When we represent a client going through a divorce, we often hear the following questions:
- How can I avoid a prolonged and painful process?
- How can I protect my children and make sure their well-being comes first?
- How can I protect my financial interests while pursuing fairness?
Divorce can be a difficult, emotionally charged process, even when spouses agree about significant issues. However, with an experienced family law attorney by your side, you can confidently navigate challenging terrain.
What Are The Main Sticking Points In a Divorce?
When we handle a divorce case, the main points of contention are almost always the same: child custody and child support, spousal support, property division, and financial challenges, including distributing assets and debt.
Child Custody is one of the most stressful and emotional elements of any divorce involving minor children. Custody decisions involve both legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody gives one or both parents the right to make decisions for the child, including decisions about education and medical care. The court can order joint custody, with parents sharing the decision-making process, or award sole custody to one parent. Physical custody determines which parent the child will live with and when. While the court may consider a child’s wishes, the court is tasked with assuring minor children of frequent and continuing contact with both parents until the child is 18, absent extenuating circumstances. There is no bright line rule in Virginia as to when a child’s preference can be considered. The reasonable preference of the child, if the court deems the child to be of reasonable intelligence, understanding, age, and experience to express such a preference, is one of ten different factors the court must consider and weigh in determining custody and visitation matters.
Child Support is money a noncustodial parent must pay to the custodial parent to cover the child’s basic needs, including food, clothing, shelter, healthcare, and education. In Virginia, child support payments hinge on the number of children in the family, the combined gross incomes of the parents, health insurance costs, and work-related childcare costs paid by each parent. However, getting a child support order and receiving child support payments are not always the same. Enforcement is vital, and a seasoned family law attorney can help.
Division of Property can include real estate, vehicles, stocks, retirement accounts, and pensions. Virginia is an “equitable distribution” rather than a “community property” state. “Equitable distribution” doesn’t automatically mean “equal distribution.” Virginia distinguishes between marital property and separate property. Generally, separate property includes property one spouse owned before the marriage, acquired after the date of separation and gifts or inheritances given to one spouse during the marriage from someone other than the other spouse. Marital property is all property acquired during the marriage including property or savings derived from employment earnings during the marriage. However, because of the nature of financial arrangements in most marriages, which property falls into which category is not always cut and dried. The court may decide that some property may be a mix of separate and marital property. A family law attorney can help you parse through complicated financial circumstances and walk away with a fair and equitable property division.
Spousal Support, sometimes referred to as alimony, has changed over the years as more women have entered the workforce and many have become breadwinners in their households. However, spousal support still involves a higher-earning spouse financially supporting a lower-earning spouse for a specific amount of time. In Virginia, there’s no set formula for determining spousal support. Some of the factors considered in determining the amount and duration of spousal support include:
Each spouse’s financial resources and ability to support themselves independently.
- How long the marriage lasted and whether one spouse stayed home with children. Often, one spouse makes career changes that affect their earning potential.
- How long will it take for the lower-income or stay-at-home spouse to get the education and training they need to find a good job?
- How much did each spouse contribute to property owned jointly or separately?
Can Divorce Documents be Modified?
Certain provisions of your Marital Settlement Agreement and/or Final Order of Divorce are modifiable while other provisions are not. Generally, provisions related to child support, child custody, and visitation schedules are modifiable based upon a material change in circumstances warranting modification in the best interests of the child(ren). For example, custody orders often need to be changed as children grow and schedules change. Spousal support provisions are modifiable as to amount and duration unless the agreement expressly states otherwise. An experienced family law attorney can help you evaluate whether modifications are needed and advise you on the best way to achieve those modifications, either by settlement negotiations, mediation, litigation, or a combination of those procedures.
How Can I Get the Best Results for Myself and My Children in a Divorce?
If you’re going through a divorce, it’s an emotionally vulnerable time. It’s also a time when clear-headed decision-making and courage are vital. Hiring an experienced family law attorney can help you navigate a challenging time and become stronger and well-positioned to succeed post-divorce.
The team at Troxell Leigh P.C. in Leesburg, Virginia includes one of the region’s top divorce attorneys. Lindsay Jefferies Mohler is one of only two Loudoun-based attorneys who has been selected as a Top Lawyer in Family Law and Divorce by Northern Virginia Magazine in 2021 and 2022. She strives to create sophisticated solutions to complex family matters. Whether you’re going through a no-fault or fault-based divorce, our attorneys assist with custody and visitation, child support, spousal support, equitable distribution of assets and debts, property settlements, and beyond. And we’ll continue to support you with post-divorce modifications and enforcement as needed.