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Richmond Virginia Family Law Blog

Collection agencies must respect a debtor's rights

Virginia collection agencies will likely try whatever it takes to get money from a debtor. However, there are limits as to what they can do to get what they are owed. For instance, they are not allowed to contact a person before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. A debt collector is also barred from contacting a person while at work if the collector has been asked not to do so.

Family members cannot be contacted or provided information about another person's outstanding debt. An exception is made if the person a debt collector contacts is the debtor's spouse. If a debtor asks that a debt collector verify the debt, this must be done before any further collection actions are taken. Furthermore, individuals are entitled to know the amount of the debt as well as the name and address of the original creditor.

The pros and cons of assuming a mortgage after a divorce

In addition to alimony, retirement accounts and child custody and support, dealing with the marital home is often one of the most contentious issues among divorcing couples in Virginia. A common solution is for one ex to keep the home. In such a case, the next step is to determine how to handle the mortgage. One option is to retain the original joint mortgage. Another possibility is to refinance.

However, the option that tends to be at the heart of most mortgage misconceptions is loan assumption. This simply means one borrower is removed from the mortgage while the other assumes full responsibility for the remaining loan payments. As for misconceptions, one of the biggest is believing that all loans have an assumable option. In fact, many post-2008 loans don't have this feature. The original promissory note will have this information or you can call the mortgage company to find out.

Why a custody order could be changed

Virginia parents and others typically operate under the terms of a child custody agreement after a divorce. Depending on the circumstances of a case, both parents may be given custody of the child, but it is also possible that only one parent is granted custody. Regardless of what the initial order states, it may be possible to have it modified at a later date. Of course, this assumes that it is in the child's best interest to do so.

In most cases, a change will not be made unless there is a good reason for it. For instance, if it can be shown that a child is in danger, a modification could be made to the current custody order. If a parent moves, it may be necessary to reconsider a current custody agreement. Several factors will be considered, such as how far away the parent is moving and why the move is taking place.

Making Your Business Dream a Reality: Investor or Lender.

Small business and startup owners often ask how to get connected with an investor. Strangers willing to invest their hard-earned cash into supporting your dream are hard to find and, when you do find one, they will want to own part of your dream in exchange for their "investment." Quickly they go from "investor" to business partner and that is where the trouble begins.

My advice is to figure a way to get your funding without using an investor. Here is why:

1.     Investors want to own a piece of your business. That is how they differ from a lender. They come to ownership with their own ideas that may not align with yours especially in the beginning when you are trying to figure out how to run your dream as a business or later when times get tough.

2.     Once the investor becomes an owner, you can't get rid of them very easily unless they want to go. In that case, the investor will set their exit price and you may have to pay them more money than they invested. 

3.     In case your investor is not financially sound, their creditors and even soon to be ex-spouses are going to want a part of your business. If they die, that creates another problem for you.

4.     If you need a loan, credit from a supplier, or a lease, the investor will be required to provide their personal guarantee for the debt or the lease. That is the real world. They may refuse to sign or cooperate and the opportunity you desperately need slips away.

5.     Investors want to be paid first before you are paid and in some cases before other creditors of your business get paid. That can kill your cash flow.

Mortgage misconceptions related to divorce and the marital home

Divorcing couples in Virginia and elsewhere tend to disagree over issues like alimony, retirement accounts, pensions and child support. The marital home is another common source of contention when a marriage comes to an end. Oftentimes, a settlement results in one spouse keeping the home. If this is what happens, there are typically three options with the mortgage: keeping the original joint mortgage, refinancing it, or assuming the original mortgage.

Assuming the home loan is the option about which many people have lingering mistaken beliefs. The biggest mortgage misconception is that all loans can be assumed. In fact, many loans cannot. People can find out if their loans are assumable by looking at the original promissory note or calling the lender. Another misconception is that a mortgage assumption can be completed with a simple call to the lender. However, someone assuming a home loan will still have to prove that he or she can handle the full debt him or herself. This process usually involves providing documentation of one's income, assets and other relevant details.

Handling cryptocurrency assets in a divorce

An increasing number of divorcing couples in Virginia who have to address cryptocurrency holdings may find that the divorce process is more time-consuming and complicated than they thought. This is because dealing with cryptocurrency assets brings with it a number of issues.

Ever since the launch of the Bitcoin in 2009, cryptocurrencies have been a part of the financial industry. However, there are few family law firms that have the knowledge or expertise necessary to properly handle such assets. Cryptocurrencies can be notoriously difficult to valuate as their prices are constantly changing. The nature of the assets also makes them very easy to conceal if divorcing spouses do not want to disclose all of their financial assets.

Income limits for Chapter 13

People in Virginia considering declaring bankruptcy may wonder whether they qualify for Chapter 13. They tend to ask about the income limits for filing a Chapter 13 bankruptcy as well as the required size of debt itself. What many people are surprised to learn is that there is no income limit for filing a Chapter 13, but the size of debt one can hold is limited: To qualify, one's unsecured debt cannot exceed $394,725 whereas their secured debt must stay below $1,184,200.

Seeing as there are no income limits when it comes to qualifying for a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, the only issue is whether the debt holder is able to repay the debt and is willing to do so. The source of the income itself is of little relevance as long as it is disclosed and submitted to the court. Individuals also need to prove that they've filed both their state and federal taxes over the previous four years. Otherwise, they risk having their case delayed if not tossed out altogether.

Divorce and claiming dependents

When parents in Virginia file their federal income tax returns, they can generally claim their children as dependents. However, if they are divorced or separated, they should make sure that the other parent is not claiming the children as dependents as well. If multiple people claim the same dependents, the Internal Revenue Service will have to take a second look at those returns and determine who can actually claim those dependents.

Individuals who claim dependents may also be able to claim the Head of Household filing status. They may also benefit from credits like the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credits, the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit. These can all significantly impact their taxes.

Perceptions of domestic violence aren't always accurate

Injuries to the head or face may be indications that an individual in Virginia has experienced domestic abuse. This is according to a study conducted by a doctor at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. However, there may be other signs that doctors need to look out for. For instance, an injury to the arm or leg could also be a signal that abuse has occurred.

An injury to a bone in the hand could indicate that an individual was defending when the abuse occurred. Conversely, an injured bone closer to the wrist could indicate that an individual had committed an assault. It is important that abuse victims are allowed to talk to medical professionals while they are alone. In many cases, they will seek treatment while being accompanied by the person who caused the injuries.

Many carry credit card balances for long periods of time

It isn't uncommon for Virginia residents and others who have credit card debt to carry it for more than a year. According to a poll by, 56 percent of respondents carried their balances for more than 12 months. Of respondents, 14 percent had some form of credit card debt for five years. Those with larger incomes were more likely to carry credit card debt.

The poll found that only 7 percent of those who make less than $30,000 carried a credit card balance. However, 17 percent of those with an income of $80,000 or more had done so. This is likely because they can carry a balance easier than those who don't have the same type of financial resources. People who have credit card balances are encouraged to focus on paying down their debt as opposed to using those cards to make additional purchases.

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