Dannenbaum Law Firm, PLLC

Arlington Family Law Blog

How to maintain bonds with a child after moving away

After a divorce, some Virginia parents might have to move away from their children. Parents may be concerned both that their children will feel even more abandoned on the heels of the divorce and that the bond between them will suffer. However, there are many things long-distance parents can do to keep in touch with their children and ensure that their time together is high-quality even if it is infrequent.

Parents should talk to their children about how they prefer to stay in contact and if they want their parent to come to them or if they prefer to visit their parent. Parents can make phone calls outside of scheduled times and use postcards, text, email and social media to deliver positive messages to their children. They can also ask them about things happening in their lives, such as how an activity they are involved in went.

More couples are using prenups in the startup age

The laws in many states have a presumption that any wealth gained during the course of a marriage is the property of the couple rather than the spouses separately. For Virginia couples considering marriage, a prenuptial agreement can be a safeguard against much of the havoc of divorce. According to a 2016 American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers survey, 60% of divorce lawyers said they'd seen an increased demand for prenuptial agreements in the prior three years.

Roughly 50% of those surveyed said they'd seen a spike in the number of prenups being requested by millennials. Part of the reason for an increase in prenups may be the developing startup culture. People are getting married when they have just an idea with the potential for growth. If their ideas later become successful, their spouses may have a claim to that success in the absence of a prenup. Another reason may be the growing awareness of the likelihood of eventual divorce. Even when entrepreneurs get married, their business ideas and ventures remain their true passion.

How personality type may affect divorce risk

Virginia marriages might be more likely to end in divorce if one or both spouses has certain personality traits. For example, people who avoid conflict may not deal with problems in the marriage. This can cause those problems to go unresolved and might eventually lead to a divorce.

Catastrophizing is another personality trait that could lead to a divorce. This happens when a person has a tendency to take relatively minor incidents and treat them as though they are much more important. The person might even go on to file for divorce multiple times before realizing that doing so was an overreaction. Insecurity can also be a problem since it can lead to seeking external approval and infidelity.

The biggest financial changes after divorce

Divorce can happen to anyone of any age or background. Even when both spouses agree that it is for the best, it doesn't mean that the process is easy. Divorce means a great deal of change for everyone involved.

Though you probably realize that divorce can affect your finances, you may not realize just how much. Many people say that they didn't predict how far-reaching it could be. Being prepared for the financial implications of divorce here in Virginia can make all the difference. If you're considering splitting with your spouse, here's what you need to know.

Study examines roots of marital dissatisfaction

For many people in Virginia, it is common knowledge that people's happiness in marriage declines over the years with the end of the "honeymoon period." While relationships do change over years of togetherness, one study casts doubt on the idea that rising marital dissatisfaction is a necessary part of spending years together. Researchers from the University of Texas and the University of Georgia aimed to study how feelings about marriage change over time. They were also interested in exploring the impact of socioeconomic factors, given the intense financial disputes that can take place during a divorce.

The researchers studied 431 couples living in a lower-income area, although the couples' financial circumstances varied. They were asked an eight-question survey on five occasions between 2009 and 2014, beginning in 2009 when all of the couples were newlyweds. The researchers found out that the common perception of marital satisfaction is questionable in many cases. Couples who began their married lives with a high level of happiness and satisfaction were more likely to maintain it. On the other hand, people who were unhappy in their marriages at the beginning were likely to remain unhappy and to think about divorce.

How parents can make adjusting to divorce easier for children

Divorce can be hard on children, but parents in Virginia may help them adjust by ensuring that the children know they are loved and that the divorce is not their fault. Parents should not try to compensate for the divorce or win favoritism by buying a child gifts. Instead, they should focus on building strong memories with their child and building a good co-parenting relationship with the other parent.

Some parents may still feel a great deal of anger during and after the divorce, but they should not let this erupt in front of the children. They should be civil to one another and avoid telling their children negative things about the other parent even when they are true. Instead, they should focus on saying positive things about the other parent or nothing at all. Parents should try to support one another in their role as co-parents, including paying child support on time and being communicative about scheduling.

How To Win Your Custody Case: How To Deal With The Guardian Ad Litem; Part 2

You are involved in a custody case. A guardian ad litem (GAL) has been appointed to the case. How should you best deal with the GAL?

You must cooperate in all respects with the GAL. If the GAL asks you to sign release forms to obtain your medical and/or psychological records, sign it immediately. If the GAL makes appointments to meet with you, be there ahead of time. Come to the meeting prepared. Provide documents that you and your lawyer believe would be helpful to the GAL, such as text messages, emails, medical records, school transcripts. Return the GAL's phone calls promptly. If the GAL wants to meet with you or your kids, do not delay.

How To Win Your Custody Case: How To Deal With The Guardian Ad Litem; Part 1

As mentioned previously, a guardian ad litem (GAL) may be appointed by the court to represent your children and investigate you, the other parent, the children, and the home itself. The purpose of the GAL is to render an opinion on important matters such as whether the parties should have joint legal custody or sole legal custody, what the parenting schedule should be, whether you, the other parent, and/or the children should enter therapy, co-parenting counseling, substance abuse counseling, parenting classes, anger management classes.

Type of compensation may impact divorce timing

Finances are among the most hotly contested issues in many Virginia divorces. For people who are paid on an hourly or straight salary basis, the timing of the divorce may have little impact on finance or property division. However, for individuals with more complicated compensation structures, the timing of the divorce and other negotiation matters may be of greater importance.

People who are paid large bonuses with clawback provisions, for example, may be able to argue against dividing the bonus funds. If the bonus money can be clawed back by the employer, then those funds might be thought of as not yet earned at the time of the divorce. In a situation where such bonus money is divided between the spouses, the divorce agreement should clearly outline what the parties' responsibilities are in the event that the clawback provision becomes relevant.

Custody Cases And The Guardian Ad Litem

In some custody cases, the court may appoint a Guardian Ad Litem or a GAL. The court has a list of trained GALs and will select a GAL from that list. A GAL is a lawyer who has gone through training to be a certified GAL. His or her job is two-fold: first, the GAL will represent the children's best interests; second, the GAL will be the eyes and ears of the court. 

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