Family law cases are often emotionally charged, which is why it’s essential to have a skilled attorney in your corner. James E. Short, PLC will help ensure that your interests are protected and that the challenges your family is facing won’t create an undue financial burden.
Types of Divorce
There are two main types of divorce in Virginia:
- Uncontested divorce. An uncontested divorce occurs when the spouses have resolved all of their differences, such as the division of marital property, payment of debts, alimony, child support, and child custody. They both agree that the marriage should end and are eager to move forward.
- Contested divorce. A contested divorce occurs when there is a disagreement over one or more issues that must be decided before the divorce can be finalized. You do not need your spouse’s permission or consent to end the marriage, but this type of divorce will require extra steps to complete.
While an attorney is essential in a contested divorce, it’s still advisable to seek representation even if you believe you and your spouse agree on all major issues. An attorney can ensure that your rights are protected and that you do not agree to an arrangement that will cause an undue financial burden in the future. In both a contested and uncontested divorce, each spouse needs to have their own attorney due to the inevitable potential for a conflict of interest.
Child Custody and Visitation
There are two main types of child custody arrangements. The following is a brief overview of sole custody and joint custody:
- Sole custody. Sole custody means that one of the parents has the major role in the physical, emotional and moral upbringing of the child. This parent is referred to as the custodial parent. The custodial parent is obligated and has the right to make all decisions concerning the child, who lives primarily with this parent.
- Joint custody. Joint custody is defined in Virginia Code Section 20-124.1:(i) Joint legal custody where both parents retain joint responsibility for the care and control of the child and joint authority to make decisions concerning the child even though the child’s primary residence may be with only one parent, (ii) Joint physical custody where both parents share physical and custodial care of the child, or (iii) any combination of joint legal and joint physical custody which the Court deems to be in the best interest of the child.
Visitation gives non-custodial parents the chance to maintain an active presence in their child’s life. In cases where the grandparents have played an important role in the child’s upbringing, Virginia allows them to seek legal visitation rights as well. If others have legal visitation rights, please note that the custodial parent will need court approval to move out of state.
Virginia law requires both parents to contribute to the financial cost of raising their child—even if they were never legally married. In a sole custody arrangement, child support is paid to the custodial parent. In a joint custody arrangement, child support is paid to the lower-earning parent, so the child maintains an equal standard of living in both homes. The gender of the parent is irrelevant.
The State of Virginia uses child support guidelines outlined in Section §20-108.2 of the Virginia Code. These guidelines establish an amount that the court presumes is the reasonable amount of support, but the court has the authority to deviate from the child support guidelines if the circumstances warrant it.
Child support does not automatically stop when a child is 18. Virginia Code Section §20-124.2 states that support will continue to be paid for any child over the age of 18 who is a full-time high school student, not self-supporting, and living in the home of the party seeking or receiving child support until such child reaches the age of 19 or graduates from high school, whichever first occurs. In certain circumstances, child support may continue after the age of 18 if the child is severely and permanently mentally or physically disabled. There is no legal requirement for either parent to pay for the cost of the child’s college education.
Existing child support orders can be modified if there is a significant increase or decrease in parental income. The parent requesting the modification has the burden of proving a change in circumstance.
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I have over 30 years of experience and will work to provide you with the information you need to make informed decisions about the best way to resolve your family law concerns. My office serves clients from Chesapeake, Portsmouth, Norfolk, Suffolk, Virginia Beach, and the surrounding areas. Call or complete my contact form today to request a consultation to discuss your next steps.