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Fredericksburg Family Law Blog

Important financial considerations in a divorce

Divorce is a frequent occurrence in Virginia and across the United States. The end of a marriage is sometimes unavoidable and can actually benefit those who decide to move forward with it, as they can get on with their lives. However, there are ingrained concerns that a large number of people who are divorcing have to keep in mind. Many of these have to do with finances. Combined with the emotional aspects of the marriage ending, financial aspects may go ignored at the peril of the participants.

Retirement accounts are a key asset in many divorces. Understanding a Qualified Domestic Relations Order is important, as it will divide certain retirement plans like a 401(k) and a pension. It can be complicated to have a QDRO approved. With the QDRO, the administrator of the plan needs to be informed of the divorce proceeding early to make certain that the rules of the plan are followed.

A lawyer can help with division of assets in Virginia

When a Virginia couple decides to divorce, there are a seeming endless number of divorce legal issues that will arise. While children will come first and the spouses might be thinking about support, living arrangements and visitation, the assets that the couple shared are also a major factor as the case moves forward. In many instances, there will be a dispute as to who gets to keep which assets. Having legal assistance can make certain that the assets are divided fairly.

The number of different financial assets that can come to the forefront at the end of a marriage is substantial. This can be significant if one of the spouses was the breadwinner while the other stayed at home. It can also be an issue if both members of the marriage were working and there is a disagreement as to whose assets belong to which spouse when they are sifted through. For example, there might be an individual retirement account or some other form of retirement account that each side argues should be theirs. One or both spouses might have been members of the military with the accompanying benefits. There could be savings accounts or a family business. It's possible that they had joint investments.

Under family law, can orders pending a divorce filing be issued?

In Virginia, when there is a divorce filing pending, there is often a question as to whether state family law allows for one spouse to pay spousal support, child support or other forms of maintenance until a final divorce decree is ordered. The court does have the right to make an order for one spouse provide maintenance to the other while the suit is pending. It is important for those who are planning to divorce to understand what will be paid.

Included in the court's right to compel a spouse to make these payments is an order for the spouse to provide health care coverage to the spouse who is making the petition, unless it can be shown that coverage cannot be acquired. It is also feasible for the court to order that the party pay any debts -- secured or unsecured -- that were incurred jointly or by either of the spouses. The paying spouse can be ordered to pay maintenance so the other spouse can move forward with the divorce. An order is possible if it will stop either spouse from restraining the other spouse's personal liberty.

Proposed amendment might affect assets in a military divorce

Virginia military couples who choose to end their marriage will face certain divorce issues that differ from a civilian divorce. Those who are embarking on a military divorce must not only bear in mind their own particular situation, but they must also remember that the laws might change when it comes to military regulations and how much the spouse receives in the final agreement. One proposed law is making it possible that the former spouse will receive less of the retirement pay after a military divorce.

This law, referred by some as a "radical rewrite" of existing laws, would make it necessary for the state court in which the divorce is filed to make an award of payments to former spouses based on the rank of the military member and the amount of time he or she spent in the service when the couple divorced. As the law currently stands, the payments to former spouses are based on the service member's rank and how long he or she has served total, once retired. If passed, this will mean that the former spouse will receive less out of the former military member's retirement pay.

Family law and the establishment of parent-child relationships

An issue that can sometimes come up in Virginia family law has to do with establishing the legal relationship between parent and child. The law has certain criteria for accomplishing this and it is important for this to be fully understood, especially in situations where there is a dispute among the parents or family members as to whom has the legal right to custody, care and visitation of the child.

The parent-child relationship between a woman and the child can be established if there is proof at the first impression until proven otherwise -- prima facie -- that the woman gave birth to the child. When establishing the relationship between a man and the child, this can be established by blood tests or other genetic tests that are considered reliable and will provide affirmation that the man is 98 percent certain to be the biological father.

Does Virginia accept another state's child custody order?

There are certain instances when a child custody issue extends from a different state into Virginia. This does not necessarily have to be a custody dispute, a battle over primary child custody or with visitation. It might just be that an order was made by a different state and there is a desire on the part of the participants to have it registered in the Commonwealth of Virginia. There might or might not also be a request that the order be enforced. Regardless of the individual circumstances surrounding the case, this can be done if the rules are followed.

In order to register a child custody determination from another state in Virginia, there must be a number of items. There needs to be a letter or document that makes the request, as well as two copies, one of which must be certified, of the determination that the participants want to have registered along with a statement that is made under the penalty of perjury that there have been no modifications to the original order. Finally, the name and the address of the person who seeks to register the order and any parent or person who acts as a parent who received custody or visitation must be provided.

Expediting enforcement of a child custody order

With child custody in Virginia, there are sometimes situations in which there is a desire for there to be expedited enforcement of the order. Understanding how this can be done is important before moving forward with it. The petition for expedited enforcement is required to be verified with all orders that the petitioner seeks to have enforced must be certified.

The petition to enforce the child custody determination must state if the court issuing the determination has identified the basis it utilized to exercise its jurisdiction and what the basis was. It must also state if the determination for the order that is the basis of the enforcement was vacated, is under stay or was modified by a court whose decision is required to be enforced and, if so, the basic information of the case including its number and the court itself.

Custody dispute extends to stopping talented child's golf game

Child custody in Virginia can be a contentious issue with many different circumstances making matters complicated for the parents and the child. Considering the unique nature of a custody dispute, parents must be prepared for every eventuality and have a grasp on how these problems can be settled through child custody modifications or other methods to come to a reasonable agreement. One such factor that might come up is if a child is considered supremely talented in a particular endeavor and, for some reason, a decision is made as part of the child custody agreement to limit or eliminate participation.

A child custody disagreement between the parents of a 10-year-old child who is reportedly a gifted golfer and has been referred to as a "prodigy" has resulted in her having her golf playing limited by judicial order. The parents share custody of the child, but the clause stating that she cannot play in a golf tournament for one year was inserted into the agreement. Ordinarily, this would not be a major issue, but since the child is said to be so talented, it is a problem for the father who is taking an integral role in the child's golf development.

Military family law, unmarried parents and health care

There are many active duty military and former military members stationed and living in Virginia. For some, there are issues related to military benefits they might not be fully aware of, such as issues regarding health care benefits for a child when the child's parents are not married. If a service member is in the military and is not married to the child's other parent, a common question that is asked is whether or not health care can be provided, even if there is no court order to do so. Military personnel must understand the criteria for this.

First, the if it is the father who is in the military, he can acknowledge paternity by going through the state without having a court order. If both parents sign a voluntary paternity acknowledgement form, then it is done. When this is filed and the man is listed as the father on the birth certificate, he will be the legal father. Next, the father must file an application for dependency status. In order to do that, there must be a copy of the birth certificate and the acknowledgement of paternity. The office of military personnel will make certain that the application is complete.

How is gross income defined for Virginia child support?

When there is a child support disagreement in progress in Virginia, there are certain terms that are going to be mentioned frequently that those taking part in the dispute might not fully understand. Legal terms can be confusing to a layperson, and how financial parameters are calculated when the support award is made can lead to misunderstandings. The term "gross income" might sound relatively easy to grasp, but it has certain points and criteria that have to be explained to avoid issues during negotiations and after the order is made.

Gross income refers to income that emanates from any and all sources. It will include salaries, wages, royalties, dividends, bonuses, severance pay, trusts, Social Security benefits, disability benefits, annuities and more. In addition, it will include payments to or for the benefit of the child who is being supported. As this is included in the gross income, the derivative benefit will allow the parent to have an entitlement of credit against the child support for the amount that is received. If the amount that is credited surpasses what the basic child support amount is, then the credit can be used if there are payments in arrears to settle them.

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