A divorce can be a stressful time for all parties, emotionally, financially and legally. There may be considerations of property division, separation and settlement, child custody issues, motions to file, court fees to pay and appearances in court. Fortunately, attorneys at Locke and Quinn can help with all of these tough aspects of your divorce.
An attorney is a counselor to his or her client. During an initial consultation with an attorney, he or she can assist clients with identifying and establishing the grounds for divorce and getting a better assessment of the strength or weaknesses in each case. An attorney can assist in acquiring the evidence necessary to prove the case including using document requests and subpoenas to obtain records that otherwise may be unavailable to the client. With certain grounds for divorce, sufficient evidence is needed in court. For example, to prove adultery, “clear and convincing evidence” is required which is often very hard to obtain. In order to meet this burden an attorney can assist in acquiring the proper evidence that the other spouse was unfaithful. For any grounds of divorce, there generally are many court documents and sometimes several court appearances that may be involved.
There are many procedural aspects to a divorce that an attorney is specially trained to understand. For example, strict compliance with the statutory requirements for service is necessary in a divorce in order to give proper notice to the defendant; otherwise, the divorce or annulment may be invalid. An attorney will aid in properly serving process of a divorce or annulment action to the other spouse.
The attorney also can assist in identifying if an award of spousal or child support is warranted, in determining what factors go into the computation of child and spousal support, and in computing the actual numbers. In Virginia, the “age of majority” is eighteen, before which there is a parental duty to support his or her child. Moreover, there may be a continuing duty on both parents to support an adult child who is physically or mentally incapable of earning a livelihood. These duties continue after divorce or separation except as otherwise modified by judicial decree.
With regard to the distribution of property, an attorney can assist in identifying what items of real and personal property belong to the marriage as marital property or which items will be considered separate property. The attorney also can advise whether a pre-nuptial or post-nuptial agreement will be enforceable. The court considers multiple factors in dividing marital property and in determining the amount of spousal and child support awards, including the monetary and nonmonetary contributions of each party to the well-being of the family; the duration of the marriage; the circumstances and factors that contributed to the dissolution of the marriage, and various other factors.
One enormous benefit to having an attorney is that the attorney can serve as a “buffer” for the client so that the client no longer has to interact directly with an estranged spouse. Divorce can be an emotional time for both parties, and an attorney often acts as an empathetic advocate for the client. And finally, the attorney can play an enormous role in mediating and resolving the case, which can then reduce the overall amount of attorney fees and costs spent.