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Family Law

Expert Family Law Guidance

Family law and divorce matters are highly complex and emotional experiences for those involved.  Ms. Callaway offers more than twenty-four years of experience with such situations and works tirelessly to provide effective legal guidance for her clients.

Ms. Callaway takes the time to sit down with her clients, so that she understands their individual situation—especially the relationships and assets most important to them.  She explains the law as it pertains to her clients’ particular situation and provides counsel about what is most likely to happen.

Family law can be a very sensitive and emotional aspect of legal practice. Family members can  be faced with a wide variety of legal needs throughout their lives.  No matter how your family is changing, my goal is to help you through the legalities of this part of your life while minimizing the emotional and financial impact on your family.  I provide legal assistance in all aspects of family law including:

  • Adoption
  • Name Changes
  • Prenuptial agreements
  • Post-marital agreements
  • Divorce
  • Military Divorce
  • Separate Maintenance and Spousal Support
  • Equitable Distribution of Assets
  • Child Custody
  • Child Support
  • Child Visitation
  • Grandparent’s Rights
  • Domestic Violence and Protective Orders
  • Juvenile Criminal Law

Virginia Adoption

Adoption is a wonderful way to provide a home for a child who needs a family.  If you are considering adoption, your first step should be a consultation with a Virginia adoption attorney. Virginia code §63.2-1215 sets the rules for adoption in the Commonwealth of Virginia.  I can assists parent who are placing a child for adoption as well as parents who are planning to adopt a child through adoption process. I handle all types of adoptions, including:

  • Agency Adoptions
  • Private Adoptions
  • Foster Parent Adoptions
  • Step-Parent Adoptions
  • Close Relative Adoptions
  • Adult Adoptions

Child Custody and Support

The process for resolving issues of child custody and support for children of married or unmarried parents begins by filing a petition for custody and support in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court (J&DR court) or the Circuit Court of the county where the child has resided for the previous six months. The J&DR court is the lower court where pleadings are less complex and the hearings are less formal. If you are not satisfied with the ruling in the J&DR court, you can appeal the decision to the Circuit Court and you will have a “do over”.

In cases involving married parents who are contemplating divorce, it is often advisable to begin the custody case in Circuit Court because it can be handled as part of the divorce, which must be heard in Circuit Court anyway.

The four major areas of child custody litigation are:

  •  Physical custody: Physical custody refers to where a child physically lives most of the time. Traditionally, when parents separated the child or children lived with one parent and visited the other parent.  One parent can have primary physical custody, or the parents can share physical custody.  In such cases, a child splits his or her time between both parents. Shared physical custody is less common, and is only possible where the parents live very close enough to each other so that the child can easily get to school district from each parent’s home.  In addition, shared physical custody will only work if both parents have the ability and time to care for the child on a day-to-day basis. 
  • Legal custody: Legal custody refers to decision-making power. If one parent has sole legal custody, that parent will have the right to make all major decisions involving the child, such as religious upbringing, schooling, health care, etc..  If the parents have joint legal custody, they are required to confer and discuss what to do on about major decisions. Joint legal custody is common and is generally only denied in situations where it is clear that the parents cannot communicate or agree on anything, or where one parent has demonstrated behavior that make it clear to the judge that he or she should not be involved in such decisions.
  • Visitation rights: In situations where one parent has primary physical custody of the children, the other parent (non-custodial parent) will almost always be granted visitation rights with the children.  The visitation rights can be either according to a specific schedule, or can be a flexible schedule to be determined by the parties. A parent would only be denied visitation in situations involving abuse of the child, severe substance abuse by a parent, and other similar serious situations.  
  • Modifications: In most cases a child custody and/or support arrangement established at the time of divorce or separation will need to be changed at some point prior to the time the children turn 18. When a change in custody or support is required, a parent must file a motion or petition with the court seeking to modify the existing court order based on a material change in circumstances, such as relocation, job changes, educational needs, etc. The judge will award the modification if he or she finds that it would be in the best interests of the child.

The two areas of support litigation are:

  • Child Support: Child support in Virginia is determined by each party’s income, child care costs, and health insurance costs for the children. While the calculations are generally strictly adhered to by the judge, there are occasions in which the court will increase or decrease the figures based on a number of factors. Such factors include the support of “other” children (meaning children from another relationship), undocumented income such as tips and income from rental properties, additional support necessary for children with special needs, and a party’s voluntary unemployment or underemployment.
  • Spousal Support (married couples, only):  Many considerations are made when determining whether spousal support should be awarded in a divorce. Spousal support is intended to provide financial stability to the dependent spouse, but it is not granted in all instances. The court focuses on the following factors in Virginia Code 20-107.1 in awarding spousal support:
  1. The obligations, needs and financial resources of the parties;
  2. The standard of living established during the marriage;
  3. The duration of the marriage;
  4. The age and physical and mental condition of the parties;
  5. The extent to which the factors in number 4 would make it appropriate that a party not seek employment outside of the home;
  6. The contributions, monetary and nonmonetary, of each party to the well-being of the family;
  7. The property interests of the parties, both real and personal, tangible and intangible;
  8. The provisions made with regard to the marital property in equitable distribution;
  9. The earning capacity of the parties and the present employment opportunities;
  10. The opportunity for, ability of, and the time and costs involved for a party to enhance his or her earning ability;
  11. The decisions regarding employment, career, economics, education and parenting arrangements made by the parties during the marriage;
  12. The extent to which either party has contributed to the attainment of education, training, career position or profession of the other party; and
  13. Such other factors, including the tax consequences to each party, as are necessary to consider the equities between the parties.

Ms. Callaway offers compassion and sensitivity to help you through your child custody, visitation, and support issues. Recognizing how traumatic child custody litigation can be on our clients and their children, she always encourages her clients to attempt to resolve their issues amicably, rather than immediately proceeding to court. However, when the situation calls for it, she has the skills and experience to represent your interests at trial. 

Virginia Divorce

Dissolution of a marriage is not easy. Even a “friendly” divorce can be emotionally trying.  Couples must agree on the division of assets, child custody, visitation, and support arrangements.  If the divorce is acrimonious, in additional to being enormously stressful, the process can be complex, expensive, and time consuming.  You need a seasoned and thoughtful lawyer who will assess your case based on her experience and intelligently advise you on the risks and benefits of litigation versus settlement to resolve your case.

  • Initiating a Divorce:  A Virginia divorce case begins when either a husband or wife files a “Complaint for Divorce” with the Circuit Court in the county where at least one party resides and has it served on the other spouse either by a sheriff or a private process server. The spouse has 21 days to respond to each of the allegations in the Complaint by filing an “Answer”. Once the answer is filed or 21 days elapse without any action, the case can proceed.
  • Pendente Lite Hearing:  Either spouse can request a preliminary hearing to establish the rights and obligations between the parties while the case is pending.  In this hearing, issues such as who gets to live in the marital residence, who will have temporary custody of the children, whether the marital assets will be frozen while the case is pending, and whether support must be paid are resolved. The “pendente lite” (meaning temporary) order entered at the hearing remains in effect until it is modified or until a final divorce order is signed by the judge.
  • Grounds for Divorce in Virginia: Virginia Code § 20-91 and Virginia Code § 20-95 set forth the following grounds for divorce: 
  • The spouses have lived separately and apart without cohabitation for one year without interruption; or
  • The spouses have entered into a separation agreement, have no minor children, and have lived separately and apart without cohabitation for six months without interruption; or
  • A spouse has committed adultery, sodomy or buggery outside the marriage; or
  • One spouse has been convicted of a felony and sentenced to serve more than a year in prison and there has been no cohabitation after the other spouse learned of the conviction.

If a spouse has been guilty of cruelty, caused the other to reasonably fear bodily harm, or has deserted the other, the other may have a divorce after a year.

  • Spousal Support:  Many considerations are made when determining whether spousal support should be awarded in a divorce. Spousal support is intended to provide financial stability to the dependent spouse, but it is not granted in all instances. The court focuses on the following factors in Virginia Code 20-107.1 in awarding spousal support:
  1. The obligations, needs and financial resources of the parties;
  2. The standard of living established during the marriage;
  3. The duration of the marriage;
  4. The age and physical and mental condition of the parties;
  5. The extent to which the factors in number 4 would make it appropriate that a party not seek employment outside of the home;
  6. The contributions, monetary and nonmonetary, of each party to the well-being of the family;
  7. The property interests of the parties, both real and personal, tangible and intangible;
  8. The provisions made with regard to the marital property in equitable distribution;
  9. The earning capacity of the parties and the present employment opportunities;
  10. The opportunity for, ability of, and the time and costs involved for a party to enhance his or her earning ability;
  11. The decisions regarding employment, career, economics, education and parenting arrangements made by the parties during the marriage;
  12. The extent to which either party has contributed to the attainment of education, training, career position or profession of the other party; and
  13. Such other factors, including the tax consequences to each party, as are necessary to consider the equities between the parties.
  • Child Support: Child support in Virginia is determined by each party’s income, child care costs, and health insurance costs for the children. While the calculations are generally strictly adhered to by the judge, there are occasions in which the court will increase or decrease the figures based on a number of factors. Such factors include the support of “other” children (meaning children from another relationship), undocumented income such as tips and income from rental properties, additional support necessary for children with special needs, and a party’s voluntary unemployment or underemployment.
  • Equitable Distribution:  Part of the divorce process is dividing up all the property acquired by the parties during the marriage.  If the parties cannot come to an agreement regarding the distribution of their marital assets, they must appear before a judge who will determine how the assets should be distributed. Virginia law provides for the equitable distribution of marital property in divorce. This means that rather than dividing marital property equally, it is divided in a manner that the court deems fair. The court considers many factors when determining equitable division of marital property.  At the hearing, each party has the opportunity to present documentary evidence such as bank statements, pay stubs, credit card bills, investment portfolios, etc., and the judge will hear testimony from both parties as well as any witnesses who have personal knowledge of facts that pertain to the marital property. In some cases it is necessary to also present the testimony of a financial expert.  While it is not required that you have an attorney present at an equitable distribution hearing, it is highly advisable to ensure that you do not waive any rights that you may not know you have, and to ensure that you present the best case possible under the circumstances. This is especially important if your spouse has an attorney.
  • The Final Order of Divorce:  A divorce order issued by the court legally dissolves the marriage and includes all of the decisions the judge has made, or the parties have agreed to, about property distribution, spousal support, child support, and child custody.
  • Post Divorce issues:  Once the judge signs the final divorce order, the parties are expected to obey it.  In some cases, one party will not do what he or she was ordered to do.  In such cases, it is necessary to reopen the case and go back to court to enforce the terms of the order.  If one party does not comply with the order forcing the other party to go to court for enforcement, in most if not all cases the judge will order to non-complying party to pay the legal fees of the other party.

In other cases, it is necessary to have special court orders prepared to divide retirement assets.  In other words, even if the divorce order states that a 401k account must be divided equally, the Plan Administrator for the 401k account will not do anything unless he or she receives a specific type of court order instructing the Plan Administrator about how to divide the account.  This is not a task that lay persons should undertake.  Ms. Callaway has extensive experience with drafting these special court orders so that retirement assets can be divided.