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...
My Ex is Working on His or Her Visitation Day instead of Spending it With Our Kids

My Ex is Working on His or Her Visitation Day instead of Spending it With Our Kids

Many times I have clients come into my office with concerns over the lack of actual time their ex spends with the children during their scheduled time. Take, for example, a case where a Father has the children every other weekend and has a job that requires him to work from 9-5 most Saturdays. The children are often at home with a babysitter during the day when the Father is working. The Mother would like the children to be with her on these Saturdays. This situation brings up an interesting dynamic. Is spending some Saturdays with a babysitter instead of spending the time with their Mother in the children’s best interests? Would taking the time away from the Father and giving to the Mother be penalizing the Father for his chosen career as he tries to provide for his children and family? Like many questions in family law, the answer is not simple. Courts value children’s time with the non-custodial parent as a result of the fact that the he or she is not with the children the majority of the time. Consequently, the Mother’s burden is high in this example to convince a judge that the children should be with her rather than at the Father’s house while he is at work. What if the Father has the ability to come home for an hour at lunch time to spend with the children? That is a prime example of how a parent’s visitation time with his or her children is HIS or HER time. Leaving the children with a babysitter may not be an ideal scenario but the Father has a right to have the children at his house while he...

How Much Will I Get or Have to Pay in Alimony / Spousal Support?

How much a person is going to receive or have to pay in spousal support, also called “alimony” or “support and maintenance,” is a very important question for all persons going through a divorce. The answer affects so many things in your life, from where you will be able to afford to live after the divorce to your tax liability. Unfortunately, there is no easy answer. Child support in Virginia relies, at least as a starting off point, on a very specific guideline for calculation. There is no such guideline, outside of the pendent lite phase (explained below), however, for determining the amount or duration of spousal support. A. Guidelines for Determining Support You may or may not have heard as such formulas for spousal support such as the Fairfax Guideline (list others). These guidelines are very important, depending on where your case is located, for determining temporary support. Temporary support will commonly be awarded for the period while the case is pending and before the final hearing. These formulas are not used by the Courts, however, for determining support after the parties are divorced. The Courts have made it very clear that the trial courts must consider the factors set out by the legislature and cannot simply rely on a formula to calculate support. See Coleman v. Coleman, 2011 WL 5838703 (Va. Ct. App. 2011). B. Factors for Determining Support. The Court has the power to award a lump sum support payment, period support payments (such as monthly), or both. The factors for determining spousal support are set out in Virginia Code Ann. § 20-107.1 and they are: 1. The obligations, needs and financial resources of the...