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New Virginia Laws for 2020

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With July 1 each year, comes a host of new Virginia laws. The vast majority of the new laws go into effect on July 1, although a few have delayed effective dates. The subject of the new laws runs the gamut from minimum wage, marijuana decriminalization (for simple possession), driver cards for immigrants, guns, casinos/sports betting and more. The following laws impact the domestic relation / family law arena: HB 623. Gender-neutral terms; prohibitions on same-sex marriage and civil unions removed from Code; certain gender-specific crimes; penalty. Replaces the terms “husband” and “wife,” as well as related terms, with gender-neutral term…

Are Pensions Considered Separate Property in Divorce?

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In 2018 alone, over 21,000 divorces took place in Virginia, according to the Virginia Department of Health, Division of Health Statistics. With the prevalence of divorce comes the challenge of dividing up retirement assets among divorcing spouses. You have worked hard for your pension, but you are now facing a divorce. You may be considering whether your pension or your spouse’s pension is considered separate or marital property. How do Virginia courts divide up retirement accounts such as Thrift Savings Plans, defined benefit plans (pensions), 401(k)s and IRA accounts? Virginia Courts May Treat Retirement Accounts As Marital Property In V…

How Can I Complete my Divorce?

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For many, the word “divorce” conjures images of contentious courtroom battles and complicated, drawn-out legal fights that leave both parties financially broke and emotionally broken. Your divorce does not have to fit this image. There are actually a few different paths you can take to finalizing your divorce, and a few of them occur outside the courtroom and rely on cooperation, rather than conflict. Your divorce lawyer can explain these paths through the divorce process to you in greater detail and help you determine which is the most productive choice for ending your marriage. Mediation Mediation is the process through which a divorcing…

What is Considered Separate Property in a Divorce?

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In a Virginia divorce, assets will be classified as marital or separate before they are divided. Valuation of assets, including the marital residence, investment properties, bank accounts, business interests, as well as any jewelry, furniture, artworks, vehicles, or other personal property owned by both or either spouse is required for “equitable distribution” by the court. Virginia is not a community property state: the court makes an equitable distribution of property, which is not necessarily an equal division. Marital Property vs. Separate Property Property acquired before the marriage or after the date of last separation, property ac…

What Happens if My Spouse Doesn’t Hire a Divorce Lawyer? 

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That could be good news or bad news. If you’re seeking a divorce in the Manassas, Virginia area, and your spouse can’t or won’t get an attorney that could be a problem or an opportunity. Like divorces in general a lot of it depends if this will be an amicable divorce or your spouse wants to make this as difficult as possible.   Why doesn’t your spouse have an attorney?   Is it a financial issue? Does he or she not have the money or has it but doesn’t want to spend it?   Does your spouse think it is possible to have a “do it yourself” divorce by doing internet research?   If your spouse is driven to make the divorce pure misery for you per…

When Will My Divorce Be Finalized? 

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Couples getting divorced want to try to put their past behind them and start a new life. The start of that new life can be when the divorce is finalized. If there are no problems, a Virginia divorce may take from at least three months from the time the divorce complaint is filed until it’s granted, if there aren’t a lot of disputed issues or the couple has no children and few assets. If there are contested issues (spousal support, child support, child custody, splitting up of assets), a divorce could take much longer, potentially more than a year after there are grounds for divorce.  The legal process is out of your hands, but there are so…

Common Family Law Issues for Same-Sex Couples

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Since same sex marriages became legal nationwide thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2014, same-sex couples now face many of the same legal issues as more traditional families, with some exceptions. Before a Fairfax, Virginia, couple gets married, especially if one party already has children or owns a business or substantial assets, it would be a good idea to talk to a family law attorney about how to avoid legal issues before they arise. Pre-nuptial agreements They can make a possible future divorce far less stressful and complicated if it is properly executed. This is not a document you want to pull off the internet and fill out yoursel…

New Developments in Military Pension Division

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Attorneys Susan Butler, Roberta Henault and Molly Garrett recently attended a program hosted by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers regarding New Developments in Military Pension Division presented by Col. Mark E. Sullivan (Retired). The program explored military pension division guidelines from past, present and future. Topics discussed included the recent changes to how military pensions are divided as part of a divorce due to the new amendments to the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (i.e. ‘Frozen Benefit Rule’), the new prohibition against Courts from ordering indemnification when the retiree’s election of VA …

Pets in Divorce

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On January 17, 2017, legislation amending Alaska’s divorce law took effect, making it the first state in the country to require the court to consider the well-being of a pet when distributing property during the divorce process. While companion animals have historically been considered property – no different or better than a television or a car – this change reflects an understanding that pets occupy a unique role in our lives. In fact, Alaska’s new law allows a court to order joint ownership of pets after the divorce. Virginia law continues to treat pets as mere property, with little indication that change may be on the horizon. Below a…
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