial and property rights in the event of a divorce.


Over the course of a marriage, especially those with many assets, the line between “what is mine and yours and ours” can become blurry. This can make it difficult to divide both assets and debt. In some cases, spouses and their lawyers can negotiate an agreement that is acceptable to all parties. A property settlement agreement can set the foundation for one’s financial success and stability in the future. A skilled lawyer can help you understand Virginia law and help you make a case for the support and marital property to which you are entitled.


We’ll help safeguard your future.

Domestic violence refers to physical and psychological abuse committed by one member of a family or relationship against another family member, spouse, or partner. It can interfere with one or both parents’ ability to care for their family members, including their children, resulting in neglect in the home. Neglect can include physical, emotional, medical, and educational harm. 


If you’re dealing with domestic violence or neglect as part of your divorce proceedings, you don’t have to face it alone. We’ll help you navigate safety nets put in place by the courts to end the violence in your home and protect you and your children.


Your safety is our priority. Call us any time.

If you are worried that your former spouse may do something to cause you harm or disturb the legal process during your divorce, you have recourse to protect yourself and others. 


Protective orders are filed with the court to keep someone safe from a dangerous person for a fixed period of time. A restraining order is filed with the court to prevent someone from doing something such as dissipating assets during a divorce proceeding. If you’re feeling threatened in any way, reach out and we can help you get the protection you need for your peace of mind.


You deserve to feel safe during your divorce. We’ll make sure you do.

The terms “injunction against abuse,” “criminal order of protection,” “restraining order,” and “protective order” are all terms used interchangeably; however, a protective order generally refers to family abuse and domestic assault and battery in Virginia. Whereas, a restraining order can be filed by anyone claiming another person is harassing them.


If you have a protective order against you, it most likely requires that you stay away from your spouse and not conduct the acts that were complained of and mentioned in the court order. Other things the protective order may prohibit you from doing include:


  • No spousal contact of any kind, including phone calls
  • Not being able to contact your spouse at work, home, or by accident
  • Not being allowed back into your home
  • Not being able to use your jointly owned vehicle
  • Not being able to temporarily see your children
  • Removal of any firearms from the home


An Order of Protection is a legal restraint that serves to protect the person who filed it. Some family abuse orders can include providing child support, maintaining the utilities for the home, attending counseling, and more.


If you have a temporary protective order in Virginia issued against you, you need to deal with it immediately by getting the help of an experienced Northern Virginia criminal defense attorney. This means that you need to make sure you are prepared to defend your side of the story by the hearing date.


A skilled defense attorney can help you prepare your testimony, present evidence to show that your spouse isn’t telling the truth, or investigate to determine what your best defense strategy may be in order to fight the charges. 

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