The divorce process puts a strain on everyone in a family, especially children. A lawyer who shows understanding and compassion while pursuing a positive result can make all the difference during this experience. At Altizer, McGraw and French PLLC, in Tazewell, our lawyers have more than 75 combined years of experience personalizing our approach to the unique circumstances of divorcing parties. You can rely on us to steadfastly serve your best interests during this challenging time.
Either spouse can file for divorce in Virginia if at least one has been a resident of the commonwealth for at least six months. The complaint is filed in the county court where one spouse resides. The petitioner has the option of filing a no-fault divorce or citing grounds in the complaint. Such grounds include:
All grounds for divorce require clear and convincing evidence, and the respondent spouse has the right to defend against the allegations.
If the spouses do not want to litigate matters of marital misconduct, the petitioner can file for a no-fault divorce, but only after a separation of one year. This need not be a legal separation, but the couple must have lived apart for an uninterrupted period. If the couple signs a marital settlement agreement and has no minor children, the period of separation required is only six months.
The cost and time involved in a divorce depends on many factors, including the degree to which the spouses can cooperate in reaching a settlement, the size of the marital estate and agreement on parenting issues. If there are significant disagreements requiring hearings on matters such as alimony, property division, child custody and child support, the divorce could be lengthy and expensive. Many couples attempt to reach settlements through negotiation or mediation so they can avoid a hearing and save time and money, and prevent stress.
In Virginia, courts decide all child custody issues based on “the best interests of the child.” There are two types of custody:
Each type of custody can be granted as sole (to one parent exclusively) or joint (shared between the parents). The court considers many factors when deciding on various custody options but today tends to favor joint custody whenever possible. If one parent is unable to provide a residence for the child or to serve as a custodial parent, that parent usually has visitation rights, unless the court finds that continuing contact would not be in the child’s best interests. Child custody orders can be modified when a significant change of circumstances occurs or when one parent refuses to abide by the order.
Virginia law requires both parents to provide material support for their children. The Virginia Code provides guidelines for arriving at a fair allocation for each parent that consider the parents’ income, the number of children and the amount of time the children live with each parent. The court has some discretion to alter the presumptive amount under the Code’s guidelines.
Our attorneys will work to get you a fair child support order by closely examining your spouse’s financial disclosure for completeness and accuracy, as hidden or underreported income can lead to a calculation that is less favorable to you. We also make sure that the court is aware of important facts that could influence the final determination, such as a child’s special needs.
Child support obligations generally last until age 18 but can last until age 19 if the child is still in high school. If a child is incapable of becoming self-supporting, child support can last for the child’s lifetime. A parent can request a modification of the child support obligation (upward or downward) if there has been a substantial change in circumstances. If an obligor parent fails to pay support, the courts have various enforcement methods available to compel payment, even across state lines.
Divorce proceedings have many facets, and complications can arise in any area when one spouse refuses to cooperate, though we will attempt to resolve issues out of court whenever possible.
One of the first issues to be resolved is the division of marital property, which the law defines as any property or assets gained during the marriage. Property commonly distributed includes homes, land, cars, money and items of particular importance to each spouse. You may be able to keep certain assets that are not marital property; i.e., such items were acquired prior to marriage.
Another issue is alimony (also known as spousal support), which can help you maintain your standard of living. The amount of alimony a court might award is based on a variety of factors, including:
Our lawyers seek to achieve fair results in the property division process and to obtain as much alimony support for you as needed.
Altizer, McGraw and French PLLC in Tazewell can capably guide you through your divorce. Put your faith in our experience and our compassionate approach. Call us today at 877-695-0258 or contact us online. Evening and weekend appointments are available.