Family Law

In family court, the fight is about your personal relationships and your family’s future. You need more than an attorney who will just file legal paperwork, you need an advocate. I will guide you through each step of the legal process, explaining each phase, to help you make the difficult choices about what is best for your family’s future. I can assist you in all areas of family law, including the following:

Custody

There are two types of custody: legal custody and physical custody. The legal custodian of a child is responsible for making all of the important decisions, mostly related to education, medical needs, and religion. Physical custody determines the main residence of the child. In Virginia, for the most part, one parent will be given primary custody of the child. To make this determination, the judge considers a variety of factors to determine the child’s best interests based on age, family history, parental ability and/or capacity, interests, special needs, and, sometime, the child’s preference. It is crucial to have an attorney who can present the relevant information to the court so the court can make an appropriate determination.

Visitation

While a judge may find that it is best for one parent to have primary physical custody, it is also important for the child to have as much contact with the other parent as possible. In most cases, the courts have found that it is in the child’s best interests to spend time with both parents. The non-custodial parent will usually be granted visitation rights that could include alternating weekends, school breaks, and holidays. The exact arrangements will be based on a variety or factors specific to each family’s circumstances: how close the parents live together, the child’s own activities, and whether the court believes the non-custodial parent can care for the child for an extended period of time.

Child Support

In Virginia, parents share an obligation to provide necessary financial support for their children. Child support is initially determined by a formula that takes each parent’s income into account. The costs for medical insurance and work-related day care expenses are factored in as well. From there, the court can consider additional factors such as unusual expenses for a child. The court may also adjust the amount of child support based on how much time the child spends with each parent. You will need an experienced attorney to assist you in calculating guidelines to set an initial support obligation or modify an existing obligation.

In Virginia, the requirement to pay child support is taken very seriously. A failure to pay support is considered contempt of court and carries up to one year in jail per obligation. Oftentimes, a custodial parent will seek the assistance of the Division of Child Support Enforcement (DCSE) to enforce a child support order. If you have come into the DCSE radar for non-support, you will need a competent attorney to keep you out of jail.

Civil Abuse and Neglect Proceedings

Any person who suspects a child has been abused or neglected by a parent or guardian can report it to the Department of Social Services (DSS). DSS can handle the matter administratively or bring the matter before the court.

If you are being investigated by DSS, you need an attorney who can assist you to navigate both the administrative track and the judicial track, which can occur at the same time. These are very complicated proceedings which can include the placement of your name of the child abuse registry, the issuance of a protective order requiring compliance with all of DSS’ terms and conditions, the removal of your child, placement of your child in foster care, and/or termination of parental rights.

Protective Orders

Protective Orders are issued to protect a person from the harm or threat of harm by a family or household member. For a victim of domestic violence, a protective order will prohibit the offender from having contact with the victim and/or the victim’s family. Many other options are available to protect the victim against further abuse, as the circumstances require. If you are the victim of domestic violence, you should contact Foster McCollam, PLLC to assist you in obtaining protection, both physically and financially.

It happens that the process for obtaining a protective order is used for purposes other than protection from harm. If you have been served with a protective order and have been prohibited from contact with your family member(s), it is important that you contact a competent attorney to defend against the issuance of a final protective order, which can last for up to two years.

Premarital Agreements

Premarital agreements outline what should happen with the marital home, personal property, and financial assets in the event your marriage ends. It is a contract that determines each spouse’s duties and obligations in the event things turn sour. While soon-to-be spouses do not want to think about the end of their marriage, creating a premarital agreement gives them a chance to strengthen their marriage by having a serious talk about their finances before jumping in head first. Financial disagreements that arise after marriage are actually one of the leading causes of divorce.

Separation Agreements

A Separation Agreements is oftentimes a precursor to divorce. It is a contract that is drafted when the parties separate or contemplate divorce. It can provide the spouses with a “cooling off” period prior to moving too hastily into divorce proceedings. Legal separation is not awarded by the Virginia Courts. Instead, parties are free to enter into a contract that provides for the division of marital assets, establishes child custody and visitation, child and spousal support, amongst many others, as they see fit.

A separation agreement is enforceable under contract law and can carry lifetime consequences. It is of utmost importance to have an attorney draft your agreement or review a proposed agreement before you sign on the dotted line.

Divorce

As marriage is the legal union between two individuals, divorce is the legal dissociation. All issues pertaining to the children, support, and property will be addressed in the divorce proceeding unless there is a Settlement Agreement.

After determining child custody, visitation and child support, the Court will need to distribute the marital property equally and determine whether a spousal support award is appropriate. Marital property is distributed equitably. This means fairly based on a variety of legal factors, including what each spouse contributed to the marriage. Equitably does not necessarily mean equally. Spousal support, also known as alimony, may be awarded when one spouse has a need to be financially supported by the other. Alimony is calculated by using the same guidelines used to calculate child support. However, alimony is not as easily modified as child support.

If you are near Manassas, or any surrounding area in Virginia, and want to schedule a consultation with an experienced family law attorney, contact my office today.