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Richmond Virginia Family Law Blog

How grandparent child custody works

In the Commonwealth of Virginia, grandparents have the right to obtain custody of their grandchildren in certain situations. That's because Virginia allows any person with a legitimate interest in the well being of a child to petition. Getting custody requires a court order, and not all grandparents who petition will have their wishes granted. Grandparents can also petition for child visitation in cases where they are being denied visits by a child's guardian.

Federal laws are designed to protect the parental rights of mothers and fathers. Therefore, grandparent custody or visitation may be seen as an infringement of these rights. That's why obtaining grandparent custody can be a difficult legal battle. Petitioners need to show that the rights of natural parents require infringement and that grandparent custody is in the kids' best interests.

Child support is rarely a simple matter

Child support is one of the most important pieces of a divorce proceeding in Virginia and elsewhere because it directly pertains to the best interests of the child. In most cases, child support payment schedules will be included in the final divorce decree when sole or majority custody is granted. Essentially, this means that the parent who takes care of the child most or all of the time will be the one to receive payments. In addition, child support payments typically last until the child is no longer considered a minor at the age of 18, provided they have also graduated from high school. Otherwise, child support continues until the month the child graduates.

However, as WiseGeek points out, different states have different laws regarding how child support is handled. Some parents may also need to establish paternity or legal guardianship prior to child support being ordered in cases where parents are separating but were never married. In other cases, changes in income expectations or custody, such as when one parent remarries, may require an amendment to existing child support orders.

Helping children of divorce plan for the holidays

The holidays are usually a time for joy and family. However, as some Virginia families know, they can also be the source of stress and worry, particularly when it comes to planning holiday schedules for children after a divorce. Although the emotions associated with ending a marriage can be overwhelming for all involved, there are ways parents can make the experience more enjoyable for their children while maintaining a calm environment.

Experts recommend keeping the kids informed about what will happen during the holidays. The children should know when and where they will be with each household and what they will be doing. This can help the kids prepare for a holiday season that might be significantly different than past seasons due to the changes brought about by the divorce. Organization and planning are the most important parts of this process as the parents should attempt to put aside their differences to coordinate the holiday schedule carefully. It's important to avoid any misunderstandings that can then complicate and escalate issues.

For help with developing a plan for the holidays or to review your existing schedule, contact one of our attorneys at 804-767-6850.

Options exist for parents who cannot get along

Whenever Virginia parents contemplate splitting up, their first concern is typically the details of the child custody and co-parenting arrangement. The type of agreement best suited for a family is largely dependent upon the nature of the parents' dealings with each other. If the parties are able to set aside hostilities and truly focus on the best interests of the children without bringing personal acrimony into parenting decisions, a collaborative agreement is recommended. Unfortunately, a large percentage of people are simply unable to operate with the level of cooperation needed for a collaborative parenting plan to effectively function.

An alternative for couples with substantial levels of hostility tainting their interpersonal relations is a parallel parenting plan. Under this type of agreement, the parties are guided by family law professionals in structuring a plan that accounts for most foreseeable contingencies. The goal is to limit required interaction between the parties by including specific guidance in the written document. The parties them are limited to communicating in a formal and businesslike fashion regarding mostly logistical matters. Email is generally the preferred method of communication, but third parties, texts or direct contact can take place under certain parameters such as medical emergencies.

Evidence needed to prove alcohol abuse in child custody cases

Many factors lead couples in Virginia to pursue divorce, but the endangerment of a child adds urgency to the matter for a concerned parent. A recent letter to an advice columnist from a father worried about his child in the company of a heavy-drinking mother highlights the need to collect evidence about an alcohol or drug-abusing spouse.

The man disclosed that his wife had rarely tended the child and complained about being asked to watch the child after school before the man got home from work. during the separation, his wife had gotten a new telephone number and blocked him on social media. These actions prevented him from contacting her even when she had their son. He worried that she might drive drunk with the boy in the car.

Tips for giving kids stability after divorce

When parents in Virginia get a divorce, their children may struggle to adjust. However, parents can take steps to make the process less difficult. They should avoid engaging in conflict in front of their children, and they should try to change their routines as little as possible. They should keep children in the same school if they can and should try to agree on a set of expectations that will be similar in both their homes. Children may lose touch with cousins and other extended family members on one side during a divorce, so parents should encourage these relationships.

Some parents go a step further and use a technique called "nesting" to keep their children's lives stable after a divorce. Nesting allows children and parents to stay in the family home, but the parents take turns living there. They also usually share another place nearby.

What happens to your frozen embryos during a divorce?

More American couples are turning to in vitro fertilization (IVF) to get pregnant. Research suggests around 5 percent of American couples will try IVF to have a baby this year. However, some of these couples will have to face a tough decision about what to do with their frozen embryos if their marriage ends in divorce.

Most states across the nation consider embryos as property, however, the laws vary widely and are subject to change. As such, it can be wise to rely on preexisting third-party contracts and postnuptial agreements to determine what happens to the embryos, rather than leaving the matter up for debate in court. 

Kinship Care Not Custody: Alternative to Sharing Custody with a Non-Parent.

Raising a child is challenging. Parents must devote significant time and attention to caring for their children. A job loss, serving time in jail, an injury, or an addiction can impact a parent's ability to care for their child. Grandparents or other well-intentioned family members or friends might offer to help care for a child. However, they'll probably ask to have some legal authority to make school or medical decisions. They may ask for formal custody or to share custody with you while they care for a child.

Child support and custody for divorced and unmarried fathers

Some Virginia fathers may face obstacles in getting custody or visitation rights to their children. If they fall far enough behind in child support, for example, they could go to jail. They could also lose visitation rights if the other parent files for and receives a protective order which includes the child. The father's ability to see his child could be impacted for the duration of the protective order. Courts are not supposed to favor mothers over fathers, but mothers make up more than 80 percent of custodial parents.

Fathers struggling to keep up with support payments should still pay what they can. In addition, they may want to work with an attorney to request a modification in support. Courts may grant these in some cases, such as after a job loss. While a modification will not affect past support payments, it can lower future obligations.

Good reasons to have a prenuptial agreement

Virginia residents may assume that prenuptial agreements are only necessary for the rich and famous. However, they can be beneficial for almost anyone who is about to get married. For instance, if one helps to pay a spouse's student loans, a prenuptial agreement could determine if repayment will be required following divorce.

It is worth noting that the debt itself generally stays in the name of the person who accrues it. Therefore, an individual is generally not required to pay some or all of that debt if a marriage ends. If debt is accrued during a marriage, however, it could be split following a divorce. Of course, debt-related issues could be addressed by a prenuptial agreement.

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