Where Do I Go From Here?
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If you are here, you already know you need an attorney who is competent and knowledgeable in the field of family law. You wouldn’t go to a general practitioner for open heart surgery. Likewise, if you have a legal issue related to your family, you need to consult with an attorney who handles such matters every day.
When faced with an emotional issue involving your family it is sometimes difficult to organize your thoughts for action. It is important to take a moment before your consult to gather any and all relevant documents. These documents may include court orders, signed agreements (separation agreements, custody agreements, stipulation agreements, prenuptial agreements, entrustment agreements, safety plans, etc), Guardian Ad Litem reports, protective orders, summons for court hearings, any pleadings with which you have been served or have been filed by you or on your behalf, financial documents related to your marriage, any and all previous decrees or orders of divorce and your marriage license.
Typically, if you are served with initial documents to commence a divorce or other family related litigation, you will also receive a document called a Summons. The Summons contains the time frame with which you will need to respond or will let you know your court date and time. If you receive any document with a summons, you should take the document and the summons immediately to a family law attorney for advice as to how to proceed.
Bring it to an attorney to review. A separation agreement signed by both parties is binding. If you sign an agreement without seeking legal advice, you may be waiving rights or agreeing to things to which the other party has no right. You cannot simply change your mind once an agreement is fully signed.
Adultery is a grounds for divorce in Virginia. If you suspect adultery, and wish to keep that ground for divorce, be careful. It is possible to “condone” adultery, meaning you give up your ground for divorce, if you cohabit with your spouse after the knowledge of the fact of adultery.
In Virginia, there is no definitive age where children get to make the final decision as to where that child wishes to live when parents do not reside together. The child’s reasonable preference, as long as that child is of reasonable intelligence, understanding, age and experience to express such a preference, is simply one of 10 factors that a judge must consider. So, while a child’s preference does not necessarily dictate the outcome of a custody / visitation dispute, it is a factor the judge should consider. Be cautious, parents; however, influencing children to choose one or the other is not looked on favorably by the courts.
Like many questions, the answer depends on the factual situation. If the other parent disagrees with the move of the children, the Virginia courts do have the discretion to preclude a parent from relocating the children’s residence outside of the Commonwealth of Virginia. If this is something you are considering, seek the advice of a family law attorney before making any major and final decisions.
In Virginia, except in very limited circumstances, there is a waiting period, so to speak for divorce. If you have minor children with your spouse, you must be separated for at least one year before you may be finally divorced. If you do not have minor children with your spouse and have signed a separation agreement, the separation period is only six months. In Virginia, “separation” is not a legal status; you do not “file” for separation. Separation is a factual situation, and you should discuss thoroughly your factual situation with an attorney to decide if you are separated.
In Virginia, you must have grounds for divorce. There is no such thing as a divorce due to “irreconcilable differences.” The grounds for divorce in Virginia include adultery, sodomy, buggery, cruelty, desertion and constructive desertion and the parties living separate and apart without cohabitation and without interruption for one year. If you do not have minor children with your spouse and sign a separation agreement, you may be divorced on the grounds of having lived separate and apart without cohabitation and without interruption for a period of six months. In certain circumstances, one party could have a ground for divorce if the other party has been convicted of and jailed for a felony.