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

Monday, December 15, 2014

Questions to Ask Yourself Before Christmas Break for your Children

If you have a custody agreement or order in place, here are a few questions you should be able to answer BEFORE your child's Christmas break starts.

1.  What dates are the children with me and what dates are they with their other parent over the winter break?
2.  On dates that the children move from one house to another, what time does this move take place?
3.  On dates that the children move from one house to another, who is responsible for the transportation and/or where do I meet the other parent?
4.  How do we handle Christmas and Christmas Eve if the children are not with me for those nights?  Are we doing a separate Christmas celebration before or after?
5.  Do we have a plan for the children to talk to both of their parents on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day?
6.  Have I reviewed the plan with the children's other parent to ensure we are on the same page?

Custody agreement and court orders are great to have in place but, by nature of the circumstances, will never include every detail on how to handle things that come up.  It's a good idea to work with the other parent now, rather than later, to make sure you both understand your responsibilities over the winter break.

The last thing you want is for your children to be uncertain of who's house they will be at and when, all while they are getting excited for Christmas to be here.  You also don't want to have to be dealing with arguing over details when you are trying to get in the Christmas spirit and enjoy your holidays as well.

Answer those questions to yourself and then have a conversation with your children's other parent to make sure you both agree on all of the the answers.  This will help ensure you have a great, peaceful holiday and more importantly, your children will too.

If you need help interpreting your agreement or coming to a new one quickly, please contact us at (804) 447-0146 or

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Think Twice Before Modifying Your Car

Most people are aware that many modifications to cars are illegal: a louder exhaust, different headlights, license plate covers, etc.  However, most people are also willing to risk that minor traffic ticket to have their car look a certain way.  There may be more serious consequences to those "minor" modifications. 

In the past, we have certainly advocated that you prevent all possible circumstances in which you would drive after drinking (if you haven't seen those posts, here's a good start for you:  More Than Just A DUI).  What we have not yet addressed is how some DUI arrests come about. 

Aside from some exceptions (such as DUI checkpoints), the police officer must have reasonable suspicion and/or probable cause (depending on the situation) to pull you over while you are driving.  They cannot randomly target you to pull you over to see if you have been drinking (again, there are some exceptions to this).  So here is how the scenario plays out: you decided you wanted a modified exhaust for your car and this exhaust happens to be an illegal modification.  A few weeks, months, etc. later you go to happy hour with co-workers after a long day and have a couple beers.  You've paced yourself and feel fine to drive so you get in your car to drive home. 

Let's stop here for a moment for a brief note.  You should realize you may FEEL fine to drive and may not actually be fine to drive.  Most people do not get into a car after happy hour thinking they should not be driving and decide to drive anyways. 

Now, back to our scenario.  You are driving home and are not swerving or showing any other signs that you are intoxicated or have had a couple of drinks.  You don't go through a checkpoint.  You do, however, pass a police officer, who happens to suspect that your exhaust is an illegal modification to your car.  That police officer then pulls you over to ticket you for your illegal exhaust (this is the minor ticket you decided was worth risking for having your car the way you like).  During this minor traffic stop, the police officer notices a smell of alcohol on your breath.  From here, it all of the sudden turns from a minor traffic stop to a DUI investigation in which you may be subjected to field sobriety tests, breathalyzers and potentially arrested for a DUI. 

The point of this post is to bring awareness to you that minor modifications to vehicles may have more long term, serious consequences that you should seriously consider before making those modifications.  Our bigger message, however, is to continue to raise awareness to you and the community that having a couple of drinks and then driving is a bad idea all around. 

If you have any questions about this post, have been charged with a minor traffic offense or a DUI and would like a consultation, please contact us at (804) 447-0146 or

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

3 Things to Know Before You Meet with a Divorce Attorney

Many of my clients come to me and are nervous about meeting with me, a divorce attorney.  This tends to come from not being sure what to expect from meeting with a divorce attorney.  As I've said before, it is important you at least meet with a divorce attorney very early on in the process (or better yet, BEFORE you begin the process).  Find out more about that, here

If you are considering divorce, here's a few things to know before you meet with an attorney and what to expect from that meeting.  Keep in mind, however, each attorney operates slightly differently and each case is unique so you're initial meeting may vary to some degree.

1.  Be ready to tell your story.
When I first meet with a potential client, it is important that I gather as much information as possible.  Don't worry about having every detail down pat but do go into the meeting knowing the basics of how you came into the marriage and how the marriage has changed, what has caused you to consider divorce, etc.

2.  Bring some questions.
We, attorneys as a whole, want to be helpful.  Bring some questions that you have to your initial meeting. Make a list of questions you have about the process, the attorney and your specific situation.  We will typically do our best to answer your questions that you bring to us.  However, you should know that each divorce case is different, unique and in some way complicated.  As a result of that, some of the answers to your questions may not be clear at the initial meeting; the attorney may need to research the law or may need some additional information from you before being able to provide you a complete answer.

3.  Remember confidentiality. 
Some people are nervous about meeting with an attorney because they are providing that attorney very personal, intimate information about their lives.  Remember that your meeting with the attorney, even if you decide not to retain that attorney, is confidential and cannot be shared with anyone else at any time.  Also remember that divorce attorneys handle a lot of divorce cases.  We are in the business of protecting you, not judging you.  After considering these things, if you still do not feel comfortable being honest and providing that information to an attorney, that attorney may not be the right fit for you.  

At the conclusion of your initial consultation, the decision rests in your hands.  If you do not feel comfortable or for any reason are hesitant about retaining that attorney, you are under no obligation to hire them.  Even if you are comfortable and feel positively about the meeting, you may still want to meet with other attorneys to determine which attorney is the best fit. 

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

Monday, October 20, 2014

What To Do With Your Will

Having a will is a great thing, as I'm sure you've noticed from my previous posts.  However, getting that will drafted and signed is only half the battle.  Here's a few tips for what to do now that you have your will in hand.

1.  Find a safe place to keep it.
Take some time to think about your lifestyle and your family members' lifestyles and determine the best place to store your original will.  One place a lot of people think of but should probably NOT use is a safe deposit box.  If your family members are unable to access your safe deposit box without you, they will not be able to obtain the will if you pass away (same goes for your advanced medical directive and power of attorney).  You probably want to keep it somewhere safe, such as a an actual safe and want to keep in mind that it should be durable.  One potentially good option is to store it in a fireproof safe. 

2.  Make sure your family members know how to find it. 
Once you've determined where to store your will, you want to make sure your family members and/or anyone named in the will know how to access it.  If it is in a fire proof safe, does someone have the code to unlock the safe?  Do they know exactly where you store your fire proof safe?  Your will might not do you any good if no one can find it when it's time to use it. 

3. Give copies to all your family members.
It is often a good idea to give each family member or person who is named in the will a copy of your will.  This may come in handy should your will become lost or accidentally destroyed in the future.  In addition, it will make your wishes and desires less of a shock when the time comes to execute those wishes and desires. 

4.  Talk to your family members about your wishes.
It is usually a good idea to have a conversation with your loved ones about the wishes that you put in your will.  It may give you the opportunity to clear up any vague wishes and make sure your family is on the same page.  While the will gives your wishes and desires enforceability, it creates a calmer, more peaceful time for your family if they already know and understand exactly how you want things to happen. 

A will is a great tool to have for yourself and your family members.  However, taking the above listed actions ensures that your wishes are more understood and heightens the possibility that everything will happen smoothly and exactly as you wish. 

If you would like a consultation on a will or other estate planning documents, please contact us at (804) 447-0146 or

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

5 Things To Do After A Loved One Passes Away

In the weeks and months following the death of a loved one, you may be overwhelmed with what to do next.  It is difficult to deal with your emotions and the legal processes that need to be completed. Here's a list of a few things you may need to be taking care of after a loved one passes away. 

1.  Obtain the death certificate. 
You will need to obtain the death certificate for your loved one and most likely, you will need more than one.  The following people may require a death certificate: the court (where your loved one's property will be distributed through probate), the banks (for any joint bank accounts and/or safe deposit boxes), stock companies with whom your loved one held stock, etc.  While you can order additional death certificates in the future, it's a good idea to try to figure out about how many you will need and order them all at once. 

2.  Schedule an appointment with a probate and/or estate planning attorney. 
You will want to sit down with your attorney to go over the details of how your loved one's property is going to be distributed.  You should do this regardless of whether you will be the person administering the estate because you want to ensure your property rights will be protected as well.  An attorney will give you a basic idea of what the legal process will look like for you as the property is distributed over the coming months or years.

3.  Schedule an appointment with the probate court.
The first step to distributing property is to schedule an appointment with the probate court.  You will need to bring the original will, the death certificate and a check (for an amount the court will specify).  When you schedule your appointment, make sure you ask what all the court requires you to bring to the meeting so that you do not have to schedule a second meeting.

4.  Get organized. 
Going through probate, if you are administering the estate (i.e., making the distributions), you will need to have very detailed records of all property owned by your loved one, any property earned after your loved one's passing and any property distributed after your loved one's passing.  The sooner you get all of the property organized and have a method to maintain your records, the better off you will be in the long run.  This is something you may want to talk with your attorney about while you are doing #2 above. 

5.  Revisit your will, advanced medical directive and power of attorney.
When a close loved one passes away, it may affect your current estate plan.  If that person was designated as your power of attorney, you may want to have a new power of attorney drawn up so that it remains valid and in effect.  It may also effect your will and how your property is distributed, or more importantly, who will be taking care of your children should something happen to you.  

There is obviously much more that will likely need to be done; however, by doing these 5 things you should be headed in the right direction to obtain some closure and honor your loved one's wishes.  

If you have recently had a love one pass away and would like a consultation, please contact us at (804) 447-0146 or