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Fairfax Family Law Blog

Domestic Violence and its impact on child custody

Unfortunately, a domestic violence epidemic continues to occur in Virginia and all across the United States, which is evident by news reports of sports athletes and celebrities involved in seemingly weekly incidents. Victims of domestic violence often feel especially helpless and vulnerable, believing that reporting an incident may lead to future incidents down the line. But unless incidents are reported, nothing will ever fix the situation. Many people are unaware that domestic violence is not limited to physical violence, but may take other forms as well.

Many of you have heard the old cliché, "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me," but when it comes to abuse, this is a blatant fallacy. Emotional and psychological abuses, in the form of criticisms, intimidation, stalking and even threats of physical violence, are all forms of domestic violence. In addition, taking control of a family's finances and limiting a spouse's financial freedom can be construed as economic abuse.

What is virtual visitation?

With today's technology, it is easier than ever before to connect with family and friends across the globe. Aside from email correspondence and constant contact via social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, new technology such as Google Hangouts and Skype have allowed families and friends to talk to each other via webcam video conferences.

How can virtual visitation be used for active military members on assignment away from home or abroad? With video conferencing and ability to record and view videos through a smartphone or tablet, it is now possible for a parent who is away from his or her child to help with a child's homework, follow social events such as music recitals and live sporting events or even read a bedtime story to a child.

What is the Uniformed Services Former Spouses' Protection Act?

In 1981, the United States passed the Uniformed Services Former Spouses' Protection Act, Title 10, United States Code, Section 1408, also known as the USFSPA, to award former spouses of military members retirement pay in the event of a divorce. While the act does not require states to divide retirement earnings as community property or a marital asset, it requires state courts to divide the property accordingly. This amount may run as high as 50 percent of the military member's disposable income.

In addition, the USFSPA also addresses the enforcement of child support and alimony for the ex-spouse. To apply for direct payments, an ex-spouse must complete and submit the Former Spouses Payments from Retirement Pay form DD Form 2293 as well as current court ordered award documents, certified by the clerk of court. If eligible, the military spouse must begin making payments within 90 days of the filing. If the military member wishes to appeal the claim, he or she must do so within 30 days of receiving the initial claim.

Divorced military parents planning for deployment or relocation

It's not uncommon for military members to go on deployment or relocate to a new base on short notice while on active duty. While this could impact a marriage greatly, it could also place some difficulties on the terms of a divorce, especially if children are involved. How does this affect the military member's relationship with their children following a divorce? What can a divorcing couple do in advance to prevent future complications or issues in the event of a deployment or relocation?

To address these matters, it may be wise to create a child custody agreement that includes provisions in case an active military member is forced to go on deployment or is relocated to another base far away from his or her child. Military members are often aware of these issues, and may discuss them with his or her ex-spouse in order to avoid issues down the road.

What factors courts consider when determining child support

In a previous post here we discussed child support in terms beyond the basic necessities, and how non-custodial parents may be responsible for such costs. Now we will take a look at how child support payments are calculated by the courts when a child support plan is first established.

The first factor that must be considered is the type of custody that each parent has with their child. If it is joint custody arrangement, child support payments are determined by how much time each parent spends with the child, as well as how much each parent earns. A percentage is then determined based on those factors.

Child support can includes uninsured medical expenses

It is not uncommon for people to assume that child support is supposed to cover a child's basic necessities, such as food, clothing, medical and educational expenses and a home. However, child support can extend beyond that. It can include extracurricular activities, such as team sports, and may even include uninsured medical expenses. It is important to understand this whether you are paying child support or have custody of a child and are collecting child support payments.

Understanding the 20/20/20 Rule in a military divorce

If you are involved in a divorce with a member of the United States military, you may be entitled to rights that differ from traditional civilian divorces with regards to property settlement, alimony and benefits during your divorce.

In order to obtain complete military privileges and benefits from a soon-to-be ex-spouse who was a service member, the 20/20/20 rule is applied to determine your level of benefits. You may be entitled to medical, commissary, Welfare and Recreation program benefits and exchange and theater privileges under the Morale if you qualify. To qualify, you must meet the following criteria:

  • The marriage to the military member must have lasted at least 20 years at the time of the annulment, dissolution or divorce.
  • Although the military member does not have to be retired from active duty, he or she must have performed a minimum of 20 years of credible service to be eligible for retirement pay
  • The non-military member spouse must have been married to the service member for at least 20 years during the military member's retirement-credible service

Women's rights protected against rapists

On May 29, 2015, President Barack Obama signed into law the Rape Survivor Child Custody Act, part of the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act. The new law is a bipartisan effort by Democrat Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida and Republican Tom Marino of Pennsylvania.

The new law aids, supports and protects rape victims who become pregnant from rape and choose to keep the child. Studies show that approximately 25,000 to 30,000 pregnancies occur every year through a rape, with about one third of the rape victims choosing to raise the child. The law will help women petition for a termination of parental rights for a rapist who is the biological father of a child.

Signing a prenup may lead to fewer issues down the road

As a couple prepares to enter into a marriage, probably the absolute last thing they want to think about is the possibility of divorce. But, the sad reality is that various reports estimate that in the United States approximately 50 percent of married people will experience a divorce in their lifetime. And, along with child support, child custody and potential alimony to be discussed and decided upon, property settlement can be among the most complicated issues to discuss and come to an agreement upon.

With that in mind, more couples have decided to form and sign prenuptial agreements, commonly known as "prenups," in an effort to discuss and hash out specifics of property division in the event of a divorce.

Property division in Richard Gere's divorce getting ugly

Many of our readers likely know Richard Gere from the movies An Officer and a Gentleman or Pretty Woman. Some may also know that he is currently going through divorce proceedings. He's worth an estimated $250 million dollars, but that number may be going down soon as he is currently involved in a bitter property settlement with his soon-to-be ex-spouse, Carey Lowell, an actress from the "Law and Order" television show. She is seeking $100 million dollars as part of their divorce settlement. The couple is also currently involved in a child custody battle.

Property division discussions in a divorce can get tricky, and they can become more complicated and more costly in a high asset divorce. It's important to be prepared both before and during a marriage to avoid headaches and unnecessary costs down the road in the event of a divorce.

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