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Richmond Virginia Family Law Blog

How can you rebuild your credit score after bankruptcy?

If you’re considering bankruptcy, one of your biggest fears may be how it will impact your credit score and creditworthiness long term. This is a source of hesitation for many people facing significant debt.

It’s true that bankruptcy stays on your credit report for seven or 10 years (depending on which type of bankruptcy you file). It’s also true that filing for bankruptcy can initially make it very difficult to qualify for access to any type of credit. That being said, however, rebuilding your credit score and your access to credit can happen more quickly than you might expect. In today’s post, we’ll discuss some tips on how to speed up the process.

USDA promotes linking SNAP benefits to child support

Almost 40 million people in Virginia and around the country receive benefits administered by the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to help them pay for food. The rules governing the program, which is sometimes referred to as food stamps, are laid down by SNAP regulations and the Food and Nutrition Act of 2015. The rules allow states to deny SNAP benefits to custodial and noncustodial parents of children under the age of 18 when they refuse to cooperate with support agencies, but few states actually implement these restrictions.

On May 1, the U.S. Department of Agriculture sent a memorandum to the directors of SNAP programs in all states urging them to implement child support cooperation requirements. Advocacy groups strongly support this position because more than one in three children in single-parent homes live in poverty. Many of these children remain in desperate situations because their noncustodial parents do not pay child support or only make payments intermittently.

Letting go of grudges before they impact your divorce

There’s an ancient proverb saying that holding onto your anger is like picking up a hot coal with the intention of throwing it at someone else – you are ultimately the one who gets burned. Most divorce attorneys would tell you from experience that this is true. There may be a lot to be angry about when going through a divorce or child custody dispute, and much of it is justified. But is it helpful to hold onto that anger, or do you need to let it go?

Grudges were the subject of a recent article in the New York Times. The article’s author notes that nearly all of us are holding onto at least one grudge. Righteous anger sometimes feels satisfying, but grudges come at a cost – to our psychological wellbeing and even our physical health.

Credit card interest and fees topped $113 billion in 2018

Consumers throughout Virginia and the rest of the U.S. paid credit card companies more than $113 billion in fees and interest in 2018, according to the New York Federal Reserve's latest Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit. That figure represents a 12% year-over-year increase, and it's $37 billion more than Americans paid in 2013. Credit card interest charges and fees are expected to keep climbing; analysts predict that they will surpass $122 billion by the end of 2019.

The Federal Reserve increased interest rates four times in 2018. Higher annual percentage rates are largely responsible for the increased credit card borrowing costs. Data from the central bank reveals that the average credit card interest rate has now risen to 16.86%, which is nearly 4% higher than it was in 2014. This is bad news for the approximately 40% of credit card holders who do not pay their bills in full each month.

Planning for education despite post-divorce finances

When a couple in Virginia decides to divorce, they may be most concerned about the effects of the separation on their children. These soon-to-be exes need to hammer out a parenting plan as well as the details of child custody and visitation. Many parents may work hard to protect their kids from emotional harm by avoiding negative talk about the other parent or working to co-parent positively together. Still, the financial effects of divorce are often some of the most significant, and the same is true when it comes to the children's education.

Many divorcing parents may want to include an agreement for future educational expenses as part of their divorce settlement. Even so, total family income tends to decline after a divorce, according to research. One study found that these negative financial effects may make children less likely to attend college after divorce. The effect was particularly pronounced for white children, often because they started out from an initially more economically privileged position. In some cases, the financial problems are less the effect of the separation than one of the reasons for divorce. For example, a husband having an unstable job is one of the major risk factors for divorce.

How divorce impacts Social Security benefits

If you are divorced you may be entitled to social security benefits based on the work record of a former spouse, even if that former spouse has gotten remarried. This is typically true for those who were married for at least 10 years and who would receive a smaller benefit than their former spouse would. This does not have to be addressed in your final divorce decree for you be entiteld to the benefit. 

A person who wants to claim benefits based on a former spouse's work record would need to be unmarried and age 62 or older. Finally, that former spouse would need to be entitled to collect benefits. Individuals may be able to start claiming their benefits at age 62. However, the full retirement age is 67 for anyone born after 1960, so collecting benefits early may result in smaller monthly payments.

Bill would make student debts easier to discharge

The amount of student loan debt outstanding in Virginia and across the country is expected to grow to $2 trillion by the year 2022. This would be far more than the amount of auto loan or credit card debt, and experts believe a large percentage of the student debt will ultimately not be repaid. Student loan borrowers, though, have largely not had the option to discharge their debts in bankruptcy. A new bill might soon make it easier for them to do that.

The bankruptcy rules have changed a few times since the 1970s with effects on student loan discharge in bankruptcy. First, there was a requirement that student loan borrowers wait five years or more after they started repaying to declare bankruptcy. In 1990, the waiting period was increased to seven years. Late in the 1990s, the rule changed again, and borrowers have not been allowed since to discharge student loan debt unless they can demonstrate undue hardship.


You can provide for the care of your pet after you are gone. You can name the person, and any successor person as the Trustee to care for your pet. Included in your trust plan is funding for veterinary care, medicine, housing and food for your beloved pet for the rest of its life. You can also direct your Trustee to take advantage of advanced veterinary diagnostic tests, treatments and surgeries. You can set aside funds for your Trustee's use for these services as well as to address the disposition of your pet's remains by euthanasia when their time comes. You can also compensate your Trustee for their time and efforts on behalf of your pet. The trust lasts for the lifetime of your pet. If you become incapacitated, disabled or are absent for long periods your trust can provide for the care of your pet. You can also provide for the care of more than one pet in one trust.

You do not have to euthanize your healthy pet at the end of your life. If you think you can require your pet be "put to sleep" at your death and buried with you, think again. Virginia law does not allow a commercial cemetery to bury any pet remains in a casket with a person. (See Va Code Section 54.1-2310.) Note: a private or family cemetery may be allowed to bury your pet remains with you.

Income and other factors in determining support

When Virginia couples get a divorce and one person has to pay child or spousal support to the other, the court will take several factors into account in determining the amount. In addition to the regular salary a person earns, a court will look at other types of compensation. This could include deferred compensation, corporate retirement account contributions, and interest and dividends.

If the income reported does not seem sufficient to support the lifestyle the family is living, the court may also investigate further. For example, if a person is getting family money, the court may include that in calculations. The object is to ensure that the family continues living as similar a lifestyle as possible.

How to determine spousal support amounts

In many divorce cases in Virginia, spousal support is among the final issues to be resolved. This is because the parties to a divorce need to split assets and otherwise determine what resources each person will walk away from the marriage with. At that point, talks can begin regarding the potential need for financial assistance. There are many factors that come into play when deciding how much support an ex-spouse should receive.

The most common factors include the length of the marriage and the age and health of each partner. Other factors include the previous lifestyle enjoyed and a spouse's ability to make payments after the marriage comes to an end. In some cases, spousal support will be awarded on a temporary basis until the recipient is able to find employment.

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