How is Paternity Established When a Child is Born to Unmarried Persons?

unmarried couple discussing custody of their children. A child custody lawyer from Curran Moher Weis can help with this family matter

In Virginia, the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Courts have the authority to resolve custody and visitation of a child when the child’s parents are not married. The Court applies the same standard as it does when it determines custody and visitation of a child born of a marriage, which is to examine the best interests of the child. When parents are unmarried, however, a father may have to establish that the child is his, which can be done in a number of ways.

Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity (AOP)

Unmarried parents can voluntarily acknowledge the paternity of a child by signing a Voluntary Acknowledge of Paternity (AOP) prior to discharge from the hospital. This is a form to be filled out by the child’s parents and will suffice to allow the father’s name to be listed on the child’s birth certificate. Each parent has the right to rescind the AOP within the earlier of 60 days from the date of signing the AOP or the date of entry of an administrative or court order relating to the child in which the parent is a party.

Petition to Establish Paternity

If the parents do not sign an AOP, either parent can petition the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court to establish paternity through DNA testing. If the DNA test confirms that the man is the biological father within a 98% probability, the Court will issue an order establishing paternity and the father may then petition the court for custody and/or visitation.

Establishing Paternity through the Division of Child Support Enforcement

Another method of establishing paternity is through the Division of Child Support Enforcement. Either parent can open a child support case with the Division and the Division will establish paternity through DNA testing. This method, however, does not grant a father rights of custody/visitation with the child, as the Division has no authority to establish a visitation schedule for either parent. If paternity is established through the Division, unmarried parents still need to petition the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Courts to set a custody and visitation schedule for the child.

Fairfax Child Custody Lawyers Standing By

Establishing paternity and obtaining custody of or visitation with a child are two separate procedures. The attorneys at Curran Moher Weis are experienced in handling cases involving both the establishment of paternity as well as custody and visitation matters. Contact our office online or by calling (571) 328-5020 to schedule a consultation with an experienced family law attorney.


Financial Implications of a Divorce: What are the financial implications of divorce?

Fairfax divorce lawyer - Curran Moher Weis

Divorce is considered one of the top five most stressful life events.  Divorce turns your entire world upside-down—your family, your living situation, and, yes, your finances as well.  In fact, financial stress is one of the top five causes of divorce.  This means a lot of divorcing couples were already dealing with financial issues before turning to the divorce court for relief.

Virginia Divides Marital Assets Equitably Not Equally

Virginia divides marital assets in a divorce based on what is equitable, not on what is “equal” (50/50). Courts in Virginia evaluate several things in determining asset division when a couple of divorces, including, among other things:

 

  1. The contributions each party made to the well-being of the family and the acquisition of assets;
  2. The length of time the couple was married;
  3. Age and health of both people;
  4. The circumstances contributing to the dissolution of the marriage; and
  5. The use of the marital property for nonmarital purposes

 

Based on these factors, Virginia will decide what each person “deserves” in the dividing of the assets. This means a husband who single-handedly built a successful business enterprise may walk away with more than a wife who spent most of the marriage unemployed going from job to job, for example.

 

Protecting Your Assets in a Divorce

How can you help your attorney prepare to address the financial issues in your divorce?  Consider assisting your attorney in the following ways?

 

  1. Gather 12-24 months of checking and savings account statements from each of your accounts;
  2. Gather 12-24 months of credit card statements from each of your accounts;
  3. Gather 12-24 months of retirement and investment account statements from each of your accounts;
  4. Locate and provide your past 3 Federal and State Tax returns;
  5. Locate and provide any statement reflecting large gifts you received from anyone other than your spouse or large payments you made during the marriage;
  6. Locate and provide statements of any debts you have; and
  7. Create a family asset sheet listing your family’s assets

Do You Need a Lawyer to help with Property Division?

Some of the things an experienced property division attorney can help you with include:

 

  1. How to legally and fairly handle anything you acquired after your spouse moved out;
  2. How to have one spouse’s name removed from the deeds to your cars, house, accounts, etc;
  3. How to divide up retirement accounts;

 

We also highly recommend consulting a financial expert (CPA, financial planner) to further navigate the financial implications of a Virginia divorce.

Protect Yourself with a Fairfax Divorce Lawyer

Lawyers can be expensive, but often not hiring a lawyer can be even more expensive.  Curran Moher Weis helps clients navigate complicated property division cases.   Contact us today to get the insights you need to make the most of your property division case.


How Do I Modify Child Support in Virginia?

child support agreement form, a Family Law attorney from Curran Moher Weis can help.

The circumstances that guided your original child support order can change over time, and a modification – or adjustment – may be necessary.  To determine what modification, if any, should be made to your current child support order, it is important to understand how child support is calculated.

Virginia courts use the “Income Shares Model” to calculate child support. The Income Shares Model considers the gross income of both parties in an effort to ensure the child is receiving the same proportion of parental income that he or she would have received if the child lived in a two-parent household. A basic child support obligation is computed using the Virginia Child Support Guidelines, which factor in the gross incomes of each parent, medical insurance premiums paid for the child, the number of children for which support is paid, work-related childcare costs, and the number of days each parent has the child. Although the “guideline amount” is presumptively correct, you can deviate from the guideline amount if the calculated support amount is unjust or inappropriate.

A child support modification can be initiated by either parent, the court, or the Department of Social Services. The primary reasons for a support modification often include an increase or decrease in a parent’s income, work-related childcare costs, or medical insurance costs, a change in physical custody, and an increase in a child’s needs from any physical, emotional, or medical condition. If these changes in circumstances are material and in the best interest of the child, the court may modify the child support amount.

If you believe that you need to pursue a child support modification, or if your child’s parent is seeking one, the attorneys at Curran Moher Weis have several years’ experience handling child support matters and will ensure your rights are protected throughout the modification process. Contact us now!


How Do I File for Divorce in Virginia?

divorce certificate after presenting the requirements with help of a divorce attorney

Whether you are considering a divorce or responding to divorce papers served by your spouse, it’s important to know the basic requirements for a Virginia divorce. Because the divorce process is complicated, working closely with an experienced attorney at Curran Moher Weis is the surest path forward.

 

Virginia divorce actions are filed in its circuit courts. In order to file for a divorce in Virginia, either you or your spouse must have been an actual and bona fide resident and domiciliary of Virginia for at least 6 months preceding the filing of the lawsuit. You cannot file for divorce unless you have been living separate and apart with the intention to divorce for a certain period of time, as follows:

 

  1. If you and your divorcing spouse do not have minor children, you cannot file until after you’ve been separated for at least six months and have executed a written property settlement agreement.
  2. If you and your divorcing spouse do not have minor children, you cannot file a no-fault divorce until you’ve been separated for at least one year, unless you qualify to file on fault grounds such as adultery.

 

The initial document that gets filed with the court is called the “Complaint for Divorce.” The Complaint for Divorce contains information regarding you, your spouse, your children, and the reasons for your divorce. The Complaint for Divorce includes a detailed “prayer for relief” section, wherein you ask the court to make certain awards or determinations because of your divorce. The prayer for relief section generally includes a request for the court to determine child support, spousal support, the custody and visitation of any child, and the division of any property and debts. The Complaint for Divorce must be “served” on the other spouse so that he or she has noticed that there is a pending divorce action. Service is typically accomplished by the sheriff or a private process server. In lieu of formal service, the other spouse may also formally “accept” the service of process by signing the proof of service before a notary.

The attorneys at Curran Moher Weis are able to assist you with the filing of your Complaint for Divorce or responding to your spouse’s Complaint for Divorce. Call now for assistance.


Common Family Law Issues

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The most common family law issues include:

  1. Divorce/Annulments – Terminating marriages through divorce or annulments. 
  2. Prenuptial/Premarital Agreements – Agreements between prospective spouses made in contemplation of marriage.
  3. Child Support – Payments made by a parent to cover the child’s basic living expenses. 
  4. Alimony – Also known as “spousal support” Payments made by a spouse to assist the other spouse to maintain their standard of living after a divorce.
  5. Adoption – Parental placement, step-parent, close relative, and adult adoptions.  
  6. Paternity – Establishing the father of the child. 
  7. Child Custody and Visitation –  Establishing a formal parenting plan after considering the best interests of the child.
  8. Property Division – Dividing assets, debts, and other liabilities in a divorce.

If you have questions about any of these common family law issues, contact an attorney from Curran Moher Weis today.


Why You Need a Lawyer to Draft Your Premarital Agreement?

couple assisted by family law attorney with their prenuptial agreement, Call Curran Moher Weis family attorneys for help.

agreement (also known as prenuptial agreements or prenups), but it is a wise investment there can often be some considerable disagreement between couples about the need for a premarital t.  A premarital agreement can outline spousal support terms and what happens to a couples’ assets and liabilities in the event of a separation, divorce, death, or the occurrence or nonoccurrence of a certain event. Deciding on these issues by agreement prior to marriage can help avoid arguments and costly litigation at the time of the divorce. If a premarital agreement is not executed, Virginia law will apply to the division of your assets and debts and the payment of spousal support.

Why You Want a Lawyer from Curran Moher Weis to Draft or Review Your Premarital Agreement

Virginia courts heavily scrutinize premarital agreements because of the significant impact that such an agreement has on a person’s property and support rights. Therefore, drafting a valid and enforceable premarital agreement is very important. The attorneys at Curran Moher Weis will ensure the following:

  1. Your premarital agreement was executed voluntarily;
  2. Fair and reasonable disclosures of the property and financial obligations of each party were provided; and
  3. Your premarital agreement does not contain provisions in violation of public policy.

 

Schedule a Free Consultation with the Best Fairfax Family Law Attorney Near You

If you are planning on marrying, contact an attorney at Curran Moher Weis to draft or review your premarital agreement.


What Are Grounds for Divorce in Virginia?

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Unlike some states, Virginia allows both no-fault and fault-based divorces. A no-fault divorce is commonly one based upon living separate and apart for an uninterrupted period of at least one year. A fault-based divorce is one that is based on a claim that your spouse’s actions caused the dissolution of your marriage. The following “grounds for divorce” are often alleged in divorce cases:

Adultery – Engaging in sexual intercourse with another person who is not your spouse. Emotional affairs do not constitute adultery.

Sodomy – Committing oral or anal intercourse with another person that is not your spouse.

Buggery –Engaging in sexual intercourse with an animal.

Willful Desertion or Abandonment – Breaking off cohabitation against the wishes of the other spouse. However, if a spouse leaves the marriage because the other spouse has committed acts of cruelty, the spouse is not guilty of willful desertion or Abandonment.

Conviction of a Felony – If your spouse is convicted of a felony and sentenced to prison for a period in excess of one year, and you do not resume living together after the prison sentence, your spouse’s felony can constitute a ground for divorce.

Cruelty – Acting in a manner that causes bodily harm and renders living together unsafe

If you are considering filing for divorce, it is important to contact immediately an attorney at Curran Moher Weis to determine if the circumstances and factors that contributed to the dissolution of your marriage allow you to file for fault-based divorce in Virginia. If your spouse has filed a fault-based divorce action against you, our attorneys will discuss with you, what, if any, defenses you may have to their alleged grounds for divorce.


Custody Concerns for a New School Year

children at school, child custody lawyer modified their custody order, Curran Moher Weis Family attorneys can help, call now!

Each school year poses new challenges: coordinating bus schedules, after-school programs, and sports practices. Factor in two people with busy schedules who are sharing custody of their child, and it is enough to give you a headache.

Child custody is defined as “the care, control, and maintenance of a child.” The court has to decide custody arrangements based on the needs of your child. Even if both parties have come to a mutual agreement on sharing custody, the court may still determine other arrangements will better serve your child.

As the upcoming school year approaches, if you find yourself struggling to keep up with your child’s activities, don’t despair. If your current custody schedule is problematic, consult an experienced Fairfax child custody attorney to fully understand your parental rights.

What Factors Does the Court Use to Determine Child Custody?

In determining the best interests of the child, the court will make a determination based on the following factors, as set out in Virginia Code § 20-124.3:

  1. The age and physical and mental condition of the child;
  2. The age and physical and mental condition of each parent;
  3. The relationship existing between each parent and each child;
  4. The needs of the child, giving due consideration to other important relationships of the child;
  5. The role that each parent has played and will play in the future in the upbringing and care of the child;
  6. The propensity of each parent to actively support the child’s contact and relationship with the other parent;
  7. The relative willingness and demonstrated the ability of each parent to maintain a close and continuing relationship with the child;
  8. The reasonable preference of the child, if the court deems the child to be of reasonable intelligence, understanding, age, and experience to express such a preference;
  9. Any history of abuse that occurred no earlier than 10 years prior to the date a petition is filed;
  10. Such other factors the court deems necessary and proper to the determination.

In What Circumstances Will a Court Modify a Custody Order?

In Virginia, the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court handles all child custody matters. The court will not consider a change in the custody order until at least six months have passed since the original custody order was issued.

While new custody matters are generally filed in the county/state where the child has resided for the past six months, in Fairfax County, you must call Domestic Relations if you are seeking to modify a court order. You are also required to bring the original order to your appointment.

If both parties cannot agree on a modified schedule, the court will refer both parties to mediation to resolve their differences before scheduling a hearing. The court will only schedule the hearing if a judge decides that there has been a “material change in circumstances.”

A material change in circumstances refers to a significant shift that affects the child’s health and well-being. For example, if a child’s soccer schedule and the location of practices have been changed, a court may deem that new arrangements need to be put in place.

There is no limit to how many times the court can modify an order. However, you should only request that the court modify custody arrangements if you feel that it will be in the best interest of your child.

Dedicated Fairfax Family Law Attorneys Near You

With so much conflicting advice, you need guidance on what modifications should be made to your custody order. The court system can be fickle, and you need the best child custody lawyer in Fairfax and nearby to handle the red tape. Discover why U.S. News and World Report have given us the distinction of “best lawyers, best law firms” for eight years running. Contact Curran Moher Weis today to schedule your consultation.


What if Your Custody Schedule is Not Working?

child custody schedule not working and a parent has to leave, Fairfax child custody attorney can help with modifications.

Custody arrangements are often based on your and your child’s current schedule.  Life can get hectic, schedules can change, and the responsibilities of a parent and child can increase. If your current custody schedule is no longer working for you and your child, you should discuss your options with a Fairfax Child custody attorney at Curran Moher Weis. 

 A Virginia court will modify the current custody arrangement if there has been a material change in circumstances and it is in the best interest of the child that a modification be made. 

A “material change in circumstances” is fact specific and can include, for example, new emotional, intellectual, and physical needs of a child, the relocation of a parent, a strained relationship with the custodial parent, a custodial parent’s alcohol or drug addiction, or a parent’s remarriage. 

When considering a modification is in the best interest of the child, the court will consider the following 10 factors from Virginia Code Section 20-124.3:

  1. The age and physical and mental condition of the child, giving due consideration to the child’s changing developmental needs;
  2. The age and physical and mental condition of each parent;
  3. The relationship existing between each parent and each child, giving due consideration to the positive involvement with the child’s life, the ability to accurately assess and meet the emotional, intellectual, and physical needs of the child;
  4. The needs of the child, giving due consideration to other important relationships of the child, including but not limited to siblings, peers, and extended family members;
  5. The role that each parent has played and will play in the future, in the upbringing and care of the child;
  6. The propensity of each parent to actively support the child’s contact and relationship with the other parent, including whether a parent has unreasonably denied the other parent access to or visitation with the child;
  7. The relative willingness and demonstrated the ability of each parent to maintain a close and continuing relationship with the child, and the ability of each parent to cooperate in and resolve disputes regarding matters affecting the child;
  8. The reasonable preference of the child, if the court deems the child to be of reasonable intelligence, understanding, age, and experience to express such a preference;
  9. Any history of (i) family abuse as that term is defined in § 16.1-228; (ii) sexual abuse; (iii) child abuse; or (iv) an act of violence, force, or threat as defined in § 19.2-152.7:1that occurred no earlier than 10 years prior to the date a petition is filed. If the court finds such a history or act, the court may disregard the factors in subdivision 6; and

 

  1. Such other factors as the court deem necessary and proper to the determination.

If you believe that your current custody arrangement is no longer in the best interest of your child, be sure to speak with an attorney at Curran Moher Weis.


What To Know When Modifying Spousal Support

divorce attorney helping clients with a spousal support modification

If you’re in a situation where you believe a spousal support modification is in order – or if your ex-spouse is seeking a modification – it’s time to consult with an experienced attorney at Curran Moher Weis.

Modifying Spousal Support

Suppose there is sufficient reason for doing so. In that case, either spouse can request that the amount of spousal support is increased or decreased, that the duration be extended or abbreviated, or that the support is ended altogether – unless the original order specifically states that it is not modifiable. Reasons the court may increase or decrease the amount of spousal support – or alter its duration – can include:

 

  1. Either party – or both parties – experienced a change in circumstances that was not anticipated at the time the support was determined.
  2. An event that the court expected to happen, which would have changed one or both parties’ circumstances, failed to occur.

 

Terminating Spousal Support

In Virginia, a typical spousal support award terminates upon one of the following things occurring:

1) the death of either party;

2) the remarriage of the recipient spouse; or

3) if it is proven that the recipient spouse has been habitually cohabiting with another person in a relationship analogous to marriage for one year or more.

While death and remarriage are straightforward, cohabitation is often far less so.

 

An Experienced Fairfax Divorce Lawyer Can Help

If you need a spousal support modification – or your ex is seeking one – the attorneys from Curran Moher Weis have the experience to support your best interests. Contact us now for a consultation.