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Alexandria Family Law Blog

Is joint custody best for you and your kids?

If you and your spouse have begun divorce proceedings in Virginia, your post-divorce custody arrangement probably is one of your biggest mutual concerns. Each of you wants what is best for your kids, and neither of you likely believes that a weekend father or mother is in their best interests. Not surprisingly, the vast majority of judges, family law attorneys, child psychologists and divorced parents agree with you. For them, joint custody is far preferable for children and parents alike in all but abuse and/or neglect situations.

Gone are the days when a mother automatically gained sole custody of her children, especially the young ones. Today, more and more divorcing couples choose joint custody, and more and more judges heartily approve such a choice.

For active duty parents: worry-free citizenship process for kids

Military families face plenty of challenges as they navigate active duty, transitioning to global stations and back home again. It may seem easier to focus on the difficulties of constantly moving, but members of the military who have connections to Virginia may also recognize the benefits of international experience. 

Cross-cultural living broadens worldviews and offers fresh perspectives. Children who grow up in international environments often see the world through a lens that is unique to them, differing even from their parents who live in the same home. Labeled third-culture kids, these children sometimes feel conflicting loyalties between their parents' countries of origin and the country where they are residing. 

Dividing a military pension during a divorce

The process for divorce in Virginia is often different for military families than it is for civilians. One example regards the splitting up of military pensions. This process uses a different set of rules than the division of other retirement benefits. That set of rules is known as the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act.

In short, the USFSPA provides that a state court may distribute some of a military pension to an ex-spouse as part of a divorce agreement. There are, however, significant exceptions to this rule. 

Is Virginia a community property state?

If you and your spouse are considering a Virginia divorce, you likely are concerned with how all the property the two of you accumulated during your marriage will be divided between you. FindLaw explains that Virginia is not a community property state, but rather an equitable division state.

What this means is that if you and your spouse are not able to negotiate a property division agreement, the court will make that decision for you based on a number of factors including the following:

  • The earning capacity and liabilities that each of you have
  • Whether and the extent to which either or both of you can support yourself
  • Whether one of you pays alimony to a previous spouse
  • The length of your marriage
  • Your respective ages and health
  • Whether either or both of you will receive retirement benefits

How is custody determined for special needs children?

Virginia judges will examine the best interests of a child when deciding how a child custody arrangement will proceed. But when that child is disabled or has special needs, determining custody will require a deeper examination of the child’s state of health as well as psychological and emotional concerns. Sometimes a custody arrangement will address issues that a more standard custody arrangement will not.

Healthcarenews.com describes certain problems a special needs child may have. Children that may be autistic, or have separation anxiety, or possess sensory or behavioral issues may not be able to handle the kind of custody schedule that more typical custody arrangements provide. Leaving their current home can disorient them or aggravate their condition. The best bet for these children is to remain in their present home and follow their ordinary routine as closely as possible.

Does bankruptcy allow a person to stop paying child support?

A notice comes in the mail from an ex-spouse. It turns out your former spouse is having financial difficulties and has filed for bankruptcy. Just hearing the word "bankruptcy" can fill you with trepidation. Does going bankrupt mean your ex-spouse does not have to pay any more child support? Do not expect a Virginia court to buy that reasoning. Findlaw makes it clear that bankruptcy is not a shield from paying child support.

Bankruptcy can perform several actions to lessen or eliminate certain financial obligations while you try to rebuild your finances. However, bankruptcy cannot release a person from paying child support. Courts do not take likely the obligation of a parent to support their offspring and will not allow bankruptcy to be used to “discharge” or release a person from child support payments. Additionally, going bankrupt does not eliminate any previous child support payments that the parent currently owes.

Parenting apart: The teen years

When you started your co-parenting journey, your child was only a few years old. Now, she's approaching adulthood and you know that there could be issues on the horizon. As a young teen, there are plenty of things she's going through, and that can be hard for mothers or fathers.

As your teen grows up, she's likely to want to be more independent. Will that affect the way your parenting plan works? Possibly, which is why it's important to talk to your teen about the plan in place and why it is the way it is.

Why would a prenup benefit your marriage?

You are excited about your upcoming wedding and still soaking in the bliss of your engagement. The last thing on your mind right now is if your relationship will end in an abrupt divorce. However, planning ahead for the future and signing a notarized prenup in Virginia with your spouse, is an excellent way to have peace of mind and security. 

A prenup allows you the chance to discuss important topics that may potentially be areas of disagreement in your marriage. Discussing these things at the get-go may prevent a lot of unnecessary contention and misunderstanding. According to the Business Insider, even talking about a prenup and creating the agreement with your spouse is an effective way to engage in open communication. You may choose to discuss anything from child care and parenting styles to ways that you will handle discipline. You may also wish to talk about important topics related to your finances including debt allocation. 

Guiding clients through challenging times

Bankruptcy and divorce often go hand in hand for Virginia couples, so we often handle both issues for our clients. Either money troubles lead to a strained marriage or asset division in a divorce causes insurmountable financial obstacles for the former spouses. We have even seen businesses go into bankruptcy as a result of disadvantageous separation terms. At Jeffrey A. Vogelman and Associates, our goal is to provide seamless guidance and representation throughout the entire process of divorce, including any spousal support, custody and financial actions our clients may wish to take.

We often find that most of the frustration that people experience while going through a divorce or a bankruptcy comes from the seemingly incessant paperwork. This might include gathering documents, filling out forms or communication with various parties. We find that we are often able to minimize this source of stress when we represent clients through both financial and relationship legal actions.

Reasons not to sign a prenuptial agreement

Prenuptial agreements can be very important in establishing what rights spouses have in the event of a Virginia divorce. However, there are some circumstances in which you may not want to sign on the dotted line just yet. According to Findlaw, a prenuptial agreement may contain provisions that could render it invalid in a court of law. At the very least, you want to be able to examine any prenuptial agreement for provisions that could harm you or put you at a disadvantage.

First, it is advisable for a spouse to sign a prenuptial agreement only with the presence of an attorney. While not all states require a spouse to retain legal representation, the fact is not everyone fully understands how to protect their interests in a prenuptial agreement, so signing an agreement without the proper legal advice can put one at a disadvantage later on. If a court does deem the agreement to be unfair due to lack of legal representation, the prenuptial may be tossed out.

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Jeffrey A. Vogelman and Associates
124 South Royal Street
Alexandria, VA 22314

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