Friday, March 27, 2015

What's missing from your estate plan?

When we talk about estate planning in the simplest terms, we talk about three main documents: a will, an advanced medical directive and a power of attorney.  Having those three documents will be very helpful in protecting you, your family and your assets in the future.  Here are a few minor things that you should think about and consider to make your estate plan more well rounded.

1. Bank Accounts/Stocks
You may want to look at your bank accounts and stock holdings to see if you have a Pay on Death designation.  If you designate someone to have your account or stocks paid out to upon your death, you can avoid putting those assets through probate, meaning less headache, less taxes and quicker transfer of money.

2.  Life Insurance
Check to make sure your life insurance policies are still sufficient and properly designated.  If you properly designate a beneficiary to your life insurance policies, that money will avoid probate as well.
3. Financial Plan
Meet with a financial planner to fully understand your finances and what your short term and long term goals are so that you have assets to transfer to your family in the future. Financial planners can insure you are investing properly and that you understand your investments and assets.

4. Real Estate
You may want to revisit any real estate you own.  If appropriate for your family and situation, if you add family members to your deed, that property can transfer outside of probate as well.

Some of these items may not be appropriate or necessary for your estate plan but they are all things you should be thinking about and consider when formulating your plan.  If you are in need of an estate plan or would like to have a review of your estate plan, contact us at (804) 447-0146 or for an initial consultation.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Why I Do What I Do

Typically my posts are informational to help you have a better general understanding of the laws involved in my practice areas.  Today, I want to take a different approach and tell you a little bit about me and why I love my job.

To sum it up: I want to help you move forward in life, whether it is an employment dispute that needs to be resolved, planning for your retirement and ensuring your family is taken care of or helping you handle your family matters through a divorce or custody dispute.  I want to help you resolve the issue the best way possible to allow you to move on in life.

Here's some examples of why I love what I do:
Child custody is tough for everyone involved.  While you and the other parent (or other relatives, sometimes) are trying to figure out what is going to work in terms of child custody, I understand that no matter how simple or complex the situation, it's a tough situation.  I like to bring that aspect and that observation to the table in every matter to help you truly figure out what is going to be best for you and your family in the long term as well as the short term.

Going through a dispute with your employer can also cause a lot of stress in your life, regardless of what stage you are at in that dispute.  Work is such a large part of our lives, I want to help you bring your disputes to resolution so that you can focus on the other parts of your life (family, friends, etc).

There is a lot of stress on people who do not have an adequate estate plan in place.  Many people stay up late at night worried about the fact that they don't have the proper documents and precautions in place.  I want to help relieve that stress and make sure you and your family are properly protected in the most efficient, stress-free way as possible.

So this is why I love my job: my clients come to me with important issues and I help them resolve those dilemmas so that they can move on and fully enjoy life.  I love being in a position where I can truly help people and make a difference in their day to day lives.

I hope this post gives you a little bit of insight into my work and how I approach my cases.  Don't worry, next time I'll be back with an informational post!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Can I ask the court to change our child custody arrangement?

Motions to Amend child custody and visitation are frequently filed.  Typically, in Virginia, they are filed in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court.  So, once a motion to amend is filed, how do we know whether the court will consider changing the custody arrangement?

First, you will have to show there has been a material change in circumstances since the last court order.  What does that mean?  Generally, it means something in your life, your children's life or the other parent's life has changed which affects the custody situation.  This may be an illness of someone involved, a parent has moved, the parent has accepted a new job which changes their schedule, a parent has had another child, etc.  The key here is that the change affects the custody arrangement (this makes it a material change in circumstance) and that whatever this change is, that it was not contemplated when the previous order was made (i.e., you didn't consider that the change was coming when the court previously addressed custody).  So, if you've had another child, but when you were in court previously you were pregnant and the court considered that when determining custody, having that child does not necessarily constitute a change.

Second, you will have to prove that the change you are asking the court to make is in the best interests of the child. The court considers the factors listed here when determining what arrangement will be in the best interest of the child.

If you can prove that there is a material change in circumstances, the court will consider amending the custody arrangement.  If you can then prove that the change you are asking for is in the best interests of the child, you may be able to succeed in changing the custody arrangement.

If you are involved in a custody or divorce dispute and would like a consultation, please contact us at (804) 447-0146 or

Monday, March 16, 2015

Does your business have all of the necessary licenses?

Do you own a small business?  The amount of administrative requirements small businesses have can grow overwhelming very quickly.  Here's a small thing that you may have missed but is important to ensure is properly handled: business licenses.

Depending on your type of business, you may need additional licenses (i.e., attorneys need to license their law firms with the Virginia State Bar).  Here's what you typically need:

1) Register with the SCC (State Corporation Commission).  To do this, you will need to form a business (LLC, Sole Proprietorship, Corporation, etc) and file the initiating documents.

2) Obtain and register your registered agent.  You can act as your own registered agent in may circumstances or you can retain a registered agent service to act as your registered agent.  Either way, you need to ensure that information is properly filed with the SCC.

3) Obtain your local business license.  Most, if not all, cities and counties require a local business license.  To do this, you need to ensure your business address is in the proper zone (i.e. not residential in most cases).

As I mentioned, there may be additional licensing requirements depending on the nature of your business but these are the three most commonly required licenses.  If you are starting your own business and would like a consultation, please contact us at (804) 447-0146 or

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

3 Reasons Why Your Custody Agreement Should Be Through A Court Oder

Too many individuals come to me with child custody issues that have arisen from an agreement.  The parents separated, agreed on how custody would look and left it at that.  They might have even put their agreement in writing.  While agreeing on child custody and visitation arrangements is typically a great thing and in the best interests of the child, here's why that is not enough:

1.  Child custody can be adjusted anytime there is a material change of circumstances.

Child custody can always be amended if there is a material change of circumstances.  What is a material change of circumstance?  It is subjective but it could be, the child has now become school age, one of the parents has moved, a health issue has arisen.  

If you use the court system to formalize your agreement, you can ensure the court knows the timing of that agreement (i.e. if dad says well I moved after the previous agreement, but the last court date shows it was before the previous agreement, that may not be considered a material change of circumstances).  

It will be the responsibility of the party asking for the change to prove that there is a material change of circumstances. 

2.  Agreements, not formalized through court orders, are less enforceable.  

Agreements are enforceable as a contract, assuming they meet the requirements to be considered a contract.  Court orders are enforceable through the courts as the court enforcing their own order.  This means the court has more power to enforce the agreement and can fine or potentially hold the party in contempt for not complying.  The court cannot hold a person in contempt of court for simply violating an agreement.  

3.  Your agreement may be invalid or void.  

Going through the court and making it a valid court order means that it will be valid and enforceable.  Depending on the laws of your particular state, a verbal agreement or even a written agreement not notarized may not be sufficient to be a valid agreement.  With something as important as your children, you want to make sure that all legal requirements are met to ensure it is valid and legal.  

Now, here's the good news.  Going through the courts does not have to mean a fight.  If you and the other parent agree, you can go to the courthouse and file an agreed order.  As always, I strongly suggest you consult with an attorney about your specific circumstances before moving forward.  

If you are involved in a custody dispute and would like an initial consultation, please contact us at (804) 447-0146 or  

Monday, February 23, 2015

How is child support calculated?

Many of my clients need to know and understand how child support works.  The formula can be somewhat complicated, but child support is typically based off of a formula.  This formula is called the child support guidelines.  In Virginia, the result of the child support guidelines is the starting point for how much child support one parent should pay the other.  From there, the court may increase or decrease that amount depending on the specific circumstances of the case.

So how does this formula work?  First, you have to have a custody and visitation arrangement in place.  The court looks at that arrangement to determine what percentage of the time a child is with each parent.  At the same time, the court looks to the incomes of each parent and combines them.  The court also takes into account day care expenses, medical expenses and health insurance for the children.

Overall, the court uses the combined incomes to determine the total "cost" of raising the child.  From there, the court looks at who's expending additional money for things such as day care and health insurance for the child.  The court then takes the total "cost" of raising the child and pro-rates that amount to each parent based on the amount of time the child is in his/her care and custody.  The difference in those amounts is what one parent will be paying the other parent.

Many courts will not award child support unless there is a petition for child support.  That means, if dad petitions the court for child support, the court runs the child support guidelines and according to those guidelines, mom is actually the one owed support, the court may not award mom child support.  Mom would have to file her own petition for child support in order for that award to be made.

In most cases, child support is also back dated to the date of the filing.  So if you file for child support March 1, and the court does not hear the case and make an award until April 1, the person owing child support will owe approximately one month's worth of back child support for the time between the filing of the petition and the award of child support.

This is a basic formula that the courts use to get to a starting point for child support.  The court may increase or decrease this amount but using this formula will give you a general idea of what a court may award for child support.

If you are involved in a child support case or looking to petition for child support and would like an initial consultation, please contact us at (804) 447-0146 or

Monday, January 12, 2015

Resolving Divorce Through a Judicial Settlement Conference

In Virginia, we have a great option for people going through a divorce.  While in any type of legal case, both parties can always come to a settlement agreement without involving a third party, Virginia provides an experienced third party to help the parties resolve their differences.

This is called a judicial settlement conference.  As with any settlement conference, the parties sit down and try to work through each issue until it is resolved to everyone's satisfaction.  In a judicial settlement conference, a retired judge helps the parties come to that resolution.

So now you might be thinking why involve a retired judge instead of trying to resolve it on your own?  A retired judge has the experience of knowing what many judges are likely to do when faced with your facts and circumstances.  He/she may be able to provide some insight to help you see what might happen if you do not resolve the case before trial.  A retired judge also has the experience of understanding the emotions that come into play when you are going through a divorce and may be able to help you separate your emotions from the facts that you need to deal with in order to resolve the case.

Involving a third neutral party in settlement negotiations can always be helpful because that person has no real interest in how the case is resolved.  Using a retired judge as that third party provides you with someone who knows the law and is experienced in the law to help you resolve the issues to the best of your ability.

If a judicial settlement conference is unsuccessful, the parties always have the option to continue negotiations or take the case to trial and have a judge rule on all of the issues.  If you are going through a divorce, a judicial settlement conference may be a good avenue for you to attempt to resolve the case as amicably as possible.

If you are thinking about divorce or in the process of a divorce and would like a consultation, please contact us at (804) 447-0146 or