Virginia Custody: Modification of Non-Parent Custody and Visitation

A non-parent seeking an initial award of custody to a child has to meet certain difficult standards to override the presumption that the child’s best interest will be served when in the custody of his or her parents, as stated in Bailes v. Sours, 231 Va. 96 (1986) and as reflected in Va. Code § 20-124.2(B).  If this presumption is overcome, the court must simply consider the best interests of the child in determining custody.  Id.   Continue reading

Virginia Divorce: Can I Use GPS to Track My Spouse? How About My Kid? How About Both?

Let’s say you want to prove that your spouse is having an affair.  But you don’t want to pay a registered private investigator to do the legwork.  And you don’t want to do all of the legwork on your own.  So you place an electronic tracking device on your spouse’s car to help do most of the work for you.  Can you do this in Virginia? Continue reading

Virginia Divorce Law: Just Because You Got It, Doesn’t Mean It’s Protected

Imagine you’ve just wrapped up a divorce case and the court awarded you 45% of your retired ex-spouse’s pension plan. You would think that you can then rely on getting a specific amount of money, 45% of the monthly pension payment your partner has earned, and there’s no way you’ll be getting less than that. Well, not necessarily. That’s what the Court of Appeals addressed recently in the case of Pederson v. Pederson, Record No. 1178-15-4 (Va. Ct. App. 2016). Continue reading

Virginia Premarital Agreements: Yes, You Mean What You Say

Premarital agreements, also commonly known as prenuptial agreements or a “prenup”, are contracts. But family law in Virginia can act like a distortion zone, where the normal rules of court are modified or cast aside in favor of pursing fairness, or at least fairness as the judge sees it. So the question is whether a premarital agreement is interpreted like a normal contract, according to the plain language of the agreement, or can be interpreted other ways to achieve a more “fair” outcome. That’s what the Court of Appeals addressed recently in the case of McDaniel v. Griffith, Record No. 0597-15-3 (Va. Ct. App. 2016). Continue reading

Virginia Spousal Support: The Final Meanings of Cohabitation and Relationship Analogous to a Marriage?

Virginia Code § 20-109(A) was amended in 1997 to include language terminating spousal support upon “clear and convincing evidence that the spouse receiving support has been habitually cohabiting with another person in a relationship analogous to a marriage for one year or more commencing on or after July 1, 1997, the court shall terminate spousal support and maintenance unless (i) otherwise provided by stipulation or contract or (ii) the spouse receiving support proves by a preponderance of the evidence that termination of such support would be unconscionable.” Continue reading

Virginia Divorce: The Marriage that Wasn’t – Update!

“They’re baaaack…” – Poltergeist II: The Other Side, 1986

More than two years ago, we told you about the case of MacDougall v. Levick (Case No. CL-2011-4071).  As you may recall, the parties in that case, after believing themselves to be married for about nine years, were told by the Circuit Court of Fairfax County that they couldn’t get divorced because they were never married to begin with.  After more than two years’ worth of additional litigation and appeals (time flies when you’re having fun!) the Court of Appeals of Virginia issued its final decision in this case.  Continue reading