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Arlington Family Law Blog

Child custody battles

Divorced parents living in Virginia might find themselves involved in disputes with their ex-spouses regarding child custody and visitation issues. In an ideal world, people would be able to work out their differences and discover ways to co-parent without any conflict. However, there are situations where third parties, such as lawyers, mediators and even judges end up getting involved.

Since custody disputes can be expensive, time-consuming and stressful, many legal experts recommend trying to avoid them. Parents need to consider what is in the best interests of their children and create a plan that is sensitive to the needs of all parties. If the case does go to court, parents should be aware of appropriate strategies that can help them achieve successful results.

Separating before a divorce

Virginia couples who are having difficulty with their marriages may choose to separate and physically live in different locations. This action might allow tempers to cool and lead to reconciliation, or it could be a prelude to divorce. Either way, a separation requires consideration of the legal consequences, which could be costly. A divorce financial adviser recommends that estranged spouses prepare a formal separation agreement to protect their finances that the law still considers entwined by marriage.

Debts that arise during the separation must be covered by the agreement. A spouse could be held responsible for payment of debts produced by the other spouse while still legally married. Closing joint credit card accounts represents a prudent step.

Worried about a drawn out divorce? Let ADR work for you

As a young, successful individual, you likely have many plans for your life. Of course, roadblocks can crop up, and if you have not planned for these events, you could spend a considerable amount of time and money trying to work through them. Unfortunately, you may have recently decided to end your marriage and now worry that you will face drawn out court proceedings when you would rather just move forward with your life.

On the bright side, your case does not necessarily have to go to court. If you and your soon-to-be ex can work amicably together, you could potentially utilize alternative dispute resolution, or ADR, methods for dealing with the dissolution of your marriage.

Dividing a retirement account and the QDRO

Virginia couples who are going through a divorce and who need to divide certain types of retirement accounts will need a document known as a Qualified Domestic Relations Order. This permits the division of the account and may also be used to pay alimony or child support. The retirement account is divided equitably, but this does not mean that it is necessarily a 50/50 division.

The QDRO is a complex document, and an attorney might recommend a certified divorce financial analyst to assist in understanding the financial side of things. The CDFA may be able to explain how taxes and other fees might have an impact on the worth of the retirement account and how property division should proceed.

Bankruptcy court rejects divorce decree

Virginia estranged couples should be aware of a ruling by a federal bankruptcy court regarding the authority of the divorce court. According to the ruling, an order issued by a divorce judge cannot determine whether an obligation is subject to bankruptcy relief.

The case took place in Georgia. Less than two weeks after a couple divorced, the ex-husband filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Individuals who seek debt relief through Chapter 13 are required to have a steady stream of income, and they are required to submit a repayment plan to a court for its approval. The plan either three or five years depending upon the debtor's income, and most unsecured debt that remains after the plan has been completed will be discharged. There are exceptions, however, and they include child support.

The truth about child custody

Parents in Virginia who are negotiating child custody issues may be making important decisions based on common misconceptions that abound. There are several specific myths of which parents should be aware when trying to reach agreements.

Many people think that a parent who leaves or abandons a child has automatically surrendered his or her child custody rights. In actuality, in most states, both parents share physical and legal custody of their child until the court issues a formal order. So if one parent ups and disappears, the other one will need to officially file for custody and await the court's approval in order to obtain sole physical or legal custody of his or her child.

The reason for higher divorce rates among older Americans

The divorce rate among Americans who are aged 50 or older has roughly doubled since the 1990s. In 2015, 10 out of every 1,000 married people who were 50 or older were divorced. This is compared to five people out of every 1,000 married who were 50 or older in 1990. For those who are 65 or older in Virginia and around the country, their divorce rate has nearly three times as high in 2015 as it was in 1990.

For people who are 50 or older, the divorce rate is twice as high for those who are in their second or third marriage. Of those who were 50 and older when they divorced in 2015, 48 percent had been married previously. On the other end of the divorce trend, those who are aged 25 to 39 have seen their divorce rate fall from 30 per 1,000 married individuals to 24 per 1,000 in 2015.

Children's security often first casualty of divorce

Most Virginia parents will readily subscribe to the idea that their children's well-being comes before other considerations. However, this is sometimes tested when their marriage is coming to an end. Research shows that the majority of damage children suffer during a divorce is directly related to the arguments and conflicts of parents. It is thus often up to the parents to protect their children from the insecurity, emotional turmoil and pressure to choose sides that many children feel during the process.

One alternative that family law provides is that divorces can sometimes be resolved through mediation rather than in court. Litigation necessarily pits the divorcing spouses as opponents competing to have the court recognize their differing versions of reality. In contrast, mediation focuses on making the estranged spouses partners in attempting to reach an accord with the help of a neutral third party. The benefits for the children are less fighting and parents willingly agreeing to living arrangements that are designed for the child's best interest. Mediation is usually less expensive and time-consuming than going to court as well.

Taking advantage of a prenuptial agreement in Virginia

Couples preparing to marry generally don't want to think about what would happen if they end up getting a divorce. However, that's essentially what a prenuptial agreement involves. Prenuptial agreements allow couples to determine, in advance, how a variety of issues will be settled if the marriage fails.

About half of marriages end in divorce, so it makes sense to plan for the worst even if couples don't foresee a separation. There are several situations where it would be a very good idea for a couple to have a prenuptial agreement. For example, a prenup can be important when one person has significantly more assets than their partner.

Protecting family wealth during a divorce

Although marriage is generally thought to be about love, there are cases where a Virginia family may want to protect the family assets when their child is looking to get married. For example, a trust that was set up by parents for their child could end up being split up in the divorce if the funds are not properly protected.

There are very few assets or items that can be considered separate property. For example, houses, inheritances and gifts often only belong to one person and would be kept by that person if they get divorced. However, a piece of property or certain assets can become marital property. If a person uses trust funds to pay for a family home or the funds are otherwise commingled, the other spouse could potentially have claims to at least a portion of those funds.

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