February 16, 2021
20-40% of marriages end because of adultery in the United States. According to a study released in 2018 by the Institute for Family Studies, 20% of married men and 13% of married women have admitted to having intercourse with someone besides their spouse.
While adultery may not be as common as media and popular culture makes it out to be, it is still devastating if you find out your spouse is seeing someone else behind your back. In Virginia, adultery is a “fault” grounds for divorce and can be used to start your divorce proceedings immediately.
Before you start driving to the courthouse, it is important to have evidence before beginning your divorce proceedings. Virginia requires a lot of evidence for adultery, and your case for adultery may not be successful if you do not have the evidence the court requires.
If you believe your spouse is cheating on you, make sure to be prepared before filing for divorce.
How Adultery is Defined in Virginia
Every state has their laws and definitions of adultery. In Virginia, adultery is defined by the law as “Any person, being married, who voluntarily shall have sexual intercourse with any person not his or her spouse shall be guilty of adultery.”
Under this law, adultery is considered a Class 4 misdemeanor, making it a criminal act. While most spouses accused of adultery do not receive criminal charges during divorce proceedings, this still shows how seriously adultery is taken in Virginia courts.
While adultery is a serious charge, it also requires serious evidence to use as the basis for your divorce. The state requires “clear and convincing” evidence to grant a divorce under these grounds. This means you need substantial proof that your spouse has had sexual intercourse with another person.
What Evidence Do You Need?
While adultery is a serious charge, it also requires serious evidence to use as the basis for your divorce. The state requires “clear and convincing” evidence to grant a divorce under these grounds.
On top of this, the accused spouse can invoke their Fifth Amendment right and refuse to give any self-incriminating evidence to the court. This means you need substantial proof that your spouse has had sexual intercourse with another person.
The key is to prove that the spouse did act on their infidelity and did not just plan it. While you can use as much incriminating evidence as you want, only a few can serve as the backbone of your divorce case.
- Confession: One form of proof is a confession from the spouse that committed adultery. If you have a voice message, text, or email from them admitting to the infidelity, this can form the core of your argument.
- Corroboration: Virginia requires corroboration of evidence in a divorce proceeding. This means you need a piece of evidence or testimony from a source outside the marriage. Most people resort to a private investigator to gather testimony and photographic evidence.
- Incriminating messages: Access to emails or text messages between your spouse and the other person can only strengthen your argument. While talking about a romantic dinner or planning to visit a hotel are not evidence that anything happened, they can back up the more definitive pieces of evidence.
These are common examples of evidence used in adultery divorce cases. It is important to speak with an experienced family law attorney before building your case and gathering evidence. This attorney can help you gather the best evidence for your case and build the strongest argument possible.
Common Defense for Adultery Charges
No matter how strong your evidence is, it is important to note that the accused spouse can defend adultery accusations in a few ways. There are in fact 4 ways the accused spouse can defend themselves in court when accused of adultery.
- Condonation: If a spouse finds out about the adultery and decides to continue the relationship, that’s condonation. Essentially, if you find out that your spouse has cheated and decide to stay with them, you cannot use adultery as grounds for divorce.
- Connivance/Procurement: One defense is if the “innocent” spouse encourages and facilitates the affair. So, if you intentionally planned or encouraged the infidelity, then adultery cannot be used in your divorce case.
- Recrimination: If both spouses are cheating, and the accused can prove it, then your adultery argument can be thrown out. Of course, the other spouse has the same challenges as you to prove adultery, so this defense is equally difficult to use.
- Time-barred: Adultery has a 5-year statute of limitations in Virginia. So, if the infidelity occurred more than 5 years ago, you cannot use it as the basis for a divorce.
It is important to consider every side of your specific situation and take note if your spouse could use these defenses against you.
Defend Yourself with Experience
As you have seen, adultery is not only a serious offense under Virginia law, but it also requires plenty of clear and decisive evidence to prove in a divorce case. Worst of all, the accused spouse has many avenues to use to defend themselves from the accusation, which can ruin your case in an instant.
Because the proceedings can be so sensitive, it is important to have an experienced family attorney on your side. They can use their expertise to create a case based on your specific situation, advising you on what evidence to gather and what steps to take to give yourself a fighting chance in court.
If you are looking for an accomplished and knowledgeable family law attorney, look no further than Cravens and Noll.
Our family law attorneys care about your family getting the compensation and safety it deserves and will work with you to reach the best possible outcome. They can call on decades of experience to offer you the best legal defense.
Schedule a consultation to begin building your divorce case.
October 6, 2020
Getting a divorce can be a long and difficult process. Emotions are high as you end what you thought would last forever.
One of the most contested yet important parts of a divorce is writing up the divorce settlement agreement. This process involves sitting down with your ex-spouse and determining how you both will split your assets.
Reaching an agreement can be stressful, especially if the other party is uncooperative or you go in without a plan.
You may not fully understand what should be included in the agreement.
While there are plenty of assets that need to be split between a divorced couple, there are some common items that every agreement should include.
This post will help to dispel any general questions or concerns you might have about creating a divorce settlement agreement.
How A Divorce Attorney Can Help You
A lawyer argues for your best interests. These agreements can be made before or after you officially separate, but it’s recommended that you complete the agreements.
This helps the divorce process go smoothly, helping you avoid any extra lawyer fees or complications in court.
It’s recommended that you hire a family law attorney to advise you during the agreement proceedings. Your attorney will fight for your rights and help both you and your spouse reach a compromise on certain points.
How Does a Divorce Settlement Work?
When you and your spouse decide to separate, you both need to determine who gets what assets and, if with children, how you both plan to support them.
The point of a divorce settlement agreement is to put these plans in writing to make them legally binding.
Every marriage is different, meaning your separation isn’t going to look like anyone else’s. While there are common elements of each divorce settlement, like splitting assets and determining child support, you should consider what you both want, specifically.
Begin By Gathering Necessary Documentation
You should gather as much documentation or information as it relates to salaries over the past several years, values of investments, amounts of debt, and values of real estate, and tax returns. You do not have to have every document before meeting with an attorney, but it is helpful to begin the drafting of a divorce agreement if you have this information.
Be as Detailed as Possible in Your Agreement
When starting your divorce agreement, it’s important to include as much relevant information as possible.
This information helps the court to understand the conditions of your marriage and separation.
While you should consult with an attorney to make sure you don’t leave anything out, here are some standard pieces of information to include:
- Date of your marriage
- Date of your separation
- Why you’re getting divorced
- If you have any, the names and ages of your children
- Your current living arrangements and addresses
Find and Divide Your Assets
This is when tensions begin to rise in a divorce proceeding. It’s important to fairly divide the assets between each spouse. These assets include any properties or debts shared by the spouses.
This can include cars or houses, along with their respective loans and payments. This is where having an attorney comes in handy.
- Protect your best interests during these proceedings
- Help you both figure out all of your assets
- Help you accurately divide them.
As you both figure out how to split your shared assets, it’s important to compromise on certain items and stay steadfast on others.
Deciding Child Custody
Child custody is probably the most contested agreement in any divorce.
Deciding child custody and creating a parenting plan are emotionally charged discussions between two spouses. You both love your children and want what’s best for them.
Be sure to figure out the plan that’s best for them, not yourselves.
- One parent is the physical custodian and decision maker, while the other is given reasonable access to the child for visitation
Joint Legal Custody:
- Both parents have equal say for important decisions, one parent has physical custody and the other parent has visitation.
- Both parents share equally say for important decisions, and both parents have significant time with the child/children.
- Does not have to be 50/50, it can be that one parent has weekends during school and equal time during the summer. The custodial time can vary depending on the parent’s schedules and the best interest of the children.
- If both parents can work reasonably well together, this is often times the best for the children.
- Is fairly rare
- It involves one parent being responsible for one child, while the other is responsible for another child.
- This plan is usually only used in special circumstances, like if there are many children or if the child is old enough to make their own decisions.
Agreeing on Child and Spousal Support in Virginia
When determining how much should be paid towards child support, the amount is based on what state you’re in.
Virginia has a calculator to determine how much child support one may have to pay depending on incomes, health insurance and daycare costs.
Spousal support is much more difficult to determine. This is often times the most difficult issue to negotiate and settle in a divorce agreement.
While you cannot keep a child from receiving support, you can waive your spousal support, also known as alimony.
Double Check Everything In The Settlement
Before you turn in your divorce settlement, make sure you double check everything in the document.
Make sure all of your spelling and grammar is correct and that both you and your spouse agree on the terms.
This is one of the most important steps of the divorce process. Once the agreement is legally binding, it is what the legal system will refer to when issues with your separation are brought forward.
Divorce Agreement Attorney
Deciding your divorce settlement agreement can be stressful and time-consuming. That’s why you need an attorney you can trust to fight for your best interests.
The divorce attorneys at Cravens and Noll have years of experience in handling all parts of a separation case.
Contact us to schedule a consultation so we can help you during this difficult moment in your life.
September 18, 2020
No fault divorce requires that you are separated from your spouse for at least a year. (This can be as little as six months if you have a signed agreement in place and no minor children together.
During this stage in the divorce, your marriage may feel like it’s in limbo. You may feel confused on what is or is not allowed between you and your spouse or between yourself and the dating scene.
In some Virginia courts, legal separation doesn’t mean you have to live under two separate roofs. So long as you have been abiding by standards of “in-home” separation, it may count depending on the circumstances (having children together, for instance, makes it very difficult to prove you are separate under the same roof). To do so, there should be physical separation (i.e. two separate rooms or two separate houses) and an intention to divorce.
Practically speaking, this looks like you and your spouse not interacting at all as spouses. You don’t cook for each other. You don’t do the other spouse’s laundry. You don’t maintain joint bank account.
This gives you a silver lining to the separation period. The feelings of limbo can give you a slow transition that will help you and your spouse work through the emotional stages of separation.
Like many losses in life, the loss of a relationship requires a healthy amount of grieving before you can emotionally move on.
The widely recognized 5 stages of grief come from Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her 1969 book, “On Death and Dying.” While everyone processes grief in their own way, psychologists recognize that most people go through their own order and timeline of the same 5 stages.
Denial: Struggling to Accept Finality
In the denial stage of separation, you may struggle with accepting that divorce is really happening. This is an okay feeling to experience at this stage. It’s part of making peace with your inner optimist.
The part that can be problematic is when you try to rationalize the failings of your relationship that led to divorce to start with.
Moving on from this stage involves feeling certain of your decision. You’ll be ready for the next stage when you’re sure that the relationship is better off ending.
Anger: Struggling to Accept Peace
The next emotional stage to separation in divorce comes off the heels of accepting that this is really happening to you and your spouse. If you successfully processed your denial, you will naturally feel anger at your spouse’s or your own failings.
While these may feel like toxic thoughts, it may be a necessary stage for you to go through. Grappling with accepting peace instead of anger may lead into pursuing temporary feelings of peace. That’s where bargaining comes in.
Bargaining: Struggling to Accept True Justice
Bargaining is an attempt to find temporary relief for the uncomfortable feelings of separation. You may try to find ways to get back with your spouse. Perhaps you may be tempted to bargain away some of your rights to your children, your principles or your happiness.
Bargaining feelings are normal. If you can recall how you processed your feelings in stage one, it may help you in this stage. You can remind yourself of the finality of your divorce decision.
This stage poses a unique threat to your divorce. In Virginia, the separation period must be marked by an intention to divorce.
If you are faltering in your intention to divorce, you may threaten your rights or agree to compromises that aren’t in your best interests.
Depression: Struggling with Feeling Trapped
This stage of separation in divorce can be the result of the stage before it. If you’ve realized that you can’t bargain your way out of the situation, you may feel trapped. It’s correct, none of the easy ways to bargain your way out of the situation will help. But this feeling may make you feel depressed.
While it may be normal to feel depressed, if it begins to hurt your quality of life or you have feelings of suicide, get help. Separation and divorce can be difficult, and it’s okay to feel the weight of your decision, but severe depression and suicidal thoughts are dangerous and shouldn’t be taken lightly.
When you’ve processed your feelings of depression, you should be ready to accept the emotional freedom that comes with your decision to divorce.
Acceptance: Hope for Your Post-Divorce Future
Very few people skip the previous 4 stages of separation and jump to the stage of acceptance. It takes time to process how you feel through each of the 4 previous stages of separation.
The payoff, however, is worth it.
The acceptance stage is the strongest stage for you in your separation from your spouse. You can protect yourself from feeling down on your luck, feeling vindictive or being too willing to bargain your way into a bad post-divorce arrangement.
From the expertise of a team of divorce lawyers serving the Richmond, Chesterfield and Harrisonburg areas of Virginia, this is the ideal stage to approach your divorce proceedings from. It helps us help you get the best arrangement for you and your family after your divorce.
If you have any additional questions about divorce in Virginia, check out our other articles on our website or give us a call.
August 18, 2020
Legal custody is your right to make major decisions for your child. The decisions usually covered under the umbrella of custody include big life choices for your child such as religion, education, and healthcare choices. With legal custody over your children, you can make choices that have a big impact on their future.
Virginia law dictates that courts should assure, where appropriate, that both parents maintain contact with their children and play an active role in raising them. This means the courts will always favor a joint legal custody arrangement. Legal custody is shared between both parents so they can both raise their children.
However, every situation is unique and not every parent can have full custody over their children. In rare instances, the court will recommend sole custody for one of the parents.
To acquire sole custody in Virginia, your family lawyer needs to persuade the court that the other parent is unable to care for the child or poses a risk to them.
If you are at the point where you think that this step is necessary, it could be helpful to know what your rights are if you do have sole custody.
Differences in Types of Custody
As we’ve covered in a previous article about how custody is determined, there is a difference between legal custody and physical custody.
Legal custody is a parent’s ability to make important decisions for a minor. These include educational matters, medical issues, and the general welfare of the child.
Physical custody determines where the child primarily lives and how often a parent gets to spend time with them.
My Rights with Sole Legal Custody
If you have sole legal custody over your children, you can make all major decisions about them without consulting the other parent.
Sole legal custody may be right for your situation if:
- Sole legal custody benefits the child
- The other parent is unfit to make legal decisions about your child
- It’s more practical for only one of the parents to make decisions for the child
With sole legal custody, you have the decision-making rights for your child. You’ll get to decide who sees the child. You also make decisions about visitation rights for the other parent where you decide the length of time the other parent can spend with your children. You can enroll your child in a school of your choosing and take them for medical treatment where you choose.
Start the Conversation
For additional details about your rights when you have full custody, talk to a family lawyer in Virginia. Cravens & Noll is available by phone at 804-208-0934 to set up an appointment when you can discuss your situation further.
August 7, 2020
When you think of family law, what kind of cases do you think this covers? Divorce? Child custody?
Family Law covers a fairly wide net of legal issues revolving around familial disputes. While divorce and child custody cases are the most common in Richmond, this branch of the law also includes adoption, marriage contracts and guardianships.
Because family law is so diverse, you need to make sure you pick the right attorney for your case. In this blog post, we’ll explain why certain cases require specialized attorneys and the skills necessary to help you and your family.
1. Divorce Attorney
Going through a divorce can be a painful and stressful time. That’s why it’s important to have a lawyer who specializes in the field.
A good divorce lawyer is someone who fights for the best interests of yourself and your family. They have a deep understanding of marriage contracts and how to best navigate the court proceedings. Divorce can include the issues of property, retirement, spousal support, as well as child custody and child support.
You should also feel comfortable with your divorce lawyer. They will be a close confidant during the case and you need to be able to tell them personal details about your life and marriage.
2. Child Custody Attorney
Similar to a divorce lawyer, a child custody attorney fights for what’s best for your child and the family. They help develop a parenting plan that is in the child’s best interest and works to resolve any disputes between the parents. Custody lawyers deal with issues of where the child primarily lives, visitation issues, as well as child support.
Usually, your divorce lawyer will also cover your child custody case. Because of this, it’s even more important to choose a lawyer that you are comfortable with. They need to be able to speak with and understand your children while being respectful towards them.
3. Marriage and Civil Union Attorney
Marriage is well known for its beautiful outfits and romantic displays. What is less well known are the legal contracts tied to the ceremony.
When you are married, you are creating a contract between yourself, your spouse and the state. This contract determines your joint ownership of both your property and your debts. Marriage also offers you federal protections. An attorney can work with you on a pre-marital agreement, also known as a pre-nuptial agreement. The attorney can also work with you after the marriage starts with a post-marital agreement. These two agreements involve how separate and joint property will be handled in the event of a divorce, as well as other financial issues like spousal support.
A civil union, on the other hand, is a legal relationship that does not offer federal protections and isn’t recognized by every state including Virginia.
This is where a marriage attorney comes in handy.
An attorney can help you and your spouse reach an agreement on these contracts. You both can make sure you understand your division of property before the marriage, during the marriage, and, in the unfortunate event of a divorce, after the marriage.
4. Domestic and Child Abuse Attorney
Domestic and child abuse is not to be taken lightly, which is why you need a lawyer who knows how to navigate these sensitive cases. While these issues can be a part of divorce or custody cases, abuse is an entirely separate issue that can be decided and defended in court.
Whether you’re trying to escape an abusive situation or being falsely accused of abuse, you need a qualified attorney on your side. An attorney can help you file a restraining order known as an Order of Protection to help ensure you or your child’s safety.
5. Adoption and Guardianship Attorney
If you’re trying to adopt or put a child up for adoption, there are some legal barriers you have to understand. These include legal documentation and finding the right adoption agency.
These proceedings can become more complex when dealing with guardianship. For instance, guardianship cases become more difficult to navigate if you’re a guardian for someone with developmental issues. If the person is an adult or under another person’s guardianship, there are additional steps to take.
In both cases, it’s important to have an attorney with years of experience on your side to help you navigate through the legal proceedings. From signing the proper documents to understanding how to argue in court, a lawyer is helpful every step of this process.
Find Your Family Attorneys at Cravens & Noll
It’s important to find a family law lawyer that meets your specific needs, but those needs can go beyond the court. Your lawyer should be easy to talk to and one who can explain the legal side of cases to you. You should feel comfortable speaking to them about sensitive issues, especially in cases of divorce or abuse.
You need a lawyer who is reliable and responsible, someone who will be there to answer all your questions and help you when needed.
Cravens & Noll attorneys have decades of experience in Virginia family law and always put their client’s interests first. If you’re in need of a family attorney in Richmond and surrounding areas, schedule a consultation with us.
May 28, 2020
Divorce cases are nothing short of stressful. While sorting through the assets between yourself and your spouse, you also need to consider the most important assets, that is the well-being of your children and what’s best for them.
Because of how important these decisions are in a child custody case, it’s vital to find an attorney that is not only experienced and strong when in front of the judge, but also empathetic and passionate about keeping families connected. This is why we’ve created this blog to help you not only begin your search, but also help you narrow down your options to find the lawyer that’s perfect for your case and for your family.
1. Ask Around
At the beginning of your search, it can be difficult to know where to start when looking for a family law attorney. Rather than skimming through tens of hundreds of websites and articles, it’s best to begin with what you know.
Start by asking your friends and family who have been through child custody cases. Learn from their experiences and take note of what they like and didn’t like about their lawyer. If they’re local to you, make sure to get the name of their lawyer or possibly other lawyers they almost chose.
If you don’t know anyone personally that has gone through a child custody case, your county and state offer plenty of resources to find family law attorneys. You can always consult your local court clerks and the state bar association for referrals. Some courts also have a network of lawyers, so don’t be afraid to call the court directly.
2. Further Research
Once you’ve compiled a list of lawyers from these recommendations, it’s time to narrow down your options. Conduct research by looking through each lawyers’ websites and social media pages. See how they describe themselves and interact with others, and if this behavior seems appropriate to you.
It’s also a good idea to look at reviews on Google or Yelp from previous clients. While these reviews can be biased, as they’re normally posted by people who feel strongly one way or the other, try to notice trends in what people are saying or how they rate the lawyer.
Beyond online research, you should also do some digging into their background. Look through Virginia’s state bar attorney directory to see if the lawyer is in good standing or has ever had their license suspended. You can even talk with other lawyers to get their opinion on anyone you’re considering, especially if the person you’re talking to has worked in the county or state for a while.
3. Meet In-Person
After eliminating a few lawyers, it’s important to meet with your top choices in person. While an attorney may seem right for you through their website and social media, there’s no greater test than speaking with someone face-to-face.
When meeting with the attorney, make sure to look for anything that might make them a good or bad fit. Remember, you need someone who will truly work with you and your family, someone who will understand your needs so they can more effectively fight for them in court.
Pay attention to their communication skills, how they speak not only with you about the case, but also with and about your family. Your family lawyer should be able to treat your kids with the same amount of respect and understanding that you would. Most importantly, if you have a bad feeling about the lawyer, listen to it. If this person isn’t right for your family and your case, then there’s no point in hiring them and possibly wasting more money and time.
4. Ask the Right Questions
By the end of your meeting with your potential lawyer, it’s vital to understand what type of lawyer they are and if their goals line up with your own. This is why it’s important to ask the right questions and get a sense of the lawyer’s ethics and intentions when developing a case.
There are a few points you should focus on when coming up with your question. You should ask about their background and see if it lines up with your research. Find out their legal philosophy to see if you agree with their approach to law. Find out their case management skills to make sure they’ll be on top of your case.
In a similar vein, you should ask them what they think about your case, to see if they’ll be open and honest with you. And possibly most importantly, make sure to ask about their cost to make sure the attorney can fit into your budget.
If you need further help coming up with specific questions, this link has some sample questions to get you started.
5. Never Settle
No matter how much research and planning you do beforehand, you can never truly tell how good of a match a lawyer is until you actually work with them. Because of that, it’s possible that you may realize further into the case that this attorney is not right for you and your family.
Don’t be afraid to find another lawyer if your current one isn’t up to your standards. While you may have felt confident during your initial meetings, this is an important decision and you need the attorney that is right for you.
When searching for a Richmond family attorney, call Cravens and Noll for an initial consultation to make sure we are the right fit for you and your family. Our experienced team of Virginia family lawyers know the law like the back of our hands and will work with your family to get the best results from your case. Check out our family law page for more details.
May 19, 2020
As with other law practice areas, you don’t typically think about the process of finding a family law attorney until you absolutely need to.
To help you in your search for a family law attorney, we’ve compiled some tips on steps that will help you make the best decision you can for hiring a family law attorney.
Here are the 4 things you need to know to hire a family law attorney in Richmond, Virginia:
- Know what type of lawyer you need
- Know where you’ll file your case
- Know what your options are
- Know what makes a good family lawyer
Know What Type of Lawyer You Need
Not all lawyers work in all practice areas. Many of them specialize in specific types of law. Before you begin your search for a family law attorney, you need to know if your case is something that qualifies as family law.
Family law, otherwise known as “domestic relations” or “matrimonial law”, can typically include the legal matters surrounding marriage or family relations such as divorce, custody, adoption, or prenuptial agreements.
You will need a family lawyer if your case involves one of the following:
- You would like to get married with a prenuptial agreement
- You and your spouse are pursuing a divorce, annulment or legal separation
- You would like to modify a divorce agreement
- You would like guidance or modify the terms of spousal support, alimony or child support
- You are pursuing an adoption
- You and your child’s other parent cannot agree on custody or visitation
Know Where You Will File Your Case
Most cases are filed in the county where the person who is filing the case lives, or if it is a matter involving child custody or support, where the child primarily resides The person who files is called either the plaintiff or petitioner.
It’s important to consider the legal residence of the plaintiff because family laws vary from state-to-state. Because the laws are different from state-to-state, each state has a bar association that the lawyer must join before he/she can practice law.
Your friend in another state might have a good recommendation for a family law attorney that they trust, but if they don’t have a license to practice law in Virginia, you can’t hire them. If your friend has a good recommendation for a family law attorney who practices in another part of the state and is not familiar with the courts and judges in your area, you may want to consider another attorney who practices more in your area.
Know What Your Options Are
Once you know where you are looking for a family law attorney, you should search for the law firm that will best represent you. You can begin your search on your state’s bar association directory or on a search engine like Google or Bing.
If you search online, you’ll want to include the county or city that you are looking for a family lawyer in rather than “near me.” A good local family lawyer, even if they are on the other side of the city/county, may serve your needs better than the lawyer that happens to be closest to you at the time that you are searching.
Most lawyers have a website that will tell you a little about them and what practice areas they are involved in. They might have some informative resources on their website that give you a snapshot of the types of cases they handle. There might even be answers to some of the frequently asked questions that you might already be wondering about!
Know What Makes a Good Family Lawyer
A good family lawyer should be:
- In good standing with their state’s bar association
- Easy to get in touch with
- Willing to answer questions
- Clear about how much they charge
- Can explain to you a good plan to be successful in your case
Family law attorneys help you navigate legal matters that are sometimes simple but are usually very complex. It’s important that you evaluate a family lawyer not just for what they do in court but how they treat you as you work with them. A good family lawyer has excellent communication skills both in listening to your claim and in explaining your legal options.
Give Your Family Law Attorney a Call
Once you’ve found a family law attorney, contact them. Many lawyers in our local Richmond area have a contact form on their website. If not, their phone number is usually not too hard to find.
If they’re like us (Cravens & Noll is also a local Richmond, Chesterfield, Henrico, Colonial Heights, and Harrisonburg family law attorney with years of experience in these county courts and the counties surrounding them), you’ll be greeted by a friendly receptionist that will set up a consultation for you. The consultation will help them gather the information they need so they can handle your case. Feel free to schedule your consultation with one of our family law attorneys today.
And with that, your search for a family law attorney is complete!
April 28, 2020
Your children are the center of your life even when marital disputes threaten your involvement in their lives. Maybe you’re the mother who’s worried about the father, or maybe you’re the father worried about how the mother is raising your kids.
In both cases, you’re wondering if the father can take the children away from the mother. We already have a few posts covering family law and divorce proceedings, but in this post, we go over the fundamentals of parental custody, possible custody rulings, what to do if a parent won’t cooperate and how to focus on the best interest of your child.
The Basics of Parental Custody
After the court has made a decision about each parent’s custody of their children, it’s vital that each parent follow these mandates. If the court has given you majority custody and the other parent has agreed to the visitation hours, then the other parent has no legal right to take your child from you.
If you believe that the other parent should have reduced access to your child, it is possible to change your custody agreement. This may bring some complications depending on your situation.
Changing the Custody Ruling
Any parent, at any time, can make a motion to modify the custody or visitation order given by the court. It’s ideal for both parents to agree on these changes and submit them to the court for approval. If the other parent refuses to agree to the new terms, then the decision will have to be taken directly to court.
The court will hear the case if they believe that there is a reason for the changes in custody and will then perform a custody evaluation. This usually involves a social worker going to each home and monitoring the situation. If they decide that the custody order should be changed, then they’ll recommend the court to hear the case.
Looking for the Best Interest of the Child
In order to change the custody plan, you need to show the court that there have been major changes in the child’s or the other parent’s lives. You also need to convince the court that it is in the child’s best interest to modify the court order.
In general, the court looks for how the parents are currently taking care of the child and, if anything interferes with their ability to properly care for them, then that can help change the custody order.
Some examples of changing circumstances include:
- The parent’s work schedule has changed
- The parent is moving
- The parent’s financial situation has changed
- The child is older
- The child’s safety is at risk by being with the parent
- The family situation has changed
- The current visitation times are not being followed
You should also have hard evidence and documents for the point you’re arguing. For example, if the child’s class schedule has changed, you could bring a document from the school showing this change.
Just one of these examples can be enough to change the custody order. You’ll want at least two examples to give yourself the best chance of convincing the court to listen to your case.
What To Do if the Other Parent is Being Uncooperative
While most parents do have the child’s best interest at heart, sometimes a change in the parent’s life can put the child in danger. While you may have good reason to request a custody change, it’s difficult to get the case to court without the other parent’s cooperation.
You would still go through the same steps as listed above, but you would need to make sure the other parent is aware of your attempts to change the court order. You do this by “serving notice” to the other parent, also known as giving a copy of the initial motion. You both will either meet with a social worker or be required to attend a mediation where you both must attempt to reach an agreement.
In the case that you believe the other parent is breaking the initial custody order, either by keeping the child from you or not providing the agreed upon requirements, then you can file a motion for contempt.
This will force the other parent to attend court, where the judge will enforce the custody agreement if they believe the other parent is in violation of the order. This can also help your case of changing the custody agreement.
Before Acting, Consult a Family Lawyer
Most importantly, you should always consult a lawyer before taking any legal action in a custody agreement. The lawyers at Cravens and Noll are experts in family law and can help you reach the best terms for your children in a divorce case. Get in touch today!
April 27, 2020
The threats of a shattering relationship can turn ugly real quick. In a divorce, the bitterness can lead to vindictive actions. Escalation can be all too common as you and your spouse cope with splitting a shared life into two independent ones.
As a divorce becomes more and more likely, time is of the essence. You don’t want to feel trapped as you lose ground to your more aggressive other half.
That’s why you’ll want to protect yourself before a divorce with these tips:
- Set expectations before your divorce
- Protect yourself by being decisive
- Protect yourself by protecting your finances
- Know the divorce laws in Virginia by consulting with a divorce lawyer
Set Expectations Before Your Divorce
The most important first step to protecting yourself is to set reasonable expectations for yourself. Without the proper expectations, you’re liable to be blindsided and behind the ball.
Don’t Expect Anything to Come Easy
Divorce goes to court because it’s a big deal to split children, money and property between two spouses. Nothing is guaranteed to be cut and dry.
For example, something as simple as proving that a house that you bought before your marriage should be legally yours during a divorce case might be difficult. If your spouse contributed to the house during the marriage, they might argue for splitting it equally or getting credit for part of the equity in the property.
All of these complications could become costly. Part of expecting that a divorce is going to be hard is expecting that it will be financially hard. Start saving up as soon as you can and cut unnecessary spending until the divorce is finalized.
Don’t Expect Mediation to Fix Everything
In a rose-tinted world, mediation would always be the best route for two divorcing people. It certainly sounds like a more civil fix to the situation.
The problem is that mediation is sometimes too little, too late. The issues that are moving the marriage toward a divorce are already in motion.
Mediation, often seen as cheaper than hiring a lawyer, will still cost you something. If the mediation reaches an impasse, you might not have anything to show for the cost you spent on it. It is always better to try to reach a divorce settlement without going to court, and that should always be attempted during any time during the process of divorce.
Don’t Expect That Representing Yourself Is Fine
While it’s possible to represent yourself in a divorce trial, better legal preparation always wins.
It’s rare that you’ll be able to represent yourself in your divorce case and not have any hiccups. Dotting your i’s and crossing your t’s is why divorce lawyers like Cravens & Noll are so helpful in these circumstances.
Plus, you can’t protect yourself alone when your spouse brings their lawyer to the table. By numbers alone, it becomes an unfair fight. It’s two against one.
Protect Yourself By Being Decisive
When divorce is inevitable, the sooner you hire a divorce attorney, the sooner you can protect yourself. A good divorce lawyer will advise you on the best next steps as you work through uncertainty and complications.
Without a lawyer, common sense choices could hurt you in the long run. If you discuss dividing property before the official process gets underway, the agreement might not be in your favor. You could think that you are smoothing everything out by being agreeable and reasonable. In reality, making any move before hiring a lawyer is likely to have unseen implications.
By being decisive and hiring a lawyer, you immediately tap into a knowledgeable advisor with a lot of experience. Unlike asking a divorced friend for helpful tips, an experienced divorce lawyer has worked on hundreds of cases. They’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly and they know what you need to do to protect yourself.
Protect Yourself By Protecting Your Money
Being decisive sooner can also help you protect your finances.
Time to Save Up in a Personal Account
A separate bank account in your own name will allow you to start saving money for yourself. The switch from a joint bank account to separate bank accounts means that the money you have will be yours to afford everything related to the split. If you are still residing with your spouse, the funds may still be considered marital property. However, if they are used for expenses such as lawyer fees, mental health counseling, private investigators, or regular and reasonable living expenses, a Judge most likely consider that reasonable expenses and you will not have to account for the expenses. If you save separately after separation, the funds most likely will be considered separate property. Whether it’s mediation fees, lawyer fees, or paperwork fees, having the financial strength to cover those costs yourself will protect you from being dependent on your spouse.
Savings in a personal account will also help you to survive changes in income. Your married income could be built on one primary breadwinner or dual incomes. The result would be the same. After the divorce, your income will change. It’s best to save up to cover whatever comes next.
Make a Budget for During and After the Divorce
You can protect your finances in a divorce with a budget. Although you can’t predict all of the expenses that could be associated with a divorce, there are some that you can. Start with what you know and check that you’ll be able to afford at least those. The more accurate you can budget for the cost of a divorce, the more financially stable you could be afterwards.
It’s also very helpful to know how much you’ll need to live on after the divorce. Start by looking back at your budgets for previous years. If you haven’t done one before, start tracking your expenses now.
Figuring out how much you need to live on is helpful in the divorce proceedings. You can protect yourself much better when you know how much money you’ll need to live on after the dust settles. If your spouse offers to cut a deal, you’ll have numbers to back up why it would or would not be something you can afford.
Pay Attention to Where Your Money Is Going
The final step in protecting your finances in a divorce is watching where your money is going. If you have a joint bank account, is your spouse spending money from it? Are they withdrawing funds without your knowledge?
Tracking your money is how you find and record how your spouse could be hurting your finances.
Know Virginia Divorce Laws (Hire an attorney who does)
The fourth and final tip for protecting yourself before a divorce is knowing what your state’s laws are.
Every state has its own laws surrounding divorce. Laws about the splitting of property could vary wildly from state to state. Minor points surrounding the complications of your unique situation could be handled differently than your divorced friend in another state.
Cravens & Noll is a family law firm in Virginia. We know Virginia divorce law. If you live in Virginia and you don’t know the laws about divorce, there’s no need to worry. We do. Give us a call and we’ll help protect you.
April 22, 2020
Going through a divorce is a stressful time for each parent, as both not only want what’s best for themselves, but also for their children. The custody decision can be the most emotional and hard-fought decision in the divorce process. While a child’s custody can be determined outside of court by the parents reaching an agreement, some parents may opt to go to court and have a judge decide custody if they can’t reach an agreement on their own.
In order to help make this decision process easier, we’ve created this post to list out what is decided in a court custody case and what factors into a judge’s decision when determining which parent has custody.
What Are the Types of Custody?
Before making any decision about your child’s custody, it’s important to understand the two types of custody. There’s legal and physical custody.
Determining Legal Custody for Children
Legal custody is a parent’s ability to make important decisions for a minor child. These include educational matters, medical issues, and the general welfare of the child. The court will decide to grant both parents joint legal custody or one parent sole legal custody.
With sole custody, the determined custodial parent is given those rights and responsibilities to decide for the child, while the other parent has no legal say on those issues.
With joint legal custody, which is often favored by courts, both parents have a say on important decisions for their child. However, if one parent is granted physical custody, a majority of the time that parent will be in a better position to make these decisions. At Cravens & Noll, we inform our clients that with most educational or medical issues, parents are oftentimes going to listen to the “experts.” Experts in custody cases are generally doctors, teachers, therapists, etc.
Determining Physical Custody for Children
There’s also physical custody, which determines where the child primarily lives and how often the parents get to spend time with them. Just as the Judge will consider many factors within §124.3 of the Code of Virginia to determine physical custody (just as they will to determine legal custody). This code section is called the “best interest of the child statute” which is explained in more detail below.
When physical custody is granted to one parent, the child primarily lives with that parent while the other parent is granted visitation with specific times to see the child.
In some cases, the court will order both joint legal and joint physical custody. This is considered shared custody. It may be a “week on/ week off” schedule in which the child lives with each parent for a full week, and then switches to live with the other parent for a full week. Sometimes the court will split the weekdays in half and then alternated the weekends. The reason some courts order this is that in some cases the evidence shows that both parents have been significantly involved with the child, and the best interest of the child is to have both parents remain significantly involved with the child.
How Custody is Decided in Court
If the parents cannot agree on a “parenting plan” and settle their case out of court, a judge will hear evidence to determine the best interest of the child.
When making a decision about a child’s custody, Virginia courts make their decision based on “the best interest of the child”, which is based on a number of factors.
- The Child’s Relationship With Each Parent: This is normally based on how often each parent spends time with the child, and can be used to determine who is the primary caretaker.
- The Parent’s Living Situation: This can range from how well each parent’s house is kept, to the distance each household is from important services like schools and doctors
- The Child’s Place in Their Current Community: If your child has well-established roots in their current situation, like a large friend group or obligations like a sports team or club, it can be difficult to argue that they’d have an easy time adjusting to a new community.
- Each Parent’s Physical, Emotional, and Mental Health: This factor can be greatly affected by the reason for the divorce if it’s based on adultery or abuse. It’s also affected by a parent’s history with their general health, be it physical, mental, or emotional.
- A Parent’s Ability to Cooperate With the Other Parent: If both parents can cooperate in court and reach civil agreements, this can make it easier to reach joint custody decisions, as you show the judge how both parties are willing to separate their differences to do what’s best for their child.
- The Child’s Own Wishes: This factor is based on the child’s age and if the court believes they are mature enough to speak for themselves.
No Two Cases Are Alike
While we’ve offered some general advice here, it’s important to note that there are no guarantees in a custody case or in a divorce case that involves child custody. Each case is unique, not only in the family’s situation but also in the judge and their own decision. It’s important to keep the child’s best interest in mind during the preceding. It’s also recommended that before discussing any decision with the other party, you should seek legal counsel.
The Cravens and Noll Family Law Practice Group specializes in family law cases and helping parents obtain either settlements or court orders that are best for their child. Contact us today to help with your divorce case.