Manassas Divorce Lawyers
Skilled Trial Attorneys with Years of Family Litigation Experience
Divorce is among the most traumatic events a person can face, and it may be hard to negotiate the legal issues following a divorce while still recovering mentally and emotionally. A skilled team of attorneys can provide you the in-depth legal analysis and advice required to make informed decisions that may shape the rest of your life.
At Dougherty Tobias Iszard, Northern Virginia Law, P.C., our divorce attorneys can guide you through every step in this difficult process with compassion and attention to the legal details. We will immerse ourselves in your case and help you weigh your legal options and pursue the best achievable outcomes for yourself and your family members. From child custody and child support to other elements of the settlement agreement, we can guide you through the resolution of all your relevant divorce issues.
“If you are angry and want to fight, Donna knows how to win. If you want to negotiate and settle, Donna will help you do that by keeping you on track and calming your anger … Her assistance during this incredibly difficult time in my life was the sole reason I reached a successful settlement, finalized my divorce and am happily getting on with my life.” — M.A.
Grounds for Divorce
In Virginia, individuals must have “grounds” for their divorce. The grounds can be based on fault (e.g., adultery, abuse), or the ground may not involve fault, where both spouses without children agree to live apart for 6 months with a written agreement or spouses with children live apart for 1 year. Note that any renewal of physical relations destroys the grounds for divorce. Additionally, the spouse who files for divorce must have been a bona fide resident and domiciliary of Virginia for 6 months.
Divorces in Virginia can be "contested” or "uncontested." A contested divorce is when the parties cannot agree on one or more points of the separation (property division, alimony, custody, child support, or attorney's fees). Uncontested divorce, then, is when the divorcing parties agree in a written Separation Agreement how to handle custody and support of the minor children of the marriage and fairly divide their property. The separation agreement is the essence of an uncontested divorce, and the spouses merely need to cite irreconcilable differences when assessing fault for the marriage breakdown.
Settlements After Divorce
The separation agreement mentioned above will negotiate the following between the spouses:
- Who pays the court cost and attorney's fees?
- Who gets certain property (e.g., the house) and/or equity?
- Who gets certain personal property (e.g., car, appliances)?
- How will retirement benefits be handled?
- How will debts be paid off?
- How much alimony will a parent need to pay?
- Who gets custody of the children?
- How much child support will a parent pay?
- What will the visitation schedule look like?
- How will life and health insurance be handled?
- How will other obligations like wills and probate taxes be handled?
Uncontested divorces usually take 2-3 months to resolve after filing, and contested divorces can take up to 18 months, though the timelines will vary depending on what spouses need to negotiate.
Child Custody and Support
The court will prioritize the child’s best interest when determining child custody. Relevant factors it will evaluate could include how fit each parent is to care for the child, whether a certain custody arrangement may disrupt the continuity of their life, and even the child’s preference if they are of mature age.
In arriving at a fair amount of child support, the court will similarly look at the needs of the children, as well as the financial assets, earnings, and needs of each parent. Virginia has enacted child support guidelines based on the relative and combined income of the parties, the number of children, and the time spent with the children. The guidelines provide for an adjustment for health insurance and day care for the children and assume that the non-custodial parent pays for the children during normal visitation.
As for the visitation schedule, if the parents can agree on a certain arrangement, the court will usually approve the plan. A typical pattern is alternating weekends, a few weeks in the summer, and alternating holidays. The courts encourage visitation except in very extraordinary circumstances, though be aware that if the parents live a far distance apart they may need to negotiate a special longer-period plan.
Alimony, or spousal support, can be periodic payments for a defined period or an indefinite basis, or it can be paid off in one lump-sum payment. Alimony is based upon the relative needs and resources of the parties, and the court will consider a spouse’s income from salaries and investments, as well as pension profit-sharing, retirement plans, and the education and ability of the parties. It will also adjust for whether the custodial parent must stay at home with the child instead of working. Note that death of one of the persons paying or receiving alimony or marriage of the person receiving alimony will terminate alimony unless the divorce settlement agreement provides otherwise.
The Individual Attention and Strategic Approach You Deserve
Our divorce lawyers at Dougherty Tobias Iszard, Northern Virginia Law, P.C. will work closely and directly with each client through their divorce process. A balanced, determined lawyer at our firm will take the time to understand what matters most to you, and we will skillfully target workable custody arrangements and equitable division of assets, enabling you to move forward in life with the greatest possible peace of mind and stability.