mediationEveryone has seen movies and television shows that depict a couple fighting out the terms of their divorce in a courtroom. Though much of what is on TV may be overly-dramatized for entertainment value, in truth, many divorce trials can be highly acrimonious, emotionally-charged, and unpleasant. Trials, by nature, pit one spouse against the other and generally have a winner and a loser on each issue. For this reason, trial should not always be your goal for divorce and other family law matters. In fact, many people work to settle divorce cases outside of the courtroom.

Even negotiations outside of a courtroom can get contentious and ugly. Such negotiations often result in one spouse and their attorney arguing with the other spouse and their attorney. Just because such negotiations may take place outside of a courtroom does not necessarily make the process any more pleasant.

Fortunately, there are other options for couples who are looking to complete their divorce in a non-contentious manner with their dignity intact. Mediation provides spouses with the opportunity to discuss the various terms of their divorce in a civilized manner to try to avoid ever reaching contested proceedings.

Instead of having two parties each with their own divorce lawyer, mediation involves the two parties discussing their divorce with a neutral party. The neutral mediator is not on either spouse’s side and does not represent either of them in legal proceedings. The mediator instead raises issues and facilitates discussion to try to settle divorce matters in a cooperative and respectful fashion. Mediation can cover topics such as child custody and visitation, child or spousal support, division of property, and much more. If two people can come to an agreement in the mediation process, they can have their agreement approved by the court and avoid any contested litigation. Additionally, mediation is not binding, so it is always worth a try to see if an agreement can be reached.

Contact an Experienced Family Law Attorney in Virginia

Experienced Virginia family law attorney Raymond B. Benzinger provides mediation and other alternative dispute resolutions to try to help you reach a solution without going to court. If you are facing divorce, contact our office today at (703) 312-0410 for help.

divorce and your homeBuying a house is an exciting step in the lives of many married couples. However, owning a family home can present numerous complications if a couple decides to file for divorce. Many questions may arise regarding who gets to live in the house, how they will pay for it, whether the house will be sold, and more.

One reason why one spouse may want to keep the family home rather than put it on the market is for minor children. First, children may be emotionally attached to the home. Additionally, you likely want to the divorce to have as little of a negative effect on children as possible. Therefore, you probably do not want to uproot them, move them out of their neighborhood, or even cause them to switch schools. If you are going to have primary custody of the children, you likely want to keep them in their home.

However, keeping the house is not always the best option, even if you have children. Your mortgage was likely approved based on the income of both you and your spouse, and you probably both contributed to the monthly payments. Even if you are set to receive child or spousal support, you may have trouble paying the mortgage payments on your own. As you probably know, owning a home is expensive and includes covering the mortgage, utilities, property taxes, homeowner’s insurance, and the cost of repairs. You do not want to put yourself in a position in which you cannot make your monthly payments and still save adequate money for your child’s educational expenses or for your retirement. If you are not certain you can afford the house, it may be better to sell and downsize.

You and your spouse should attempt to agree on the fate of the family home. If you cannot agree, the issue will have to go to court and a judge will make the decision for you. Judges can award possession of the home to either spouse or may order you to sell it.

Contact a Virginia family law attorney for help

It is always wise to have an attorney to help you figure out the many issues that may arise in a divorce, such as what will happen to your house. Call Virginia divorce lawyer Raymond B. Benzinger today for assistance at (703) 312-0410.

http://virginiafamilylawlawyers.com/virginia-divorce/

 

prenupAlmost everyone considering getting married believes that their relationship will last for the rest of their lives. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, and many statistics indicate that around half of all couples end their marriages in divorce. For people entering into marriage with substantial assets, a prenuptial agreement or “prenup” can be a wise decision. Prenuptial agreements are specialized contracts that clarify the rights and obligations of each party in the event of a divorce. Because of the formalities involved with drafting of an enforceable prenup as well as the potential financial ramifications, it is important to discuss your options with an experienced Virginia family law attorney as soon as possible.

Virginia Code § 20-150 lays out the content that may be included in a prenuptial agreement. People who wish to enter into a prenup prior to getting married can agree to the following:

  • Property rights and obligations to any property that they may or have already acquired
  • Rights in any real estate that either party may own
  • The way property is divided in the event that a coupe separates, divorces, or in the occurrence or nonoccurrence of any event
  • Spousal support
  • The creation of a will, trust, or other arrangement in order to carry out the provisions of the agreement
  • The ownership rights and disposition of a life insurance policy
  • Choice of law provisions
  • Any other matters, provided that they are not against public policy or in violation of criminal law·

As this list makes clear, the provisions of a prenuptial agreement can implicate a wide variety of issues, ranging from financial issues to personal matters such as the disposition of property in the event of spousal infidelity. As a result, a couple who is considering entering into a prenup should likely discuss their goals and concerns with an attorney who is familiar with drafting such agreements. In some cases, a lawyer may be able to alert you to issues that you may not have even realized existed when you decided to get married. Consulting with an attorney is the best way to ensure that your rights and property are protected in the event that your relationship with your spouse unexpectedly ends.

Contact a Virginia Premarital Agreement Attorney Today

Virginia family law attorney Raymond Benzinger is dedicated to helping people considering a premarital agreement protect their property and financial futures. To schedule a free consultation, call the Law Office of Raymond B. Benzinger today at (703) 312-0410.

alimonyVirginia law allows courts to impose spousal support when a couple chooses to divorce. Courts have wide discretion in awarding spousal support, and relatively recent changes to the law have actually increased that discretion. For example, proof of marital misconduct once barred the at-fault party from obtaining spousal support, but now courts may still award spousal support to prevent “manifest injustice” based on each party’s relative fault as well as the relative economic circumstances of the people involved. Because of the broad discretion that judges have, it is important for anyone who is a party to a proceeding in which spousal support is at issue to consult with an experienced Virginia family law attorney as soon as possible. An attorney will present your case in the best light possible, and can often make a significant difference in the outcome of your spousal support issue.

If a court chooses to award spousal support, there are several factors that are considering in determining the amount. These factors are set out in Virginia Code § 20-107.1, and include the following:

  • The financial needs and obligations of each party
  • The standard of living the couple had during the marriage
  • The length of the marriage
  • The age and mental condition of the parties, as well as any other special family circumstances
  • Whether there are issues that make it appropriate that one party not seek employment outside of the home
  • Each party’s contribution to the well-being of the family
  • The property interests of each party
  • The way in which the marital property is distributed in the divorce
  • The earning potential of each party, as well as their present employment opportunities
  • Each party’s ability to increase their earning potential through education and training
  • The way the marriage affected the parties’ current and future earning potential
  • The extent to which either party helped the other further their education and career
  • Other factors necessary to ensure an equitable result

People who are involved in spousal support disputes can present evidence to the court in support of their position. An attorney familiar with spousal support proceedings can assist you in presenting your position to the court in the strongest way possible.

Contact a Virginia Family Law Attorney Today for a Free Consultation

Attorney Raymond Benzinger is a skilled family law attorney who has over 4 decades of representing clients in Virginia courts. He is dedicated to helping those with family law issues bring their cases to the best possible outcome. To schedule a consultation, call the Law Office of Raymond B. Benzinger at (703) 312-0410. To send us an email, please fill out and submit the contact form available here.

relocationIn many situations, custody and visitation arrangements work well for both parents and the child for some time. Even if you are the non-custodial parent, you likely have visitation rights and have the opportunity to see your child and cultivate a continuing parent-child relationship.

However, one of the biggest disruptions of an existing custody agreement occurs when the custodial parent decides to move away. There are many reasons why a parent may wish to move with their child, such as a new job opportunity, a new relationship, or simply to be in closer proximity to other family ties. Though the custodial parent may have very valid reasons for wanting to move, you still have very valid reasons for wanting to remain close to your child. Therefore, if you are facing possible relocation of your child, you should contact an experienced family law attorney for assisting in standing up for your parental rights.

How does the court decide?

Though a parent may have a very good reason for relocating, the Virginia courts do not examine the situation in light of the parent’s interests. Instead, the court uses the same criteria in making relocation decisions as it does in making custody determinations—what is in the best interest of the child?

Once you object to the relocation, the other parent will have to demonstrate why the move would be the best thing for the child. The court will weigh several factors against each other, including the following:

  • The custodial parent’s reasons for moving
  • Whether the move will improve certain aspects of the child’s life
  • How the move will affect the child’s relationship with you
  • How the move will affect the visitation arrangement with you

Sometimes, even if the move will provide a better financial situation for the child, the court may decide that your continued relationship is truly in the best interests of the child and will not allow the relocation. In the event a relocation is allowed, you will also need to redesign the visitation arrangement to make sure you are still able to have a quality relationship with your child.

The experienced family lawyers at the Law Office of Raymond B. Benzinger know how to handle relocation cases in Virginia courts. To schedule a free consultation with attorney Raymond Benzinger, call our office today at (703) 312-0410 for help.

child support orderDivorce is almost always difficult, and can be particularly hard when a couple has children with one another. In these cases, courts often impose child support obligations on one of the parties to a divorce in order to ensure that a child’s financial needs are met.  Under Virginia law, there is a presumed amount of child support that a parent will owe based on that parent’s gross monthly income as well as the number of children he or she is required to support.  Courts have discretion to adjust this number if there is evidence that it should be adjusted, and can also modify a support order if one parent can show a that the circumstances under which the order was imposed have changed significantly enough that a modification is warranted. Whether you are the party receiving or paying child support, anyone considering seeking a modification to a child support order should be certain to discuss their case with an experienced Virginia family law lawyer as soon as possible.

Changes to child support orders do not happen automatically. One of the parents of a child must petition a court to modify the order, and he or she must show that there was a substantial change in financial circumstances that justifies an increase or decrease in the monthly payment.  Some of the types of changes that may result in a modification of a child support order include the following:

  • The loss of a job
  • A raise
  • A promotion
  • Increased financial needs of the child
  • Medical expenses
  • Educational expenses
  • Relocation
  • One of the parents gets remarried

It is important to understand that either the parent paying or the parent receiving child support may request a modification. For example, if a child develops a medical condition that requires intensive medical care, it may be sufficient to convince a court to increase the amount of child support required each month. On the other hand, if the custodial parent comes into a significant amount of money or remarries, a court may reduce the amount the noncustodial parent must pay.

Contact a Virginia Child Support Modification Attorney Today

Attorney Ray Benzinger is a skilled Virginia family law attorney who is dedicated to helping people seeking child support modifications bring their cases to a successful resolution. Call the Law Office of Raymond B. Benzinger today at (703) 312-0410.

 

 

 

domestic violenceDomestic violence is a serious problem for too many families in Virginia. To protect victims of domestic violence, Virginia has specific procedures to obtain restraining orders against alleged domestic offenders. Furthermore, Virginia has strict laws criminalizing domestic assault. For example, it is unlawful in this state to threaten, attempt to injure, or actually injure any member of your household or family. Under Virginia Code Ann. § 16.1-228, members of the household may include:

  • Spouses
  • Former spouses
  • Unmarried parents of the same child
  • Children
  • Parents and step-parents
  • Siblings, step-siblings, and half-siblings
  • Grandchildren
  • Grandparents
  • In-laws who reside in the same home
  • Two people who cohabitate or who used to cohabitate within the past year
  • Any children of either cohabitant

Acts of domestic violence may or may not cause actual physical injury, as it is illegal to even put a family or household member in fear of physical injury. Therefore, domestic violence may be charged without any evidence of physical injuries to any family member.

Wrongful Accusations

Though domestic violence laws are very important to protect family members who believe they are in danger of harm, the laws also open up the very real possibility of false or wrongful accusations. In some circumstances, one parent may simply want to keep the other away from their children, and so may make domestic violence accusations in order to get a restraining order.

Because domestic violence does not have to cause physical harm, these cases may often involve one person’s word against the other’s. However, such false implication can have very serious consequences for the accused. Not will the accused likely be kept from his or her family, but may also face very serious criminal assault charges that may result in probation or even time in jail. For this reason, anyone accused of domestic violence should immediately contact an experienced attorney for assistance defending their case and standing up for their rights.

If you have been wrongfully accused of domestic violence, the dedicated family law attorneys of the Law Office of Raymond B. Benzinger can help you. Raymond Benzinger will work to ensure your rights are protected and that you do not face wrongful conviction. Do not hesitate to call our office today at (703) 312-0410 for help.

grandparents visitation rightsVirginia parents have the ability to make decisions for their children, whether or not other people may agree with those decisions. In some cases, a parent will make the decision to stop allowing their child to see their grandparents. In other situations, a parent may move away and lose contact with the child’s grandparents. This most often happens following divorce or the death of the other parent. However, many grandparents have close bonds with their grandchildren and continuing a relationship is understandably important to them. If you would like to try to regain visitation rights to your grandchildren, you should contact an attorney who is experienced in grandparents’ rights cases.

In 2000, the United States Supreme Court decided a case regarding grandparents’ visitation rights, titled Troxel v. Granville. In that case, the Supreme Court decided that a parent’s wishes should be given special weight because “the interest of parents in the care, custody and control of their children–is perhaps the oldest of the fundamental liberty interests recognized by this Court.” Therefore, that case determined that a court should give deference to a parent’s wishes.

Virginia state law

Virginia law also states that the parent-child relationship should be given “primary consideration.” However, the law also allows any person with a legitimate interest in the child’s life to make an argument that visitation would be in the best interests of the child. Grandparents certainly have a legitimate interest in a grandchild’s well-being, and often can make a good case why the child would benefit from a continuing relationship with them. For example, if the grandparent and grandchild have previously spent a lot of quality time together, it may be emotionally harmful to suddenly end that relationship.

While making a case that the court should override a parent’s wishes may be difficult, it is not impossible. If you believe it is in the child’s best interest to have a continuing relationship with you, you should fight for your grandparents’ rights in Virginia. An experienced attorney at the Law Offices of Raymond B. Benzinger can help you fight for your rights. Call our office today at (703) 312-0410 for help.

sad childThough a divorce in Virginia can be an extremely difficult and stressful situation for any married couple, the process can be especially hard on families with children. No matter how amicable the divorce may be, having parents split up is a major change in a child’s life. Moreover, if the divorce is adversarial, it can be devastating for children to witness parents fighting over them. Courts understand how vulnerable children may be during a divorce and how susceptible they may be to emotional harm. Therefore, courts often focus on achieving results that will be in the best interest of any children involved.

Custody and Visitation

Many determinations in a divorce will directly affect the couple’s children, including custody, visitation, and child support. In deciding custody, Virginia law dictates that courts must not automatically give preference to one parent over another. For example, the mother is not given an advantage simply because of a motherly bond or because she will remain in the family home. If both parents are deemed to be fit, the court will encourage continuing and frequent contact with both of them equally. Furthermore, parents are expected to encourage a relationship between the child and the other parent and abide by all custody and visitation agreements.

On the other hand, if evidence shows the relationship with one parent may be toxic or harmful, the court will take that evidence into consideration when deciding custody and visitation. The court may order sole custody to one parent and mandate that visitation with the other parent be supervised until it is considered safe and healthy for the child.

Child Support

Child support is another very important determination in any divorce with children. The court wants to make sure both parents are responsible in supporting their children. The state of Virginia has a specific child support worksheet used to calculate the amount of support owed by one parent to another. Support may be ordered for any child under the age of 18, any high school student up to age 19, or any child who has a disability that renders them unable to live independently away from a parent.

If you are facing a divorce with children, you rightfully have many questions and concerns. You should not hesitate to call the Law Offices of Raymond B. Benzinger at (703) 312-0410 to schedule a consultation with an experienced divorce attorney today.

fathers rightsThough divorce can mean many significant changes for your family, one thing divorce should not automatically affect is a father’s rights to spend time with his children. Divorce does not change or eliminate the parental rights and responsibilities that either parent has under the law. Those rights and responsibilities include having a relationship with your children and helping to financially support them. In many cases, fathers may feel shut out of their child’s life following a divorce, especially if the mother becomes the custodial parent. An experienced family law attorney can help you stand up for your rights as a father.

Custody determinations

First, fathers should understand that courts in Virginia do not automatically give any preference to the mother when making custody determinations. In fact, the court focuses on the quality of the relationship between child and parent, not the quantity of time a child has spent with one parent over the other. Therefore, even a stay at home mom would not be inherently favored over a father who worked full time.

Next, even if you do not have primary physical custody, you still have rights regarding your child. There are two types of child custody: physical and legal. Physical custody refers to the time the child is actually physically present with you. Legal custody, however, refers to your ability to make decisions for your child, including education, medical care, and religious upbringing. Therefore, even if you do not have physical custody, you still have the right to be involved in the important decisions about your child’s life.

Visitation rights

If you do not have physical custody, you likely have a visitation arrangement. Every father has the right to have the visitation agreement enforced if your child’s mother is not following the agreement. Both parents are expected under the law to encourage and foster a relationship with the other parent. You should not have to deal with a former spouse who unlawfully keeps your children away from you.

In short, fathers should be aware of their rights and should fight for them. If you believe your father’s rights are being violated, you should not hesitate to call the Law Offices of Raymond B. Benzinger at (703) 312-0410. Our experienced Virginia family law attorneys can help you preserve your rights as a father.


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