How long do I Have to be Separated before I Can Get a Divorce in Virginia?

How long do I Have to be Separated before I Can Get a Divorce in Virginia?  The quick answer is that it depends but most likely you will have to be separated for one year.  There are a few exceptions discussed below. Virginia, like many states and commonwealths, requires that you be separated for a period of time before you and your spouse can get a divorce.  In Virginia, you must have grounds to obtain an absolute divorce, also called a divorce from the bonds of matrimony or a divorce a vinculo matrimonii.  The grounds for a divorce from the bonds of matrimony are set out in Virginia Code Ann. § 20-91.  There are grounds that we call “fault based” grounds, such as adultery and cruelty, and there are also grounds that we call “no fault” grounds, which include a separation without cohabitation and without interruption for a certain period of time. Generally, the required separation period is one year.  Virginia Code Ann. § 20-91(A)(9) allows parties to obtain a divorce after the parties have lived separate and apart without cohabitation and without interruption for more than one year.  This is the no fault grounds discussed above.  It is important to note that you cannot file for divorce on these grounds until the grounds exist.  That means that you cannot file for a divorce until AFTER you have already been separated for a year.  If your divorce is contentious you will likely not be able to actually obtain a divorce for at least a few months until after you file, and perhaps longer.  If your divorce is contentious, you...

Can I go to Jail for Not Paying Alimony / Spousal Support?

Spousal support, also called alimony or support and maintenance, is court ordered payment to a spouse or ex-spouse. You may get spousal support if you are still married and separated.  Since spousal support is court ordered, the question is, “Can I go to jail for not paying spousal support?”  The simple answer to that question is: “Yes.” If a court orders you to pay spousal support, then failure to pay is disobeying a court order, and the court can find you in “contempt of court” for disobeying its order.  Remedies for failure to pay support include wage liens, levies upon personal property, garnishment of property, garnishment of wages, and even incarceration.  See Va. Code Ann. § 20-115.  Pursuant to Va. Code Ann. § 20-115, if the court finds you in contempt, it can order you incarcerated for up to one year and order that you perform work during the year you are incarcerated. In Virginia, the Court can order one spouse to pay support to the other in a lump sum, in periodic installments for a fix period of time, or in periodic installments for an indefinite period of time, also called “permanent support.”  See Va. Code Ann. § 20-107.1(C).  When the Court orders support without agreement of the parties, evidence of certain events can terminate the support obligation.  One such event is when the spouse receiving support lives with another person in a marriage-like relationship for one year or more according.  See Va. Code Ann. § 20-109. Once spousal support has been set by decision of the court, it cannot be changed unless there has been a material...

Virginia Updates Child Support Guidelines

Virginia updates child support guidelines effective today, Tuesday, July 1, 2014.  The new guidelines will general result in an increase in the amount of the child support obligation that a noncustodial parent owes.  In some cases, the change in the required support will be minimal.  For example, under the old guidelines, a person who was unemployed and obligated to support for one child would have an obligation of $65 per month.  Under the new guidelines, a person who is unemployed and obligated to support one child will have an obligation of $68 per month.  For other people, the change is more significant.  For example, under the old guidelines, a couple with combined monthly income of $20,000 and one child would have a joint, monthly child support obligation of $1,324.  The support one parent would pay would then be determined in proportion to the respective incomes of the two parents.  Under the new guidelines, a couple with combined monthly income of $20,000 and one child will have a joint, monthly child support obligation of $1,591.  The difference in support between the two guidelines is $167 per month. The change begs the question:  can I get a modification based on the new guidelines?  The answer is yes, if the new guidelines would result in a significant change to your monthly child support, it may be worth it for you to pursue an increase or decrease in child support.  Deciding whether to pursue a change, however, is one that you should consider carefully.  Other factors that have changed may offset the net change to your support.  These factors include the comparative salary of you...

Can I go to Jail for not Paying Child Support?

Can I go to Jail for not Paying Child Support?        In short, yes you can to jail for failure to pay child support in Virginia.  There are many remedies in Virginia, as well as other states, that a person receiving child support has when a parent fails to pay child support.  These remedies include loss of business license, loss of driver’s license, garnishment of wages, garnishing of income tax returns, and incarceration. This blog post covers some of the relevant information and authority related to child support enforcement in Virginia.  This blog entry is not intended to be an exhaustive discussion on the topic, not even close.  Furthermore, this blog entry is intended for informational purposed only.  A person with matters relevant to those discussed below should use this blog during the information gathering process and perhaps as research to help them interact with and select an attorney.  A person with any of the issues described below should NOT use this blog entry as a substitute for obtaining legal advice. Child Support Orders Every Virginia child support order is required by law to have certain notices.  The required notices are stated in full detail in Va. Code Ann. § 20-60.3.  There are 17 different paragraphs that cover the required notices and what content must be included in child support orders, and I am not going to restate each of them here.  A few examples, however, are (1) that support will continue for children over the age of 18 under certain circumstances, (2) that a petition can be filed to suspend a license to engage in professions,...

Hearsay Exceptions in Sexual Abuse Cases

Introduction                Hearsay is one of the most often misunderstood and mistakenly cited rules of evidence and legal concepts generally.  Hearsay confuses judges and practicing lawyers, let alone non-lawyers who choose to represent themselves.  I cannot tell you how many times I have heard a client, friend, or other non-lawyer in conversation mutters words like, “well that is just hearsay” or “he can’t testify to that because it is hearsay” without any clear understanding of what hearsay actually is. Hearsay exceptions in sexual abuse cases exist for a number of policy reasons.  One of the most important reasons for having exceptions in this case is to protect a child that has already been subjected to sexual abuse from further trauma.  These policies cannot override rights secured by the United States Constitution, such as the right to face your accuser.  Policy considerations certainly come into play in the two exceptions to the hearsay covered in this blog post. The purpose of this blog entry is not to discuss at length what hearsay is and what hearsay is not.  That topic could take volumes and will likely be covered, not exhaustively, in a series of other blog entries.  Nor is the purpose of this article to list every hearsay exception available in a child sexual abuse case, let alone every hearsay exception generally.  The purpose of this blog entry is to discuss two of the hearsay exceptions permitted in Virginia by statute and how these statutes apply to cases involving the sexual abuse of children.  These exceptions apply only in civil cases and not in...