To most people, there is nothing more important than family. When legal issues arise that jeopardize your family unit, it can be incredibly stressful. Family law matters are some of the thorniest and most delicate cases in our legal system.
An experienced Virginia Beach family law attorney can handle a range of legal matters, from divorce and separation to child custody to adoption. With their expert guidance, you can ensure that your case proceeds as smoothly as possible. They can also offer you legal advice on how to best protect your rights and your family.
The legal team of Poole, Brooke, Plumlee is dedicated to helping families get the legal help that they need. Whether you are considering divorce or want to adopt your stepchild, we can assist you. Reach out to our law offices today to schedule a consultation with a member of our legal team.
Types of Family Law Cases
Family law is a broad area of law that encompasses many different types of legal matters. Our law firm has significant experience handling all types of Virginia family law matters, including divorce, separation, alimony, property division, child custody, and child support. We work with all types of families, including unmarried couples and same-sex families.
Divorce and Separation
Virginia has both fault and no-fault divorces. To obtain a no-fault divorce, you must be separated for at least one year, except that if you have a separation agreement and no minor children you may obtain a divorce after being separated for at least 6 months. A fault divorce has certain advantages when it comes to property division and alimony, but it can be more difficult to prove this type of case.
Many divorce cases are uncontested, which means that the parties are able to work out an agreement on things like property division and child custody as part of a no-fault divorce. However, some divorces wind up becoming contested and require court litigation. In either situation,a Virginia Beach family law attorney can help you protect your rights.
Virginia also has what is effectively a legal separation, known as a divorce from bed and board, which can only be granted in cases of cruelty or desertion. With this type of separation, the decree effectively acts like a divorce judgment, except that it does not permit the parties to get remarried. A Virginia Beach divorce lawyer can help you decide if a divorce from bed and board makes sense given your unique situation.
Spousal support, or alimony, is money that one spouse pays to support the other during a period of separation or divorce. In Virginia, judges can award temporary support while a divorce or spousal support case is pending and ongoing support (for a defined duration or indefinitely) after the case is finalized.
A court will consider many factors in determining what – if any – alimony should be awarded. This includes things like the marital standard of living, each spouse’s earning capacity, and whether each spouse contributed to the other’s education, training, or career. Fault – such as adultery – can also play a role in alimony awards, as a party who is found to have cheated on their spouse may be barred from receiving alimony in Virginia.
Virginia is an equitable distribution state when it comes to dividing up assets and debts in a divorce. With equitable distribution, a court will split property and debts between the spouses in a way that is considered equitable or fair. This does not necessarily lead to a 50-50 split in assets.
Importantly, Virginia courts will only divide marital property, which includes assets that either spouse acquired or earned during the marriage. Separate property belongs to one spouse. It includes things like property that a spouse owned before marriage and a gift or inheritance to one spouse.
Courts consider many factors when doing property division, such as the length of the marriage, each spouse’s contribution, tax consequences, and the spouses’ age and physical and mental condition. If you want to avoid the more uncertain nature of having a court divide your property and debts, you may be able to work out an agreement outside of court with the help of a Virginia Beach family law lawyer through mediation or another form of alternative dispute resolution.
A prenuptial agreement is a contract that a couple signs in anticipation of marriage. A prenup sets out a plan for how assets will be divided in the event of divorce. It may also include a provision for alimony. Prenuptial agreements cannot address issues related to child custody or support.
To be valid in Virginia, a prenuptial agreement must be in writing and signed by both parties. They are not enforceable if one or both of the spouses did not sign the agreement voluntarily and/or if the agreement was unconscionable in some way. A prenuptial agreement is unconscionable when it creates a gross disparity in the division of the assets and is based on overreaching or oppressive influences or leaves a spouse with a degree of disability destitute A Virginia family law lawyer can work with you to determine if a prenup is necessary and to draft a solid enforceable agreement to protect your interests.
There are two types of custody in Virginia. Legal custody involves a parent’s right to make important decisions about a child’s well-being, such as medical care, education, and religion. Physical custody refers to where a child will live. A court may award joint or sole custody or some combination of both.
Courts do not typically award shared physical custody unless both homes are safe and suitable for the child. Joint legal custody tends to be the norm but is not appropriate in all cases, especially where a parent has been found guilty of abusing the child. With sole custody, one parent has the exclusive authority to make decisions for the child (legal custody) and/or to care for the child (physical custody). The parent who does not have primary physical custody will likely be awarded visitation or parenting time.
Parents can often work out custody agreements between themselves. Otherwise, a court will award custody based on what is best for the child, looking at a range of factors such as the child’s needs and the willingness of each parent to maintain a close relationship with the child. A Virginia Beach family law attorney can work with you to help you seek or modify an order of child custody.
In Virginia, both parents are responsible for supporting their children. Virginia uses a formula, known as the guidelines, to determine a presumptive amount of child support. Deviations may be made if the guidelines are unjust or inappropriate in a particular case. The guidelines look at the number of children to support, the custodial arrangements, the income of both parents, and additional factors. The total child support obligation is then determined and each parent is assigned a percentage of the whole amount after taking into account all of the required factors. The noncustodial parent then makes the payments for their part to the custodial parent.
Child support orders may be issued as part of a divorce case or a separate child support filing in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court. The Department of Social Services also has the authority to issue an administrative child support order upon application of a custodial parent.
Adoption creates a legal parent-child relationship between a child and an adult who is not their biological parent. There are several different types of adoption, including private adoption, international adoption, adoption from foster care, and stepparent adoption.
There is a strict court process that must be followed in order to adopt a child, including filing a petition for adoption. Typically a home study is required. The biological parents normally must consent to an adoption. Exceptions exist, such as where the rights of a birth parent have been terminated by a court or the father was convicted of rape and the child was conceived as the result of such act. The adoption process involves a complex interplay of laws and requirements and can be difficult to navigate without an attorney. If you are interested in growing your family through adoption, our Virginia Beach family law attorneys can help.
How Poole Brooke Plumlee Can Help
When it comes to family law, you can rely on the experience and expertise of Poole Brooke Plumlee. We use our knowledge of Virginia law to help our clients achieve the best possible result. We treat each client with compassion, knowing just how important their family law case is to them.
Founded in 1987, our law firm has grown and evolved over the years to serve a broader cross-section of the Virginia Beach community. For each case, we advocate for our clients to achieve a favorable outcome, whether through mediation, litigation, or simply negotiating with the other party. To learn more or to schedule a consultation with a Virginia Beach family law attorney, give our law offices a call at 757-499-1841 or fill out our online contact form.
How Long Will My Case Take?
It depends. Every family law case is different, so there is no set timetable for how long a case will take to resolve. That being said, if you are able to work out an agreement outside of court (whether through mediation or another type of dispute resolution), it will usually take less time than going to court. If your case goes to trial, then it may take a year or longer.
At the beginning of your case, your lawyer may be able to give you a rough estimate of how long it will take. This number may change as the case proceeds and you learn more about the other side’s position and their willingness to compromise. Reach out to Poole Brooke Plumlee to schedule a consultation with a Virginia Beach family law attorney.
What Will Happen with My Kids, House, and Pets?
If you are considering a divorce – or if your spouse has filed for divorce – then you probably have some very legitimate worries about what happens to the things that are important to you, such as your kids, pets, and home. Like so many legal questions, the answer is that it depends. Child custody determinations are made in the best interests of the child, for example, while property division is supposed to be equitable.
If you want a better idea of what will happen in a divorce, then your best option is to talk to an attorney about the specifics of your case. They will listen to you and then offer you advice on what might happen if you move forward with a divorce. Contact Poole Brooke Plumlee PC to talk to a Virginia Beach family law attorney about your case.