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Manassas Virginia Legal Blog

How do we define an unconstitutional 'excessive fine'?

In February, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Eighth Amendment's "excessive fines" clause applies to the states. In other words, both states and the federal government are prohibited from levying excessive fines. It also ruled that civil asset forfeitures in criminal cases are fines for the purpose of the amendment. Therefore, governments in the U.S. cannot engage in excessive asset seizures.

What is civil asset forfeiture?

Who is at fault in a self-driving car crash?

It sounds like a bad riddle: If a machine drives a car and crashes into a person, who is at fault? This question came into the limelight in March 2016 when a Tesla vehicle in self-driving mode failed to detect a white truck's reflection against the bright sky. The crash killed the truck driver and marked the first death in a crash with an autonomous vehicle.

Some consumer groups estimate that self-driving cars will be readily available to the public by 2020. If this prediction comes true, is the legal system ready? Is there a way to tell who is at fault in these cases?

How do you divide your favorite painting in the divorce?

Deciding who gets what in your Virginia divorce could become one of the most stressful parts of ending your relationship with your spouse, particularly when it comes down to dividing your personal property. You need to set aside the emotional value you place on such items so you do not end up cheating yourself in the agreement, but you also need to establish a real financial value to ensure that everything is fair. According to the Journal of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, this may require a valuation expert.

Before you start your search for the right professional, you need to inventory and catalog all your personal property. This task needs to be done for settlement purposes whether you hire an appraiser or not. The inventory should include a description of each item, including measurements, provenance and unique features. You should provide pictures of each, as well. At that point, you may want to weigh whether you and your spouse believe the cost of an appraisal would be greater than the effect the value of the items may have on your settlement outcome.

Non-biological parents gain ground in custody cases

Biological parenthood often carries a lot of weight during custody decisions in the state of Virginia, which can introduce challenges when same-sex couples with children decide to end their marriages. The matter becomes particularly complicated when the non-biological parent is not legally recognized as a parent.

Nevertheless, court decisions in recent cases, such as the custody battle between Lauren and Karen Poole, have advanced the rights of non-biological parents to have access to the children they have loved and raised as their own. The Virginian-Pilot reports that when Lauren and Karen married, they both planned to have children. Karen was the first to become pregnant, and the couple, alongside the sperm donor, drew up and signed an agreement that not only identified Lauren as a parent but also freed the father from responsibility for the child.

Kinship care on the rise in opioid crisis

Drug addictions among parents can have devastating consequences for Virginia children. Grandparents across the state are finding themselves back in the parenting role, a situation that can be extremely challenging but often represents the best possible solution for the children involved.

One of the serious consequences of the opioid crisis sweeping the nation is the effect of addiction on children. In many cases, grandparents are stepping in to provide a stable home for young children whose parent are struggling with addiction, PBS reports. Indeed, as of 2015, approximately 2.9 million children were being raised by their grandparents.

How do the Hague Convention and the UCCJEA compare?

Matters of custody across international borders can be extremely complicated, but parents both in and outside of the United States have several legal recourses. If you are a Virginia parent seeking enforcement of custody orders in a case involving an international party, here are some factors to consider.

The Hague Convention and the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act both deal with matters of child custody in international cases. Among other things, the Hague Convention addresses the return of children abducted across international boundaries among the countries that agreed to participate in the treaty. According to the U.S. Department of State, the UCCJEA, in contrast, has two important functions. First, it gives jurisdiction to the courts in the child’s home state with respect to custody determination and litigation. Second, it legislates the enforcement of visitation and custody decisions made in foreign courts.

When is it time to sign off social media?

Posting on social media may be second nature to you, but when it comes to Virginia divorce proceedings, your online life may come under scrutiny not only by the public but also by the court. This is particularly true for high-profile couples who are already receiving a great deal of media attention.

Social media can certainly make it easier to announce the divorce. Indeed, if you wish, you can notify all of your friends and followers that you and your partner are heading separate directions in a matter of seconds. However, Huffington Post reports that your social media behavior also can have a serious impact on the court’s judgement on everything from spousal support to child custody.

What are the next steps for retirement funds after divorce?

Getting divorced in Virginia can have a devastating effect on your retirement account, whether you end up splitting it with your ex-spouse or drawing it down to pay off divorce expenses. Even if your retirement funds have not evaporated before your eyes, the time span right after your divorce is a good time to reconsider your investments and plan for the future.

Forbes reports that first of all, you must make sure that any retirement accounts are divided in accordance with the guidelines of the court-specified Qualified Domestic Relations Order. If the account being divided is your own, you must fulfill your financial obligations to your former partner. If you are receiving funds from your ex-spouse’s retirement account before age 60, you have a limited window of time in which you can withdraw the money rather than shifting it to a personal retirement account without paying a federal penalty.

Contractual planning crucial for unmarried couples

From taxes to parental rights, married couples enjoy a wide variety of legal benefits based on their marital status. If you and your partner have opted not to tie the knot, however, legally enforceable contracts may offer the greatest protection throughout the course of your relationship. We at Donna Dougherty Law PC are experienced in helping unmarried Virginia couples plan for their lives together.

Data from the latest census show that nearly 12 percent of cohabiting couples in the United States are unmarried, according to Time. If you belong to this category, here are some of the critical issues you should address via legally defensible contracts.

What should you say when breaking the news?

At the outset of the divorce process, it is your responsibility as a Virginia parent to inform your child of the separation in a compassionate, understanding manner. How you present the news will have a powerful influence on how your child responds to the impending change. Here are a few tips for what you should and should not do while telling your child that his or her parents can no longer continue living together.

However angry you may be feeling, it is essential to keep in mind that the other parent plays—and will continue to play—a very important role in your child’s life and identity. Thus, Psychology Today advises strongly against criticizing or blaming your partner or otherwise presenting your spouse as the bad parent when you discuss divorce with your child.

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