Why is a separation agreement required if we're already separated and we're not fighting over anything?

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Why is a separation agreement required if we're already separated and we're not fighting over anything?

We often hear from prospective clients who ask why we require a separation agreement in every case, even those where they've been separated for more than a year. The simplest answer is, it's how we keep the cost so low for a divorce. Shop around and see whether you can find an attorney driven divorce product for less. If you can, send it to us and we'll see whether we can beat that price for you. 

Here are three simple reasons why you need a separation agreement:

1. The Law says so.

It's required in many cases. The law requires it in cases where the parties have no children born or adopted of the marriage and are seeking a no fault divorce after less than one year of separation, but more than six months. There's just no way of getting around this one. It's a statutory requirement. See Virginia Code Section 20-121.02 for more information - or, make life simple and call us for more information.

2. The Court prefers a clean break and so should you!

All of the issues have to be agreed to by the parties. Specifically, the parties need to inform the court of what they'd like to do about any child-related issues, spousal support, and equitable distribution. What better way to do this than by informing the court in a written and signed marital and property settlement agreement? After all, how else will the court know what you intend? If you haven't quite worked through everything, but still want to proceed, you can always reserve some or all of the issues in your agreement. And while, yes, you can do-it-yourself like you would a shed or a new deck in your backyard, why would you. Even the simplest divorce is sufficiently complex to warrant the most basic level of care. And when that care can be offered for the same price some outfits choose to charge for the paperwork itself, why in the world would you consider any other alternative? Let us build your metaphorical shed or deck. Let us erect the framework of your new home. It may end up costing you more in the long run if you don't.

3. Who has time for Court?

You shouldn't be required to appear in court. With an agreement, you and your spouse can divorce by affidavit. Without it, you may be required to present depositions in person or appear before the Court to enter evidence. That costs both time and money, neither of which anyone should spend frivolously.

So we keep the cost low, we do it for you, and no one should need to appear in court. Sounds good, right? If you want to get started, please call with any questions or go directly to www.frugallegal.com today! Let us handle your divorce for you for less.

 

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What is the difference between a same-sex marriage and a traditional marriage?

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What is the difference between a same-sex marriage and a traditional marriage?

To be honest, nothing, really. I could end it right here, but I'll humor those who are honestly curious with a little clarification. Technically, a same-sex marriage is an unnecessary label used to describe a marriage between two people of the same sex. Simple right? Well no, not really. 

The simple part is that the law does not technically distinguish between different types of marriage - nor should it! Love is love and marriage is marriage. Full stop. There's nothing special about a marriage if it is between a man and a woman or one between two of the same sex or gender. In fact, there's really nothing that defines marriage beyond that of a legal union between two legally competent persons. The law is silent on the matter.

So why, then, do we even use the label at all?

We do this now because those in same-sex relationships may not know whether we or other organizations work with clients of the LGBTQ+ community. While we believe everyone has a right to participate in the institution of marriage, we want to make sure it's clear that we welcome everyone with open arms. That said, we do not want to exploit anyone either, particularly those who are marginalized in society. So, while we believe there is no difference, we do believe it is important to underscore the distinction for the purpose of acknowledging our love and support.

We are proud to serve those in the LGBTQ+ community and encourage you to contact us directly if you have any questions or concerns.

 

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Online Divorce: Is it too good to be true?

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Online Divorce: Is it too good to be true?

You may have heard this saying at some point in your life: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is! These are sage words, especially when it comes to legal services. You may have already started searching for cheap divorce options online. After all, you found this post somehow, didn't you? Many offer do-it-yourself forms for a fraction of the cost of what lawyers charge for even a single billable hour. So far, so good. Some come with guarantees and promise the process will be quick and easy if you follow their [inset number here] simple steps. But when you buy their product and spend the time to figure our what their simple steps entail, you can find yourself lost in a quagmire of desperation and loneliness - left with what actually turns out to be really expensive “cheap online divorce paperwork.” The tragedy in all of this is that in addition to spending your hard earned money, you still may not get the job done.

So, what are you to do? Consider the following before you take a single step forward:

  • Know with whom you are dealing. Do you get the feeling that something isn’t quite right with some of those online divorce sites? There are a lot of online services out there that promise the world and deliver nothing more than printed words on paper in the end. A good rule of thumb is to first check to make sure you are dealing with a legitimate business, one that is literally managed by a licensed attorney - in your state. Anyone can make a website and take your money. If they are local, look them up online separately from their website. Do they show up in Google? Do they have a physical presence? Where exactly are they based? Do they provide you with a local number to call? Can you speak with a paralegal or attorney? If you leave a message or send an online inquiry, do you receive a response within 24 hours or less? Are they accredited with the Better Business Bureau?
  • Know exactly what you’re buying. Are you buying paperwork that you have to fill in or are they entering the information you provided for you? If you really want to tackle a do-it-yourself legal project, go for it! But consider this: What do you do with the paperwork? Do they give clear instructions? Do they handle the paperwork for you? Who files it with the court? In what court should you file and why? Will they see your divorce through to the end? Where do you turn when something goes wrong? What's an errata sheet?
  • Know whether there are any hidden costs. Is there a court filing fee on top of the cost you paid for the paperwork? How much is that? Do you need a separation agreement? If not, should you have one? If you get stuck, is there an attorney on the other end that can help you? Does that same attorney provide legal advice? Does it cost anything extra? Is that listed anywhere on their website? What if the court rejects the paperwork or you decide you want to back out before finalizing your divorce? How much does it cost?

Sometimes, you just know when something's not right. Other times, you don’t have a clue and need to dig a little deeper. Online divorce is one of those times. Even if you think “this” is your thing, it can still be very time consuming. If you are unsure about what to do, we encourage you to call us. If talking isn’t something you’re up for, email us. While we handle everything electronically, that doesn’t mean you are alone in the process. With Frugal Legal Services®, there is a living breathing experienced family law on the other end handling your case. Don’t believe me? Let me take just another moment of your time to answer some of those questions posed above (brace yourself, there are a lot of them):

  1. Do you get the feeling that something isn’t quite right with your online divorce? Let me put your mind at ease. First of all, I am the attorney that is responsible for handling your divorce from start to finish. I’ve been in practice here in the Hampton Roads area handling divorces just like yours for more than ten years. I live in Virginia Beach and have a wife and four school-aged children.
  2. If they are local, look them up online separate from their website. Do they show up in Google? You can visit our primary website at www.burroughs-law.com or you can simply Google me [search online] and see what comes up. Go ahead, I’m really okay with it.
  3. Do they have a physical presence? Yes. We are located in the heart of Virginia Beach, near Town Center in the Pembroke area, and handle online divorce for clients from all over Virginia. Since we eFile your divorce, it doesn’t matter where in Virginia you and/or your spouse live. We can file it locally and then transfer it back to your local jurisdiction should you ever need to deal with any issues in the future.
  4. Where exactly are they [we] based? Our physical address is 3500 Virginia Beach Blvd, #410, Virginia Beach, VA 23452. While we do not necessarily sit in the office all day waiting for customers to pour in from the streets, we are available in the office or phone by appointment.
  5. Do they [you] provide you [me] with a local number to call? Yes. Our main office number is (757) 363-0077. Our secondary number is (757) 745-3454. Call either one now if you have any questions or concerns.
  6. Can you [I] speak with a paralegal or attorney? When you call, you will speak with either, depending on who answers. We will field your questions and help put your mind at ease. You will never speak with a generic answering service.
  7. If you [I] leave a message or send an online inquiry, do you [I] receive a response within 24 hours or less? Just like before, we encourage you to call us. If we're not available to answer right away, leave a message. Our goal is to respond during the same or following business day, depending on when you call.
  8. Are they accredited with the Better Business Bureau? We are. Here’s the link: http://www.bbb.org/norfolk/business-reviews/attorneys-and-lawyers/burroughs-law-office-pc-in-virginia-beach-va-90037896#sealclick
  9. Are you buying paperwork that you have to fill in or are they entering the information you provided? After we receive your responses to our questionnaire, we draft all of your divorce documents for you. We do request that you review each document we send carefully to check for any errors and to make sure that you fully understand what you are signing and what we are filing on your behalf.
  10. What do you [I] do with the paperwork? Other than reviewing and signing paperwork we draft for you, nothing. If retained, we file it for you.
  11. Do they give clear instructions? Your attorney will correspond with you directly. Every time we send a document, we send clear instructions for you to review. If you don’t understand something, just email the attorney back so (s)he can explain it differently or in terms with which you are comfortable. We also have an abundance of information available on our website.
  12. Do they handle the paperwork for you [me]? We draft everything required for filing and finalizing your divorce for you.
  13. In what court should you [I] file and why? We eFile every Virginia divorce locally in Norfolk, Virginia. Jurisdiction is ultimately transferred back to your local county or city. We do this for a couple of reasons. First, we are physically located close to the Norfolk Circuit Court. Second, we’d file in Virginia Beach, but they do not offer eFiling at this time. Lastly, it has been my personal experience that the system is well-managed in Norfolk, meaning your divorce is timely processed and handled well. We love the clerks there. They are fantastic people and do a wonderful job!
  14. Is there a court filing fee on top of the cost you [I] paid for the paperwork? Not with Frugal Legal Services®. If we are retained to finalize your divorce, we will cover the cost to file for divorce. All of our prices are clearly listed on our products page.
  15. How much does it cost to file? In Norfolk, we cover the filing fee. That fee is $89.44. Some cities may charge more, but it isn’t something you need to worry about. You will not need to pay anything more if you retain our firm to finalize your divorce and all parties are cooperative.
  16. If you [I] get stuck, is there an attorney on the other end that can help you [me]? You will work directly with your attorney to finalize your divorce. If there are any hiccups, you are covered.
  17. Does that same attorney provide legal advice? We offer discounted hourly rates for current Frugal Legal Services® clients. That means that if you need legal advice, the attorney handling your case can provide it for you.
  18. Does it cost anything extra? It can, but again, we offer discounted rates if it becomes necessary. Most simple questions are handled without issue.
  19. Is that listed anywhere on their website? It clearly is listed on our products page. You can purchase time in 30 minute increments.
  20. What if the court rejects the paperwork or you [I] decide you [I] want to back out before finalizing your divorce? How much does it cost? Like all of our products, the costs are clearly listed on the products page. As for the process, your attorney can address any concerns the court may have for you. In rare situations, you may be required to appear in person. In that event, assuming it is through no fault of yours or your spouse, we handle it at no cost to you on our end. If you prefer to nonsuit your case due to a reconciliation, there is a cost associated with that, but like everything else, it is a flat rate fee and is all inclusive. 

So, while many things actually are too good to be true, Frugal Legal Services® isn’t one of them. People are often apprehensive due to the low cost or the fact that it’s all online, but we are literally a phone call away. Handling your divorce online helps us keep the cost low and streamlines the process for you. We do, however, understand that you want to know we’re real, that we’re not too good to be true. Call and find out for yourself. It may be the best decision you’ll make.

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Going to the Chapel? Adults Only, If You Please.

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Going to the Chapel? Adults Only, If You Please.

There was (is technically as of the date of this post - June 26, 2016) a time when children could get married here in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The exceptions provided by law to anxious underage newlyweds included parental or guardian consent or pregnancy for those even younger than 16. It wasn't really all that difficult and it happened more frequently than you might imagine.

Well, effective July 1, 2016, the only exception that permits underage hopefuls to get married is emancipation. That technically existed before; however, it is now the only way a child can get married. Unemancipated children simply cannot get married in Virginia.

So, what does this mean? Not much, really. Technically (and legally) underage children should not be getting married, let alone pregnant. Underage children should not be rearing themselves or other children. Adult parents should be doing the heavy lifting and nowhere in the book of parenting is there a chapter on raising the children of your own underage children.

The last thing I want to be is judgmental. I am the product of an underage romance and marriage. But like others in my situation, I am also the product of an underage divorce with half siblings from a total of four different marriages. I turned out just fine, as do many like me, but the struggles of underage parents raising children on their own without the maturity and life skills acquired by just a few more years of being a child are real.

While I can appreciate the former exceptions created by lawmakers years ago, I'm not so sure they're getting it wrong this time around. Marriage is more than a legal contract and marriage with children - even more. It's a really big deal. If you're under the age of 18 and you're lucky enough to have already found your soulmate, what difference would an extra year or two make in the grand scheme of things? Just something to consider. What are your thoughts on the new law? Is age really just a number? When is a person truly old enough to handle marriage and children?

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Top 19 Out of 282 Divorce Lawyers in Virginia Beach!

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Top 19 Out of 282 Divorce Lawyers in Virginia Beach!

Burroughs Law Office, P.C. was recently recognized as one of the best law firms in Virginia Beach for 2016 by Expertise. We are both humbled and proud to be among a class of family law firms we both respect and admire. Just know that when you choose Frugal Legal Services® for your online divorce needs, you're not just hiring a document service outfit. You're not just hiring someone to guide you through the process. You're hiring an award winning law firm to handle your case from start to finish. The same holds true for our representation in contested family law matters as well!

Visit www.frugallegal.com or call us at (757) 745-3454 for more information.  We are only a phone call or email away! Click the Expertise icon for more information on how they narrowed down the list from 282 to 19 top picks. If you're ready to begin, we're ready to get started!

Best Divorce
Lawyers in
Virginia Beach
2016

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Give Me One Good Reason To Cut Out the Middleman - Other than Cost.

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Give Me One Good Reason To Cut Out the Middleman - Other than Cost.

My wife and I have the (misfortune) pleasure of renting a minivan for the week. It's a long story and I accept full responsibility; but for the purpose of this post, I'll just write that she was less than pleased. Needless to say, I had to make sure she was comparably provided for while her minivan was getting a little TLC. Our current rental has all the same bells and whistles (or at least, so we thought). While it technically has SiriusXM Radio, it isn't activated on this particular rental. No big deal right? Mostly so. But with four children (the younger three being 10 and under), we prefer to keep it age-appropriate whenever possible. The stations we typically listen to on a regular basis (with the kids in the car) generally filter songs or content from their song roster to make them a little more kid friendly, meaning, the cursing and sexual innuendos are either bleeped out or rephrased in some way. It's often times the same music, it's just that the songs are toned down a bit. Another benefit to satellite radio is the lack of commercial breaks. After years of being spoiled with satellite radio, it didn't take long to recall just how overwhelming commercials can be.

Well, this morning, my wife heard a radio commercial for VirginiaOnlineDivorce.com. The advertisement seemed to imply that you can get a divorce for just $149. After a little digging (visiting their website), I soon realized they just draft your paperwork. They don't file anything and (upon calling to confirm) they will not provide any guidance or legal advice. You are just on your own. In fact, they market cutting out the middleman (an attorney) as an advantage to their product, claiming the cheapest fee you will find from an attorney is probably $700 plus court costs. Hogwash! There are a lot of other online sources that offer the same service for less.

Just take a little extra time. be patient.

The following is a quote from one of their satisfied customers: "I had no idea I could get divorced this fast and for such a small fee. I had been calling around for weeks looking for a divorce attorney that I could afford. The cheapest one I found was $750. I was just about ready to go with their firm until I did one last search and found You guys." She goes on a bit more singing their praises, but I honestly find it hard to believe that she couldn't find someone for less. Also, if she was looking for a divorce lawyer to help, why did she settle with this particular outfit? According to the disclaimer located at the bottom of their homepage: "[The] Provider is not a law firm. None of [their] customer service representatives are lawyers and they also do not provide legal advice. Although [they] go to great lengths to make sure [their] information is accurate and useful, [they] recommend you consult a lawyer if you want legal advice." So, which is it then? Do I need an attorney or not? Often times, I find that clients don't even know what they don't know. They don't know what to ask. They don't know to what they're entitled. What if, in the process of finalizing your divorce with a 100% satisfaction guarantee using a fill-in-the-blank do-it-yourself company, you end up forever waiving your right to your spouse's military pension plan or some other entitlement? Some things can't be fixed after the fact. It's better to know, than to guess and find out later that you got it wrong.

Compare the competition. Do your homework.

Again, there are a number of other attorneys/law firms doing what we do here at Frugal Legal Services®; but you'll generally pay more in the end and, more likely than not, you will not have direct access to the attorney handling your particular case. When you're surfing the web looking for the best deals, just be sure to read the fineprint. When it reads $395, does it include court costs (filing fees)? Does that figure include a separation agreement? Can you really complete everything online without appearing in court? If you call or email your attorney, will you get a prompt response from him or her directly?

If the above reviewer actually did a comprehensive search as she claimed, she would have found a long list of providers that get the job done for less. If your only option is to do-it-yourself, then by all means, do what you have to do. Measure twice and cut once. But know that there are inexpensive options out there that include an experienced middleman (or woman) to hold your hand from start to finish. After all, if their recommendation is that you consult a lawyer for legal advice and they don't staff any lawyers, you're at the wrong place. You need to move on. Let us help you. Call (757) 745-3454 to speak with a divorce attorney today!

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1-800-875-1773 Virginia Online Divorce - Why in the World Would You Do-It-Yourself? Continue Reading Before You Call That 800 Number!

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1-800-875-1773 Virginia Online Divorce - Why in the World Would You Do-It-Yourself? Continue Reading Before You Call That 800 Number!

As I was driving home from a birthday party with my six year old son, a sign caught my attention. It read: DIVORCE $99 800-875-1773. I thought to myself, how in the world are they doing it for $99? The filing fee alone in most jurisdictions is near $90. How can they draft and file a divorce for the equivalent of $10? Answer: They don't!

I called the number and was met with an answering message asking that I leave return caller information and promised that I would receive a call back soon. I Googled the number and it took me to a website: virginiaonlinedivorce.com. The website presented as clean and simple. As far as I can tell it looks legit, though I don't know anyone personally who has used this product. The following is a screenshot of their website with a simple three step explanation of "how it works":

A NECESSARY DISCLAIMER: Please know that we are in no way claiming that the VIRGINIA ONLINE DIVORCE product does or does not work. A testimonial is provided by a person in Arlington, Virginia who claims it worked for her and that "you just can't beat that!" While we have no doubt it can work, we beg to differ that it can't be beat. After reading through their three simple do-it-yourself steps, consider allowing us to handle the entire process for you for next to nothing. If you like do-it-yourself projects, then maybe they have just what you're looking for. If, however, you want something that works, takes little (if any) effort on your part, and costs only a fraction of what they claim others charge, you're already where you need to be with frugallegalservices.com.

Comparing Virginia Online Divorce with Frugal Legal Services®

Fill Out the Questionnaire

First of all, 15 minutes sounds a bit too much like a Geico commercial. Their claim is that you take fifteen minutes to answer a few simple questions that will help their team draft your unique forms. They ensure your forms will be accurate. Well, thank God for that. Accuracy is important. Accuracy is, however, only one small (important) step in a complicated process.

What if you have questions? Do they respond with legal advice? Are they protecting you? Are they drafting your separation agreement and representing your best interests? I don't know for sure, but it doesn't seem likely for the cost they charge. In fact, all I could find on their website was a guarantee that their paperwork will work. I can't tell you how many people have come into our office to pay us more to "finish" the mess they themselves started with a do-it-yourself fill in the blank divorce packet.

We too use an online questionnaire to gather information. It may take a little longer than 15 minutes to complete, but it may take less. Every situation is unique in some way. Our process is all online and your correspondence with us is handled by an attorney. Once your responses are received by Frugal Legal Services®, an actual divorce attorney reviews your responses and addresses your questions, if any. That same attorney drafts your separation agreement and all necessary court documents. We know exactly what the courts are looking for and help you get it right the first time around. If anything goes differently than anticipated, we follow up with the court, not you.

Receive Your Paperwork

Virginia Online Divorce claims that your custom paperwork will be professionally prepared, that it is not fill-in-the-blank. They have a professional staff fill in the blanks for you. With Frugal Legal Services®, a licensed divorce attorney creates your legal divorce documents. We also bring to your attention any legal matters that may impact you. This is an actual attorney/client relationship, not just a professional staff person. After we complete any document, we email a .pdf version to you for review and approval along with instructions for what needs to happen from there. Generally, it is an explanation of the timeline from that point and a request that your documents be signed/notarized and returned to us for handling. 

Also, although Virginia Online Divorce states you may not need a separation agreement depending on your circumstances, we strongly advise that you enter into one with your soon to be ex-spouse. You want your divorce to be final and you want to be protected. A separation agreement can help make that happen for you. That's why we insist that one is filed with every divorce we handle. Fortunately, the cost for a separation agreement coupled with any of our divorce products is just $50! There is simply no reason to do this part yourself. In fact, you could do a lot of harm to yourself, your spouse, and children (if any) if you do.

File Your Paperwork

Here's the kicker: For just $99, Virginia Online Divorce will prepare your paperwork and send it to you. Their claim is that you must then "take the paperwork [they] put together for you down to your local courthouse and file it. You will get a court date in which your case will [be] heard by the judge and your divorce will be granted. That's it ..."

My head is spinning. If yours isn't, it will be when you try to figure this out on your own. It is anything but as simple as taking their completed paperwork down to your local courthouse and filing it in most jurisdictions. Some are incredibly challenging and require you to do it in a very particular manner. The clerk's office will likely refer you to an attorney with any questions on how it works. They cannot offer legal advice. The struggle is real. What do you file? In what order? How is the court date set? Wait, are you telling me I actually have to go to court? And what about the corroborating witness? Does my soon to be ex-spouse have to be there? You will likely have ... So. Many. Questions! This is a life event and you need to make certain it is handled properly.

Our process with Frugal Legal Services® is really simple. You send us your signed/notarized paperwork (the very same paperwork your divorce attorney drafted on your behalf) and we file everything with the court. Our price even INCLUDES your filing fee! In nearly every case, the court enters your final decree of divorce and returns an electronically certified copy to us within a few weeks at most. You, your corroborating witness, or your soon to be ex-spouse should not need to attend court and if you are summoned for any reason, we'll be there right by your side. We see you through from start to finish for one very low and competitive price.

Is it really "that" simple?

If only it were! Divorce in Virginia is so much more than paperwork. Their claim is that there is "no need to spend thousands of dollars on a divorce attorney when VirginiaOnlineDivorce.com will do it for you for only $99." What they should write is that they'll help you do-it-yourself for only $99. It seems a bit misleading if you ask me. Even still, some will insist that they like doing it themselves. Some people like to work on cars and can save a lot of money in labor by doing so. But what if the cost of labor were so low that it no longer made sense to do-it-yourself? If you could spend your time earning money of your own or even doing something you enjoy while a divorce attorney handles your divorce from start to finish for only a little more than the parts (paperwork) you're paying for, why wouldn't you? One thing we can agree upon is that there really is no need to spend thousands of dollars on a divorce attorney; but that doesn't mean you're on your own. In fact, with a service like Frugal Legal Services® available, I can't think of a single compelling reason why a person should handle their own divorce. Do not do-it-yourself. Let us handle it for you!

Please feel free to call or email me directly with any questions.

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5 Common Virginia Divorce Myths and Misconceptions Debunked

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5 Common Virginia Divorce Myths and Misconceptions Debunked

1. “I heard I can get divorced on one day.” – Not True!

Believe it or not, I had a call come in just this week where a prospective client was under the impression that he could get divorced in as quickly as “one” day. If only it were that simple! The divorce process is not necessarily complicated, but it can take a little time to get it right. In fact, you owe it to yourself to make sure you get it right the first time around. There’s nothing quite like being hauled back into court on a divorce you thought was finalized to resolve issues that should have been addressed the first time around. Ideally, divorcing couples should strive to resolve all of their differences, present their settlement to the court in a written and signed separation agreement, and have that same incorporated by reference into a final decree of divorce. Contrary to what your divorced friends tell you from their own personal experience, having an attorney handle this for you is highly recommended. This is not something you should do on your own.

Regardless of whether you have children, you and your spouse should take the time to work through your differences. Spending tens of thousands on attorney fees is not a prudent course of action for any rationally minded couple contemplating a divorce. Although the operative phrase is “rationally minded,” even where certain concessions are made, it’s often times more likely that you’ll spend less on compromise than you will on attorney fees. Do your best to remove emotion from your negotiating equation and strive to do what you can to find a settlement you can live with now and in years to come. Throw principle out the window and focus on making a prudent business decision.

As far as the timeline is concerned, bear in mind that it is a legal process. It is literally impossible to get a divorce in one day. And although it can happen quickly (sometimes in a matter of only a few days), your best option is to take a little time to make sure you close the door on your marriage, lock it, and throw away the key. With the exception of child custody, visitation, and child support, this is a very real and common option for nearly everyone.

The first step is to work through a separation agreement with a qualified divorce attorney. Do not pick what some affectionately refer to as a threshold attorney (one who takes nearly any type of case that crosses his or her office threshold). Choose someone who specializes in family law, someone whose primary practice area is divorce. Have him or her work through a separation agreement and advise you of the implications of your agreement with your spouse. Make a well-informed decision. Take nothing for granted and make NO assumptions.

After your separation agreement is signed by both you and your spouse, have your attorney file a complaint for divorce. Assuming you’ve been separated from your spouse for the statutorily prescribed period of time, you can literally file the same day your separation agreement is signed. In Virginia, the Clerk of Court for the venue you’ve selected will enter your Complaint for Divorce into its system and issue a case number. From there, your spouse can execute a waiver of service of process and you and your corroborating witness can sign your respective affidavits. Again, ideally, your attorney will draft these documents for you.

[A word of caution: Avoid the do-it-yourself online divorce! If you are buying one of those online divorce paperwork packets and the outfit providing said documents is not filing your divorce and representing you in court, you’re likely wasting your money. Depending on the venue in which you choose to file, you may find it difficult to get these documents approved by the court. Every city/venue has its own unique set of rules that even the most experienced attorneys struggle to master. What worked one time may be rejected the next time based on a new set of eyes with a unique set of expectations. In other words, let the attorney worry about getting it done for you. This is a life event, not an oil change.]

As soon as the waiver and affidavits are received, the attorney can file these documents along with your final decree of divorce for submission, consideration, and entry by the Court. The turnaround time in most cities can range anywhere between 2-6 weeks depending on the court’s caseload (sometimes longer). All you can really do is to remain patient at this stage. You should not need to appear in court and everything will eventually make its way around to a law clerk, judge, and back to the clerk’s office for entry. Once the final decree is entered, the clerk of court will generally email a certified copy to your attorney of record and your divorce will be final.

The beauty of using an attorney through this process is, all you need to do is to answer a couple of questions posed by your attorney and then review and sign documents. Your attorney should do the rest. Our line divorce product (Frugal Legal Services®) makes this possible for hundreds of clients each year for the cost some attorneys charge for an hour consultation. It doesn’t need to be complicated or expensive, but it does need to be done right.

2. “I know we need to be separated for six months/one year. Someone told me we can just back date it.” – Not true!

Your period of separation begins on the date you and your spouse begin living separately and apart without cohabitation and without interruption for a period of either six months or a year (depending on your circumstances). If you have children, that period of time is one full year, regardless of whether you have a separation agreement. If you do not have children and you do have a validly executed separation agreement (hopefully one drafted by a divorce attorney), then your separation period is just six months.

[Here's some good news: Your date of separation is not the day you and your spouse "sign" your separation agreement. You can sign your separation agreement at any time after you begin your period of separation.]

Some prospective clients come into the office and, after learning this information, attempt to persuade me that their date of separation is actually earlier than they originally stated. “Backdating” a separation date is not only unethical, but if presented to the court under oath as fact (knowing it to be a lie), it is also a form of perjury. If you’ve not yet hit the six month or one-year mark, it is recommended that you consider at least completing a separation agreement. You’ll find that time sometimes gives rise to detrimental reflection, allowing emotions to creep into negotiations in ways that prove harmful to resolving issues of support and equitable distribution in a civil manner. If you’re not quite ready to file for divorce, but have figured out how you want your separation to look, have an attorney assist with memorialize get that in writing for you immediately. Save your money and get it done right while you can.

3. “My divorce is uncontested.” – Is it really?

Is it? If your divorce is truly uncontested, you and your spouse are in agreement on every issues that is before the court. There is a difference between “no-fault” and “uncontested.” A no-fault divorce is one where the parties have simply live separately apart without cohabitation and without interruption for a statutorily prescribed period of time. The court has within its discretion (upon the filing of one of the parties) to grant a divorce based on nothing more than a period of separation. Nice, right?

Well, here’s the rub. While you may not be fighting over the “reason” for the divorce itself, you may have certain issues that you want the court to resolve on your behalf. This alone makes your divorce contested. Do either of you want spousal support from the other? Are there children involved and have you ironed out custody, visitation, and child support? What about the home? The cars? Your furniture? Your retirement accounts? You see where I’m going with this? Yes, you may qualify for a “no-fault” divorce, but your divorce may be anything but “uncontested.”

So, if you’re looking for a reasonably priced uncontested divorce, you and your spouse need to work through each and every issue (in writing) before filing any action with the court. That way, you’ll save tens of thousands of dollars often spent on contentious divorces between people who are forced to finance their way to freedom. These same unhappy people often end up in bankruptcy and have done little more than line the pockets of their respective attorneys.

Can you do it? Let’s hope so!

4. “Someone told me we don’t really need a separation agreement.” – True! Well, sort of.

The short response is, a separation agreement is not required. The longer, more accurate answer is that while one is not required, you do “need” one. As I stated above, you can divorce based on no-fault grounds after one full year of separation from your spouse. Of course, proceeding without a separation agreement may leave you vulnerable to having a disinterested third party decide your fate for you. You are putting the power to decide your fate in the hands a judge and you’re paying dearly for it. Odds are, the end result will be something with which you can’t, but must, live.

5. “I can’t afford an attorney.” – True! Who can, really? But you also cannot afford to go without one!

I hear this one nearly every day, but the reality is, you cannot afford “not” to hire an attorney for your divorce. Whether it be a simple uncontested, no-fault online based divorce or a complicated fault-based battle, the last thing you want to do is represent yourself. Not only will you likely be unfamiliar with the laws and procedures involved in a divorce action, you’ll run the risk of being steamrolled by your spouse’s smart decision to retain and utilize counsel of his or her own. At a minimum, you should seek to level the playing field. Make sure you are protected. Make well-informed decisions. Exercise your right to protect yourself, shield your assets, and do what’s best for your children.

Here’s the way I look at it. Even in the worst of cases, no one can really “afford” an attorney. It’s terribly expensive and the fees alone may and likely do exceed your means. Even so, you really cannot afford not to have one though. If it’s getting heated and you’re worried about losing it all, you may have no choice but to find a way to hire competent legal counsel. If, on the other hand, you and your spouse have figured it all out, the cost to finalize your divorce (although still expensive for some) is a lot less expensive than you think. You can literally get divorced from start to finish with a separation agreement and competent legal counsel for less than $400.00! Our online divorce model provides what is the equivalent to a nearly free divorce option for those who know what they want and don’t want to spend a lot of money to get it. There are likely others out there just like it, but ours is tried and true and we get the job done for less.

If you or someone you know is in need of direction, please do not hesitate to reach out for help. Let us help you understand your options so you can make the best decision possible for your personal situation.    

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Unchartered Waters: The Impact of Our Unwillingness to Address the Inevitable with Same-Sex Marriage

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Unchartered Waters: The Impact of Our Unwillingness to Address the Inevitable with Same-Sex Marriage

On Friday, January 8, 2016, Judge Steven Frucci of the Virginia Beach Circuit Court made a ruling in favor of a non-biological same-sex parent that some believe shook the very foundation of the institution of family law in Virginia. Some herald it as a landmark decision, one that will influence the course of future cases involving non-biological parents in same sex-marriages, but the unfortunate reality is, it doesn't resolve anything for same-sex parents in Virginia. Although persuasive, other judges are free to do what they believe is the "right" thing.

The Impact of the Court's Decision for Same-sex Couples with Children

Here's the thing. To any rationally-minded parent, Judge Frucci's decision is logical. Although non-biologicial, Lauren Poole is a parent and should be afforded equal rights. In her case, she and her spouse, Karen Poole, enlisted a male friend to act as a sperm donor. The couple utilized an at-home artificial insemination technique and, after the pregnancy was confirmed, the three signed an agreement to release the donor from parental responsibility, naming Laren Poole as the child's second parent. There are so many potential legal issues at play here, but the reality for the baby boy, their son, is that both Lauren and Karen are his parents. At the heart of this case is a young boy who, like any other child, needs loving parents. Divorce is not unique to same-sex couples. It's a reality any married couple with children may face at some point in their relationship. It's a reality that can impact any child, regardless of their parent's gender or sexual orientation. It's a reality that requires truly thoughtful discourse and careful consideration.

It doesn’t matter that a baby born to a same-sex married couple has only one of the women’s DNA.
— Judge Steven Frucci

Some may be asking what Judge Frucci's decision means for other cases with similar situations. Unfortunately, even where the facts are identical, it can go either way. Judge Frucci would likely be the first to admit that the Pooles' situation is unique, but was resolved in his opinion that "both women should be considered equal parents." The real problem is that there is no written law in Virginia that controls, nor is there any case law that provides even a modicum of guidance. We are quite simply in unchartered territory. While Judge Frucci is allowing the Pooles to proceed, other same-sex couples may not be as fortunate. What we really need is for the existing laws to be overhauled. It's been more than two years since same-sex marriage was recognized in Virginia (October 2014) and, despite efforts to address the lack of acknowledgement of same-sex couples in family law related matters, there have been no changes - and by "no changes," I mean NONE. Since we finalized what is likely the first same-sex divorce in Virginia back in November of 2014, the only updates we've witnessed are to the VS-4 Form that is submitted to Richmond to report the divorce itself. We seem to be taking "baby steps" to an extreme when it comes to same-sex marriage. The laws need to reflect reality.

Call to Action?

Whatever your position on same-sex marriage, one thing is certain: we absolutely need to tackle this issue head-on. Forcing judges to legislate from the bench is not a viable solution. This "step in the right direction" should really be a wake up call. If we leave such an important issue in the hands of the judicial system, there's a chance they'll get it wrong. If this issue is appealed and there is no legal authority to support Judge Frucci's decision, the young boy in this case could be without his mother until the inevitable "right" thing happens. At some point we'll get it right, but in the meantime, a young boy may suffer. Two years is long enough. It's time we fix our legal system.

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Child Support: Our System Is Broken

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Child Support: Our System Is Broken

This may be unique to New York, although I doubt it, but the laws there permit police to seize assets of parents who are not current on child support. Until recently, it was a rarely, if ever, enforced law. Now, however, the current Governor of New York is actively seizing vehicles owned by payor parents (parents under a court ordered obligation to pay child support) who owe as little as $100 in unpaid child support. Well, not him personally, but one thing is clear, New York means business when it comes to collecting child support.

In Virginia, it is not uncommon for the Division of Child Support Enforcement (DCSE) to actively pursue arrears from “deadbeat” parents. Deadbeat parents are characterized as those who prioritize paying every other bill before providing court ordered monetary support to another parent for the benefit of their children. My experience as a family law attorney is that Virginia is no slouch either when it comes to collecting support. The local team of attorneys here in Virginia Beach are both competent and aggressive. They do their job well. If seizing personal property were an option, they too would get the job done. They do their job extremely well.

No One Said It Would Be Easy

Some payor parents argue that they simply cannot afford it. They may work two or more jobs and are unable to meet their basic living expenses. Maybe they have a felony conviction and are struggling to find a job in the first place. In any event, paying child support is at the bottom of a long list of financial obligations that is sadly ignored or neglected. Mind you, this is not the norm. For the most part, payor parents pay their support, on time and in full. They may have problems with the system, but they do not make excuses. They make supporting their child a priority and it doesn’t stop with paying a child support bill each month.

In other cases, the noncustodial parent makes enough to pay, but doesn’t believe in the system. They just can’t bear the thought of paying the other parent any amount of money for child support. It’s just not happening. In their opinion, it is not being spent directly on their child. They believe the other parent is wasteful and that they are not putting their child first. They want an accounting of how the money is spent and are confused when they find out the system won't allow it. What they often fail to understand is how child support indirectly benefits the child: an extra room in the house, a roof over his or her head, extra food in the house, utilities, etc. There are exceptions, but for the most part, the child support that exchanges hands doesn’t even come close to covering expenses for the child, especially when parenting is done right. Even when a payor parent sees the light, he or she would rather rear the child on his or her own than pay the other to do it. Child support is a strong motivating factor behind why many parents fight so vigorously for custody in the first place.

It’s the Child Who Suffers

Child support is mostly a numbers game. A formula churns out a presumably accurate level of child support based upon the State’s assessment of what is needed by a custodial parent to maintain a basic standard of living for the child. It’s not perfect, but it often times fails to provide everything a child needs. Those on the paying end tend to believe it’s more than enough – overkill. They see it as the other parent’s discretionary spending money rather than as support for their child. Payee parents see it as a mere token – it’s never enough.

Just as common as it is to hear arguments from payor parents obligated by court order to provide child support for their child that it is too much, it’s nearly as common to hear payee parents argue that it’s never enough. Some parents have children by several different men (fathers) and use support as a means to avoid providing for themselves. They want more than guidelines provide and believe no amount is ever enough. This type of parents sees their child and his or her father as a meal ticket. They don’t want a partner is rearing their child, they only want his or her money. It’s the child who is on the losing end of this type of battle. Mom gets her meal ticket and the child gets an absent father.

A battle over child support between parents is a lose/lose situation for the child.

How Can We Fix It?

So, with all of this, how do we motivate the payor parents to timely pay their child support obligation? Do we, as the DCSE does here in Virginia, suspend their driver’s license? Do we drag them into court and threaten jail-time until a purge amount is met? Do we, as they are now doing in New York, seize a valuable asset and sell it at auction? Constitutional issues aside, selling a $10,000 automobile at auction to recover $100 in child support seems a tad bit overly aggressive. Will any of this really motivate an unwilling parent under a court ordered obligation of support?

The arguments against pursuing such aggressive methods of collection go something like this: If we suspend their license, it will impede their ability to get to work. Not working will mean they cannot pay child support. It will affect their livelihood and ability to maintain stable employment. This is particularly true of a convicted felon who is actively employed. If we jail them, even for a few days, the same affect may reveal itself. If we seize their car and sell it at auction – again, the same. But if we do nothing, they won’t pay either. The other side of the argument reveals the sad truth – doing nothing just lets them get away with it. The only winner is the deadbeat parent. In the end, it’s the child that suffers – no matter what course of action we take. The short term fix or motivation garnered from suspending a license, jailing for contempt, or selling a seized asset, will only serve to create even bigger problems down the road.

So, do we just cut our losses and get as much out of them now as we possibly can, knowing we won’t see another dime from them in the future? I believe this is the question the courts wrestle with everyday. The same people keep coming back to court, each time with less to pay and more excuses for not paying. If you have children and you are under a court ordered obligation to pay child support, pay it.

Child Support Is A Priority - Pay It!

If you cannot afford to pay your child support, seek to have it amended to an appropriate level. Do something to affect change in a broken system. Civil disobedience is not the answer. If you’ve done all you can in that regard, then make sure you pay that bill first. Pay it before you pay your rent. Pay it before you buy your food. Pay it before you pay your utilities. If you don’t and DCSE or the court pursues a cause of action against you for nonpayment, you could lose it all. Maybe not at first and maybe not all at once, but eventually you may. There really is no valid legal defense for not paying your child support. There is not much an attorney can do for you. Make an effort. Pay your child support!

What are your thoughts on how we should handle child support enforcement?

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How Does Your Divorce Benefit Your Children?

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How Does Your Divorce Benefit Your Children?

"Making divorce easier will bring little benefit for children. The law is a teacher. It embodies what society considers to be worth both validating and punishing." - Breda O'Brien

Here in the United States, it's not terribly difficult to get divorced and it’s relatively inexpensive, costing as little as a few hundred dollars or less. In Virginia, for instance, a no fault divorce may be granted to married couples without children who have a signed separation agreement after just six months of uninterrupted non-cohabitation. With children, that time period is a bit longer (twelve months), presumably to give couples more time to work through their issues and, in rare cases, salvage their marriage (for the sake of their children, if nothing else.) Some states take longer and others less time, however, one thing remains constant: if the parties aren't really fighting over anything, then divorce can be relatively simple, but making it easier will not benefit your children.

Frugal Legal Services offers an inexpensive online divorce solution that takes very little time or effort on the part of the divorcing couple.

Surprisingly and contrary to what most people think, with the exception of the 50-and-over crowd, the silver separators, the divorce rate in the United States is starting to decline. The Guardian provides an easy read on this topic in it's November 24, 2015 article, Meet the Silver Separators: Why Over-50s Top the Divorce Charts. The article suggests that these couples prefer to hold off on uncoupling because of (or for) their children.

Normally, I'd be the first to shout from the rooftops that people shouldn't waste their time, effort, or resources on a complicated divorce. I preach the benefits of conscientious uncoupling every day, even though doing so is in direct conflict with one of my core objectives - earning a living. But I'd be remiss if I didn't acknowledge that it's really not that simple, especially when children are involved. Sure, the process is simple, but a divorce - dissolving a once committed union - is not. Here's why.

There is a lot more that goes into a divorce than obtaining a court's acknowledgement of dissolution. Divorce cannot erase the past and it cannot fix the future, not on its own anyway. Legally, the union may be over; however, practically speaking, it's only really changed. For better or worse, our lives are forever altered by marriage and divorce. Whether it be a missed opportunity in life or a shift in the way you form and manage relationships going forward, marriage and divorce, like nearly any other life event, will impact you in ways you may never truly comprehend. In cases where children are involved this is even more apparent.

Your decision to uncouple will certainly impact your children. Only a fool would believe otherwise. You may no longer be husband and wife, but you'll forever be mom and dad. And despite what you may have heard (or believe) there really is no good time to divorce. Whether you have an infant, adolescent, or adult child, it will impact them in some way. The timing may be better, as is the case with silver separators, but it’s rarely ever good.

The important thing is that you consider how your divorce will impact your children. If it means slowing things down to account for counseling, it's the least you can do. Simply severing your legal ties will not fix all of your problems. Remember, divorce is only one component of many that need to be considered. While some are focused on personal happiness and in obtaining their freedom, these are but mere components as well. Take your time and prioritize your objectives. Make sure you get it right. Make sure your children are on that list of priorities. Make sure they're on your spouse's list as well.

The bottom line is that a simple approach to divorce is still the way to go. Save money. Minimize conflict. Take your time. Divorce is not a race. The process is as easy as it needs to be, all things considered. A legal action of divorce alone will not likely benefit your children, unless, of course, there are issues of abuse or neglect at play. It can, but usually doesn't, not on its own. There is no direct correlation between divorce and your children’s happiness and well-being, but they are linked. In most cases, divorce is a horrible solution for children. Yes, they get two of everything (birthdays, holidays, gifts, etc.), but they often times get none of what children need most - a loving, caring, home with mom and dad - the two people that mean most to them. Before you employ legal counsel to finalize your divorce, just be sure you've considered all of your options. I'm confident won't regret having put a little extra time and thought into it (my two cents.)

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You Don't Have to Wait Until Thanksgiving to Eat Together. Do These 7 Things Today!

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You Don't Have to Wait Until Thanksgiving to Eat Together. Do These 7 Things Today!

Another year has passed and the holidays are upon us. This tends to be a particularly slow time of the year for those of us practicing family law. Bad for business, but good for humanity. Sadly, the reprieve is only temporary. It's only a matter of time before the insanity resumes.

For now, at least, soak it all in. Why fight it? I hear people complain that Christmas starts too early, that they can't believe we're already listening to Christmas tunes on the radio. Salvation Army bell ringers are out in full swing, asking for change in front of supermarkets and drug stores. Decorations adorn shopping mall parking lots and somewhere inside sits one of Santa's helpers waiting to take a picture with your little ones. The ramp up to Christmas seems to start earlier and earlier with each passing year. Again, I'm not complaining. It's a magical time of year and I'd celebrate all year long if I could. What's really all that bad about peace and goodwill?

But through it all, we somehow manage to find time to sit down together with friends and family for a Thanksgiving feast. For some, it's one of only a few meals each year with the family. If this applies to you, ask yourself why? Are you too busy? Not enough time? Do your schedules not match up? Picky eaters? Lazy? Make a pledge to yourself to change that today. Stop making excuses. The following are seven things you can implement right now to help:

1. Plan a meal with your family.

Thanksgiving is the perfect opportunity to spend time with your family. It is a day each year where we literally spend hours planning for a meal with friends and family. While traditions vary among households all across the United States, eating together is something nearly everyone does. If you're not in the habit of sitting down with your family each night for dinner, take a moment to find out whether your schedules can be adjusted. Ask yourself why you're not ending each day together with your family. For some, there's nothing you can really do about it. You cross paths throughout the day with your spouse and grab what you can, when you can. Eating is something you do because you have to. If you can't sit down for a meal with your family every night, plan a meal with your family. Make it a habit to break bread together at least once a week.

2. Don't start eating until everyone is sitting at the table.

I don't know about you, but in our household, the chef tends to be the last one to the table. She is so busy serving the rest of the family that by the time she finally sits down to eat, the kids are crying out for seconds. Make a rule: No one eats (anything) until everyone is sitting at the table. Say grace if that's your thing or take a moment to at least acknowledge just how fortunate you are. Some struggle to make ends meet, to put food on the table, or may have no one with which to share a meal. Be grateful. Be grateful for your food and grateful for your family.

3. Leave your devices in another room.

You go to the trouble of planning a meal and you're finally eating together. An audible alert sounds and someone is palming her smartphone, her eyes locked on the ambient glow of a 5 inch screen.She's completely disengaged from everyone around her, held captive by someone or something far, far away. Even if she chooses not to respond, the distraction took away from what little precious time you've managed to set aside for family. Unless there is a known emergency, it won't be the end of the world if you silence your devices for an hour or more. Silence them and leave them in another room altogether. It'll be okay, I promise.

Your television is a device. Turn it off. If you're watching television while eating, you might as well be eating alone.  If this is you, you're doing it wrong!

4. Engage in conversation.

Conversation is becoming a lost art. There may come a time when we communicate solely through our mobile devices, but for now, we're still capable of talking with one another. Ask everyone how their day went. When asked, give more than a one word answer. Focus on positive conversation, if possible, but don't be afraid to breach a conversation about something that may be troubling you. If you're crossing paths and missing connections, this may be your only opportunity to find out what's going on in each other's lives. If you can't share your life with the ones you love most, with whom will you share it? Engage and connect with each other through conversation.

Our family received a jar full of fun questions and facts last year from a neighbor family during a Christmas gift exchange. The kids loved taking turns reading through questions and answering them together after meals. If time permits, break out a board game. 

5. Don't leave the table until everyone is finished eating.

This applies to mom and dad just as much as it does to the children. Barring an emergency, you should take your time. Aside from sleeping, this may be your only opportunity to slow it down. Rejoice in the time you have together and be thankful for it. When you're finished, ask to be excused. Don't just get up and leave.

6. Clean up together.

The family that eats together, cleans together. There's nothing worse than a sink full of dirty dishes. I'm exaggerating, clearly, but my point is, few people like cleaning up after dinner. If you're lucky enough to have such a person in your family, then by all means, let him or her have at it. If you're like the rest of the world, cleaning is likely a chore, but if you're doing it together, it doesn't necessarily have to be. When you're finished, you'll all feel a sense of pride and accomplishment. You worked together and you have a clean kitchen, ready for your next meal together. Life is good.

7. Tell your family how much they mean to you.

This one may sound a little hokey, but you should take any opportunity to tell your loved ones just how much they mean to you. You never know when it will be the last time. Make memories that will last a lifetime. Pass along the tradition of eating together as a family.

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Helicopter Parents Rejoice! You're Getting It Right.

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Helicopter Parents Rejoice! You're Getting It Right.

A helicopter parent is a parent who takes an overprotective or excessive interest in the life of their child or children. That’s not my definition exactly but, like anything in life, there are degrees. Although it's origins date back to Dr. Haim Ginott's 1969 book Parents & Teenagers by teens who said their parents would hover over them like a helicopter; it didn't really find its footing until the 1980s and only recently became popular enough to be defined in the dictionary. Strange when you consider how quickly words like emoji and selfie were added.

From where did they come?

When talking with other like-aged parents, Generation-X and beyond, I'm reminded of how children of my generation were raised - no seat-belts, no pack-n-plays, no hand sanitizer. Smoking was commonplace and secondhand smoke wasn't really a thing. We stayed out playing with neighborhood friends until the streetlights came on. We played in the woods. We played dodge ball and Red Rover. There were no computer game systems and no cable t.v., at least not the kind we're accustomed to now. There was a house phone. If we wanted to change the channel, we had to walk over to the television and literally turn the dial. If the dial was broken, we turned the exposed nub with a pair of pliers. White noise was a thing on television after a certain hour. There was no legitimate reason to play indoors. Parents didn't really worry about leaving their children home alone. They gave their grade school children keys to the home and expected them to find their way from the bus stop to the house after school on their own. There was no childcare provider waiting for them. Babysitters were neighborhood kids, not professionals. Children got their work done on their own, hardly supervised in first-generation dual income or single parent households. Our generation treasures this negligent parenting style like a badge of honor, quick to proclaim how well we turned out without Google, Facebook, and handheld gadgets.

What hasn't changed from generation to generation is human nature. Sure, the argument over nurture and nature still rages on like a psychological holy war; but children aren't really all that different than they were 20-30 years ago. Say what you will, but things weren't necessarily better or worse - just different. We will continue to evolve along with the world around us and it's our job as parents to make sure we do as well. No one said this would be easy.

As the pendulum abruptly swung from neglect and self-sufficiency to hovering and over-involvement, we started noticing just how crazy the world really is (and was). The helicopter parent developed out of necessity. The world got much, much smaller. Twenty-four hour news and high speed internet revealed the horror that was there all along. Some argue that the world is a scarier place, when the reality may be that we are just more aware of it. Our eyes are open and the things we've seen cannot be unseen. We want more for our children and have trouble letting go, even just a little sometimes.

What are we doing wrong?

Everything - and nothing. If only it were that simple. If only children came with a well-written instruction manual. Think about it this way. If the world wasn't so bad and we turned out just fine, why have things changed so much? You've likely heard the saying, if it isn’t broke, don't fix it? What was broken? Why are we not modeling our parenting styles after those who reared us? It worked, didn't it?

Helicopter parents are onto something. There's a component of the helicopter parenting style that really works. They know what is going on in their children’s lives. They know their children's friends. They know how their children are doing in school. They know what their children are listening to on the radio and watching on television (or Netflix, Hulu, etc.). They cart them to and from school and afternoon activities. They know where their children are and they know what they're up to. Their children are a little more naive, a little less ready for the harsh reality in which we live - for now. And to be perfectly honest, that’s not really a bad thing.

Unfortunately, some parents are not willing to let their children stumble (not fail) from time to time. We need to find a balance between hands-off and hovering. It's okay if our children are not perfect, if they're not labeled as gifted. It's okay if they don't get a participation trophy. These are all good things that we should carry over from the pick-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps hands-off parenting style. It produced go-getters and entrepreneurs, not entitled young men and women. But letting our children fail, when we could be teaching them how to handle and avoid failure is a missed opportunity. It's how we define failure for our children that is most important.

It's really not okay to let them fail!

Maybe it's just semantics, but failing for not trying and not succeeding really are two completely different things. We should encourage our children to try new things, to take certain risks. We should also be there for them and help them learn that it's okay if something doesn't work out the first time around. We lay a solid foundation. We instill a work-ethic and encourage respect for authority. We teach them to become critical thinkers, not ScanTron test takers. But letting them fail in school or anything for that matter shouldn't be an option. Stay on top of your children! If your children are struggling, help them. Don't wait until they fail; that's too late. The neglectful hands-off approach doesn't work in this situation. Your children will never learn how to succeed if they are failing for this reason. If you can't tutor them yourself, find someone who can. Help them succeed. Make them try. Engage and inspire them.

Yes, they need to learn the consequences of their actions. Not turning in work and not studying for a test will certainly result in failure. They will fail because they did not try. But how dare you let them fail for this reason. You are the parent. Failure is not an option. How is that instilling any sort of work-ethic in your children? Control their environment and teach them to cope with not succeeding. Everyone can't be number one, but we can all strive to be our own personal best. If you're in the camp that believes that doing the exact opposite of hovering and overprotecting your children is the way to go, you're doing it wrong (my opinion.) If you're struggling to find a good balance between these polarizing parenting styles, err on the side of the helicopter parent. After all, we're not training soldiers, we're rearing children.

Question of the day: With what parenting style will helicopter kids rear their children?

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We Actually Have a Child Support Enforcement Month.

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We Actually Have a Child Support Enforcement Month.

Does anyone else find it sad that there is a "child support enforcement" month? In case you didn't know (I do this for a living and I didn't know this was a thing), August was proclaimed child support enforcement month back in 1983 by then President Ronald Reagan. The endgame for parents facing a divorce should be to find a way to do what is truly best for their children, not quibble over support payments. Unfortuantely, more time, effort, and financial resources are spent fighting over custody for the sake of obtaining a handsome award of child support or in trying to pay as little as possible, if anything, to the other.

Children Are Not Bargaining Chips

If you're fighting over your children for any other reason than to protect them from an unfit parent, you really need to reevaluate your motives. Do that right now and don't let any friend, parent, or attorney convince you otherwise. And if you believe you are fighting that noble battle against such a parent, you'd better make certain you're correct. You owe it to your children to get this one right. Despite what you're hearing in the mainstream media, children who are loved and nurtured by both of their parents will undoubtedly see a better outcome in life. Two fit, loving parents are always better than one. I know of no study or ongoing research that proves otherwise.

Some parents argue that they pull it off quite well, that they play the role of mom and dad better than anyone and that their children are better for it. Their children see their hardworking mother pulling double duty, working two jobs to make ends meet and fighting desparately to juggle their academic, extracirruclar, and social calendars. Try as they might, can a single parent really be in two places at once. Is there really a benefit to being a single parent? I'm sorry, but if there are two committed, loving parents in the picture, a single parent arrangement is just not good enough. If you want the best for your children, you should be open to coparenting. You should put your selfish motives aside and share in the joys of parenting, even if it is from separate households.

You Can Bring a Horse to Water.

You may find in trying to do the right thing that you don't share the same level of commitment as your partner. You can only control your half of the equation. If you find yourself in this unenviable position and you've tried your best to get the other parent onboard, then you may have no other alternative but to pick up the pieces. It won't be easy, but know that you are not alone. You can do it. And with a great deal of self-sacrifice, your children may grow into productive, well-adjusted members of society. But know this, no amount of money will fill the void of a missing parent. No amount of money can provide what is missing in your childrens' lives. This is true for the parent paying support (the payor) and the one receiving it (the payee). You don't get to stroke a check each month and think you are somehow fullfilling your end of the bargain as a parent.

For What, Exactly, Is Child Support? 

If you are the payor, you may want to know that your hardearned money is being well spent - on your children. After all, it's for the children, right? Depending on the level of support you're ordered to pay, you may even wonder on what could your support possibly be spent. How much food do your children actually eat? Do they really need $1,500 each month for basic needs? What about when they're with you? Why do you have to keep paying when you have them for the summer each year? It just doesn't seem fair.

HELPFUL TIP: IF THERE IS A COURT ORDER IN PLACE ORDERING YOU TO PAY CHILD SUPPORT TO THE CUSTODIAL PARENT, PAY THAT AMOUNT AND PAY IT ON TIME IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE ORDER, NO EXCEPTIONS. FOLLOW THE ORDER FAITHFULLY. IF YOU AND YOUR SPOUSE AGREE TO MODIFY SUPPORT IN ANY WAY, YOU SHOULD SEEK MODIFICATION THROUGH THE COURTS. DO NOT PAY LESS OR STOP PAYING ALTOGETHER BECAUSE OF SOME ARRANGEMENT YOU'VE MADE WITH THE CUSTODIAL PARENT. IF THE COURT ORDER SAYS YOU SHOULD PAY AN AMOUNT OF CHILD SUPPORT EACH MONTH, THAT'S WHAT YOU SHOULD DO. THE COURT SPEAKS THROUGH ITS ORDERS. FAILING TO FOLLOW THIS TIP MAY RESULT IN YOU ACCUMULATING CHILD SUPPORT ARREARS AND MAY LAND YOU IN JAIL! SPEAK TO A FAMILY LAW ATTORNEY TODAY IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESITONS ABOUT HOW TO MODIFY YOUR CHILD SUPPORT OBLIGATION. 

In Virginia, child support is generally governed strictly by guidelines (Virginia Code Section 20-108.2). Incomes and child-related expenses churn out support figures depending on the custodial arrangement between obligated parents. One party pays child support to the other and the courts then take a back seat when it comes to how money is managed (again, in most cases). The court will not ask on what specifically the money is spent as long as the childrens' needs are being met. In other words, the law presumes parents will provide for their children. If you're concerned that your money is not being appropriated properly and that your children are somehow suffering as a result, you should contact a qualified family law attorney to discuss your options. Otherwise, you should stop stressing over it. It isn't helping.

And that summer visitation you have each year that you believe should cause support to abate during those months - that's a lost cause as well. Think about it this way, can a custodial parent downsize their house/apartment during the summer from four bedrooms to one? Can they shut off climate control to those rooms? Do their expenses really drop all that much? A little, yes, but enough to make a real difference? Not likely. If you have 90 plus days with your children, there are issues at play that may cause the court to consider a differnt method of calculating support, but for the most part, it is what it is. If you're coparenting well, child support should literaly be among the least important of your concerns.

The Bottom Line: Your Children Are Not A Bill You Pay Each Month

Your first priority should be to coparent your children. You should strive to be the best mother or father to your children that you can possibly be. You should strive to help the other parent be the best he or she can be as well. It really is a team effort. You should share in the lifelong responsiblity of rearing your children so that they can do the same with theirs some day. Yes, one of you may be paying support to the other. It may be more that you can reasonably afford and it might not seem fair. But your children deserve more from you. They are not a credit card bill you pay each month. They are not a utility bill. They are your children. Your repsonsibility is so much greater than all the money you could ever make. Child support enforcement month shouldn't even need to be a thing, it should just be a given. We will support, love, and care for our children until our dying day. That's the cycle we should strive to implement for the sake of future generations.

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6 STAGES OF LOVE AND MARRIAGE ACCORDING TO BILLY OCEAN

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6 STAGES OF LOVE AND MARRIAGE ACCORDING TO BILLY OCEAN

It's no secret that I'm a Billy Ocean fan. Well, it's no secret if you know me personally. Say what you will, but his songs, like traditional wedding vows, are timeless. "I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, 'till death do us part."

Stage 1: Mystery Lady

"Girl, I'll come knocking at your door. Caught in your magic, just look what you've started. We ought to get something started. Oh, I can tell so very well, that he's left you broken hearted. It's time to start mending your heart. So darling when the nights are cold and lonely, I'll keep you warm."

There is that moment, when your eyes meet for the first time. You experience a brief moment of blissful euphoria followed by a lingering desire to connect with another person. (Keep it G-rated - for now, at least.) You take it all in. The uncontrollable urge to open your heart is the very thing that leaves you vulnerable. It is this vulnerability that makes possible a bond unlike any other. While different for everyone, it's mostly the same.

No matter where you are in your relationship today, there was likely a time when you were incomplete, when you didn't have a care in the world, when all that mattered was you. Someone changed that for you. Someone walked into your life and everything you knew no longer made sense.

Stage 2: Suddenly

"I used to think that love was just a fairy tale. Until that first hello. Until that first smile. But if I had to do it all again, I wouldn't change a thing. 'Cause this love is everlasting. Suddenly - life has new meaning to me. There's beauty up above and things we never take notice of. You wake up and suddenly, you're in love."

Your initial attraction doesn't wane; it intensifies with time. It's how you know something's there. Short of obsession, you become consumed. A spark ignites into a roaring flame. You can't imagine your life without him or her. What was once unclear suddenly makes sense. Life without him or her becomes meaningless. Life has new meaning.

Stage 3: Loverboy

"I don't know what you've got, but it plays with my emotions. I want you so much. Darling, I want to hold you near. Want to whisper sweet and tender in your ear. Can't stand the thought of you with somebody else. Got to have your love. Got to have it all to myself."

Your pursuit of your relationship is guided by an invisible hand. Love takes over. Your life will never be the same. You court your future partner. You shower him or her with love and affection. You commit yourselves to each other, to have and to hold forever more.

Stage 4: When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Get Going

"I'm gonna buy me a one-way ticket. Nothin's gonna hold me back. Your love's like a slow train coming and I feel it coming down the track. Darlin', I'll climb any mountain. Darlin', I'll do anything."

You find yourself married, your vows exchanged, through good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. You vow to love and honor each other all the days of your life. Your vows are tested time and time again. You were told it wouldn't be easy, but were deafened by your commitment and passion for one another. Marriage isn't easy. But then again, anything easy isn't worth doing, is it? Marriage is worth it.

Through all the challenges that life brings - kids, heartache, financial strain, illness - take a moment to remind yourself of why you fell in love in the first place. Reminisce about your life as it was before and how amazing it's become. Strive with every fiber of your being to achieve that feeling once again. Never let yourself forget it.

Stage 5: There'll Be Sad Songs (To Make You Cry)

"I often wonder how it could be, you loving me, two hearts in perfect harmony. I'll count the hours until that day a rhapsody plays a melody for you and me, until the moment that you give your live to me. You're the one I care for, the one that I would wait for. ... I always stop and think of you, especially when the words of a love song touch the very heart of me.

The best part about hard times are the good times that follow. Without hardship, it is difficult to truly appreciate the good in life. It's sad, but true. "In good times and in bad, for all the days of your life." Whether you make it or not, you can never know happiness until you're willing to receive it and that's a really scary thing. Embrace your sadness. Let it fuel your commitment for each other. If you remain closed off to the world, safe from the pains of loss, you'll never find another with whom to share your life.

Stage 6: The Colour Of Love

"If I had to paint a picture to show the world how true love can really be, I would use the brightest colours to created a vision of harmony. It would be a reality 'cause it's only what's inside of my heart. You would see I've always loved you right from the very start. Tell me what is the colour of love. What do you see? Is it warm? Is it tender when you think of me. I see the colour of love when I'm thinking of you as a picture perfect painting of a love forever true."

Find your true love and, when you do, never let him or her go.

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IN PERSPECTIVE: MAN WITH 5 KIDS FINDS OUT HE IS INFERTILE

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IN PERSPECTIVE: MAN WITH 5 KIDS FINDS OUT HE IS INFERTILE

What isn't clear from the title (and the article it references) is that this man was likely always infertile. An Egyptian man with five children recently discovered he is infertile and that his wife of 10 years has been betraying him all along. He told an Egyptian court in the capital of Cairo that he wanted to divorce his wife and that she should be stoned to death for multiple adulteries. You read that right, stoned to death!

In case you were wondering, stoning to death is still a thing. And in the unlikely event you are unable to discern my position on stoning, I'm opposed. I consider it barbaric. People are still stoned to death for things like adultery in unenvolved parts of the world. Earlier this month, a story broke about a woman that was stoned to death in Afghanistan over an accusation of adultery. This horrific punishment was captured on video and was witnessed all over the world. In the video, the stoners (not sure what we should call them) surround the woman as she stands in a hole dug into the stony ground, with only her head poking above the surface. They are seen hurling rocks at her over and over again from close range until her agonizing cries are silenced by her tragic demise.

I am not judging the system of arranged marriages or the morality of adultery itself, just the way it is handled. In Virginia, adultery is defined and penalized according to law. Any person, being married, who voluntarily shall have sexual intercourse with any person not his or her spouse shall be guilty of adultery, punishable as a Class 4 misdemeanor. A Class 4 misdemeanor is punished by a fine of up to $250. That's it. A fine. In all my years of practicing family law, I have yet to see a single case prosecuted in the Hampton Roads (Tidewater) area. If it has happened, it didn't make the headlines.

Most courts simply treat adultery as a civil matter between married people and deal with it according to its impact on the breakdown of the marriage. At best, it affects things like equitable distribution and spousal support. In some cases, depending on the exposure of the adulterous conduct on minor children, it can also influence a court's decision regarding child custody and visitation. In no cases is a legal act of violence even entertained, at least not anywhere in the United States.

Read our August 21, 2015 post for more fun facts about adultery in Virginia: Great news for adulterers! Here are 5 things adultery cannot do. 

In the case of the man with five kids, none of whom are likely his own, the court is awaiting DNA results before it issues a sentence. Unlike the Afghanistan stoning, the Egyptian court is demonstrating some form of civility. It isn't basing it's decision solely on the fact that he is infertile; it is verifying that the children are not biologically his. I don't know about you, but I find little comfort in this distinction. The very fact that stoning is a option is disturbing alone.

I agree with the majority of readers that adultery is wrong. The part with which I disagree is that it should continue to be punished as a crime. What will become of the children? Will he abandon them? Will he raise them as his own? What would they think of the man who had their mother stoned to death if he did? Sadly, this will be all they know. This is what they'll become. There are no winners in this case.

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Five Steps to Help Kickstart Savings in Your Divorce

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Five Steps to Help Kickstart Savings in Your Divorce

Is divorce on your horizon? If so, you need to brace yourself. First, take a moment to read through 13 things you should do right now to protect yourself. When you're finished with that, pick yourself up, walk over to a mirror, and stare yourself down. After a minute or two in silence, recite the following: I will not let principle dictate my path. I will educate myself. I will protect myself. I will learn from this. I will strive to become a better person. This is not an endgame; it is a new beginning.

While there's no definitive statistic of which I am aware, my experience as a divorce attorney over the past ten years reflects that it is common for parties to spend on average $10,000 - $15,000 each from start to finish. The sad reality is, that money comes from one divided pool, often times accumulated over years through hard work and dedication or, where there are no assets, amassed quickly in credit debt or borrowed from friends and family. If you must be a statistic, be one of the smart few who are able to resolve their differences by agreement and finalize their divorce for as little as $200 - 500. Consider what you could do with the money you'd spend on legal fees alone. You owe it to yourself to try.

In cases where this isn't an option, there are still things you can do to minimize your legal fees in a divorce. The following are just five simple steps you can take to help kickstart savings in your divorce.

1. Get Organized; Remove the Clutter

Do you recall the last time you moved? Have you ever tried moving yourself, without the help of professional movers? You start out well intentioned. You purchase moving boxes, have Sharpies ready on hand to label them according to contents, and you go from room to room, carefully packing like items and stacking neatly sealed boxes near the exit closest to where you'll ultimately load everything onto a rented moving truck. As time goes on and the boxes stack up to form a wall of accomplishment, you pat yourself on the back. You think to yourself, I got this!

Your motivation slowly morphs into a sense of desperation. As your moving date fast approaches you become thoroughly overwhelmed. Boxes are less carefully organized and you struggle to label them in a way that fits logically. Old papers and stacks of things you should sort through and purge are tossed haphazardly into boxes labeled "papers" or "stuff." Moving day arrives and you scramble to throw even more last minute items into boxes. When you run out of boxes, you resort to using trash bags and luggage. 

Somehow you manage to make it through the move. You always do. When you arrive at your new home, you start to unload everything according to the room labeled on the box, leaving some behind in the garage or a spare room to be opened and sorted after you've settled in. In the mix you find old boxes from your last move that were never opened and sorted and you stack those with the others. This time you will purge. You will organize and purge!

After a year or more, you need something you recall is packed away in the box room. You stumble in and trip over stacks of boxes and bags. You just know it's there somewhere. You rip open boxes and frantically search through a few before finally giving up, only to find yourself at Target later that same day buying another deviled egg storage container. Oh, and don't worry, your first one will show up the moment you use the new one and your time for returning it has expired.

You are now the proud owner of two deviled egg storage containers!

Do not be this person when it comes time to sort through your life. Have your important documents handy (tax returns, vital records, retirement/employment related statements, insurance policies, etc.). Sort through your finances and know where your money goes each month. If you haven't already, implement a system immediately. It doesn't really matter what it is (although there are certainly some that are better than others), as much as it does that you have one in the first place. Having nothing in place is a sure-fire recipe for disaster. If you receive a bill or statement, decide what to do with it right away. Touch each document only once, if you can. Do not put it in a stack and tell yourself you'll sort it later. You won't. It will go from pile to pile to pile, never finding its way to a proper place. If you are technologically inclined, buy a Neat scanner and scan it in.

Do something! Do it today!

2. Do Your Homework; The Best Attorney Will Not Necessarily Rank First in Google!

Some firms offers free introductory consultations to prospective clients. Other charge a reduced rate for the same. Take advantage of their generosity. Make a well-informed decision. If you were planning an addition to your house, you wouldn't likely pick someone at random. You'd want someone that comes highly recommended and has great reviews. You may even meet with three or more and have them bid against each other for your money. Why wouldn't you do the same for your legal representation? Is it not important?

While money is a factor, the amount you spend on your attorney is not indicative of the result you'll receive. There is just no direct correlation. Before you commit, seek out no fewer than three consultations and pick the one that speaks to you, the one that you believe will get the job done right. It will be time and money well spent in the end.

Also, do not fall into the trap of believing the first place Google result is the best one out there. Some of the best attorneys do not rank well online. Online advertising competition is fierce and terribly expensive. Those who rank in the top spots on the first page of Google (even organically) have put a lot of time and money into their online advertising campaign. They spend thousands each month to be the first person you see when you're searching for legal counsel online. It doesn't mean they are the best person for the job. They are good at advertising. I'll give them that. But does it mean they are excellent attorneys? That's for you to decide.

Don't believe me? Try it. Go online and head over to Google. Type in your search query. Do you feel good about number 1? Do you know anything about her? How did she make it to the number 1 spot? Is she any better than the attorneys that show up on page 5, 6, 7, or 8 of the results? Not likely.

Do not be afraid to try a different search query. Click on the next page ... and then the next. Keep going until you find the right fit for you and your case.

Your ideal divorce attorney may not be Google's number 1 search result.

3. Roll Up Your Sleeves; Put in a Little Elbow Grease

If your attorney asks you to bring in a copy of your bank records, your first reaction may be to log onto your bank webpage, download the .pdfs, and then fax or email them to her. Sounds easy, right? 

Ask yourself, why does she need them? What will she do with them? Don't be afraid to ask her too. Whatever you do, don't assume? Perhaps she needs them to respond to a request for production of documents from your spouse's attorney. If that's the case, she'll likely need to retain a copy for her file as well. If you faxed or emailed a copy to her, she (or her assistant), will need to print off two copies and organize them for her file and opposing counsel. You're paying your attorney to do administrative work. Scratch that. You're paying your attorney a lot of money to do what you could do or pay someone else to do for much, much less.

Do not pay your attorney to do administrative work!

If your attorney needs something you are perfectly capable of getting for her, get it. Ask your attorney whether there is anything you can do to help minimize legal costs. If she tells you there is nothing you can do, perhaps consider revisiting step #2 above.

Also, listen to your attorney. If she gives you a list of things to do, do them. Make a list for yourself and check off each action item one by one. When you are finished, send your attorney a quick email with a progress update.

If you're told to appear in court at 9:00 a.m., show up a half hour early. If you're on time, you're late. Account for the unexpected. Do not be the reason you didn't win your case!

4. Hire a Therapist

I can almost guarantee a licensed therapist will cost less than your divorce attorney. And while your divorce attorney may willing to sit and listen, she is likely not the best person to help you deal with your emotional issues. Your attorney is paid to listen. I tell my clients that if they want therapy, I'll listen. I'll listen all day long if that's what they want. I'm not heartless. I also warn them that I charge by the hour. If they want to pay my hourly rate for me to sit quietly and listen, then that's their prerogative.

What I also tell them is that a therapist is much cheaper and ideally better than me at what they do. I am a divorce attorney. I handle divorces. A therapist handles therapy. After all, you wouldn't want to hire me to design your website or fix your car. I may be good at both, but in the end, I am a divorce attorney. This is one time when a two for one just doesn't make sense.

If you need a therapist, hire one!

5. Be Honest With Yourself

If you find yourself compromising in the end, remember that you are the only one that has to live with your decision. You. Not your friend. Not your mom or your dad. Not your attorney. You. You need to make a decision that you will not live to regret in months or years from the time a judge puts pen to paper and grants your divorce. Compromise is good and can save thousands of dollars in the end. Just make sure that you are not making a rash decision to get out of a relationship quickly, only to find yourself regretting your decision for years to come.

Short-term gains will often yield long-term regret! Compromise can be a wonderful thing and can help save thousands at the end of the day, but you need to be realistic. Be fair to yourself.

DAWN Manager, Gail Saukas shares her tips on how to save money on divorce. While far from exhaustive, you should at least consider her sage words of wisdom before moving forward. Here is a link to her video: http://wotv4women.com/2015/11/14/tips-to-save-money-on-divorce/

If saving money is your thing and divorce is on your horizon, consider Frugal Legal Services as an option to handle your no fault, uncontested divorce today. Everything is online. It's inexpensive and it's easy. What more could you ask for?

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Divorce 101: Understanding Why A Separation Agreement Is Essential.

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Divorce 101: Understanding Why A Separation Agreement Is Essential.

What are the basics?

In Virginia, married couples are granted a divorce for a variety of reasons: for adultery, sodomy or buggery committed outside the marriage; where one of the parties subsequent to the marriage is convicted of a felony, sentenced to confinement for more than one year and confined for such felony subsequent to conviction, and cohabitation is not resumed after knowledge of such confinement; where either party is guilty of cruelty, caused by reasonable apprehension of bodily hurt; or where one of the parties willfully deserts or abandons the other. With the exception of adultery, the period of separation required for an absolute divorce under any of the above fault based grounds is one full year. Let that sink in for a moment. One. Full. Year.

Now that you've had a moment to process this information, consider this - even in the best case scenario, you may end up spending tens of thousands of dollars during well more than one year to finalize your divorce. Even the finest divorce attorney cannot influence your timeline all that much. We, like you, are at the mercy of the court. Justice takes time and the system moves slowly, especially where contested fault-based divorces are concerned.

Oh, and don't get tricked into thinking adultery will help speed up the process. Just because you can file immediately and the court has within its discretion to grant your divorce, the process is virtually guaranteed to be equally, if not more, costly and take nearly as long to complete.

More often these days, married couples opt to finalize their divorce based on what are referred to as no fault grounds of divorce. You may even hear this referred to as an uncontested divorce. All it requires is a period of time, generally one year, where the parties live separate and apart without any cohabitation and interruption. That's it. There are some procedural issues, but, for the most part, it's a fairly uncomplicated process. Assuming there are no minor children born or adopted of the marriage and the parties enter into a valid separation agreement, that one year period of separation is only six months. Interestingly enough, even in cases where fault-based grounds of divorce are initially sought, most cases end in divorce based on a simple period of non-cohabitation. Often times, this means time and money wasted by everyone.

The Road to Divorce

You see when it comes to the road to divorce, it's not so much about the journey as it is about the destination. If your destination is just around the corner, why would you spend thousands of dollars and travel 3,000 miles to get there? With divorce, your destination is more of an objective, one that is generally costly and unenjoyable. Why not spend less to achieve your objective?

So, you're saying it isn't required?

Let me be clear, a separation agreement is not required to obtain a divorce in Virginia. You can wait out the year and file on your own. You don't even need an attorney. If you keep it simple, you may likely succeed in achieving your end goal without any involvement of divorce counsel. That being the case, let me be even more clear, there's really no compelling reason why you should handle your own divorce. Divorce is not a do-it-yourself task. You're not assembling an Ikea desk, you're shaping your future. You'd be well-advised to make sure you utilize the tools at your disposal to do it right. Whether you believe it or not, there's just too much at stake.

3 Reasons Why We Recommend You Have A Separation Agreement:

While not exhaustive, the following is a list of three reasons why it makes sense to finalize your divorce in Virginia with a separation agreement.

1. With the exception of child custody, visitation, and child support, all marital issues can be resolved without any future controversy.

If your objective is divorce, it is likely you do not want to come back to court to finalize previously unresolved issues after the fact. In other words, when you're done, your done. Parties that fail to resolve issues of property division (equitable distribution in Virginia) and spousal support end up reserving these issues for later determination by the court. A validly executed separation agreement that properly incorporates these issues can effectively close the door on future litigation. This alone can save you thousands of dollars, not to mention the hassle of appearing in court to litigate these issues in the future. 

Think about it this way. Why would you go through the trouble of proceeding without fault in an effort to avoid court and the cost that comes along with it, only to leave the door open to the possibility of litigation at some point down the road? Most people want to move on and leave that part of their lives behind them. A separation agreement can help make this a reality.

2. You may not have to appear in court to finalize your divorce.

If you have a validly executed separation agreement, Virginia allows you to finalize your divorce by affidavit, without actually appearing in person. This is achieved by the moving party and his or her corroborating witness submitting of an affidavit in lieu of oral testimony. The non-moving party simply appears by submission of a waiver. In addition to tying up loose ends, a separation agreement helps make the process itself that much easier.

3. By proceeding with a separation agreement, you open the door to our online uncontested, no fault divorce option: Frugal Legal Services.

Frugal Legal Services offers a amazingly inexpensive online divorce option for the cost some attorneys charge for a single hour of work (filing fee included). Yes, you can file without a separation agreement, but no, you cannot do it with us. Proceeding without a separation agreement leaves open the possibility, remote as it may be, that your spouse will contest something in the divorce. The separation agreement essentially shuts him or her down. And, in the unlikely event he or she does protest when there is a separation agreement in place, at least you are protected.

Protect Yourself and Save Your Money

There really is no compelling reason for you to do-it-yourself because, although similar to many others, one size does not fit all. Leave that nonsense to t-shirt manufacturers. Make sure you get it right the first time. Hire an attorney handle your divorce from start to finish. Protect yourself and save your money. Call or email to find out how Frugal Legal Services may be able to help with your no fault divorce in Virginia today!

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5 Stages of Grief

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5 Stages of Grief

You Dropped A Bomb On Me, Baby!

You're happily married. You have a dedicated spouse, two healthy children, and a house in suburbia with four bedrooms and a white picket fence. You always put your family first, often times to a fault. After more than twenty years of wedded bliss, you've mastered your role. You play your part and your spouse plays his. Everything just works. You attend church faithfully with your family every Sunday. As far as you and everyone else knows, you're life is nothing short of amazing. You've experienced ups and downs in your marriage, but have always managed to pull through. Life is not perfect, but it's nothing you can't overcome. You're living the dream. Literally. You are the living embodiment of Starship's hit: Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now!

Then, one day, your spouse drops a bomb on your perfect life. In an instant, your perfect construct of marriage is decimated. You look back over the past twenty years of wedded bliss and reconsider nearly every interaction with him. You're looking for signs, something you've missed. You need answers. How could you have missed it? What about our family and friends? Your children? What if somebody finds out? What are you going to do?

Breathe Deeply

Before you let everything fall apart around you, take a brief moment to do nothing. Breathe. Breathe deeply.

5 Stages (Kübler-Ross Grief Cycle Model)

The Kübler-Ross model was presented by Swiss psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her 1969 book, On Death and Dying, and was inspired by her work with terminally ill patients. After examining death and those faced with it at the University of Chicago Medical School, Kübler-Ross found there are five stages of grief. She noted that people handle bereavement differently, but that they often travel through a spectrum of emotions in five broad stages: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. Kübler-Ross also explained that these five stages may apply to any form of personal loss, including marriage and divorce. They may happen out of order and/or overlap with one another. Some stages take considerably longer that others too.

1. Denial

In this first stage, you may react with complete denial. It didn't happen. It just couldn't have. It's not real. There must be a reasonable explanation that comports with your former reality. Rather than believing it's true, you cling to a false, preferable reality. You may convince yourself it didn't happen. You want to continue in the life you've lived up to this point. But until you come to grips with reality, you won't be able to move forward.

2. Anger

After you acknowledge your denial cannot continue, you'll begin to process anger and all the related emotions that come along with it. It's okay to be angry. Anger is a natural human emotion. Even if short-lived, anger may consume you. Embrace it. Find a way to use it.

Is it my fault? What did I do to deserve this? It's just not fair? Why me? Look at what you've done to us! You've destroyed us! It's all a lie!

3. Bargaining

This third stage involves the hope that you can somehow avoid the cause of grief. You may start making deals with yourself, with God, or your spouse. If your spouse cheated on you, you may bargain with him to check in at night if he's working late at the office. You may institute a mandatory date night for you and your spouse. You may insist that you and your spouse seek counseling together. If you're faced with losing a loved one, you may make a deal with God for more time in exchange for a reformed lifestyle. You somehow believe you can bargain away your grief. It's okay. This too is perfectly normal.

4. Depression

During the fourth stage, you may become saddened by the prospect of your future together (or apart). The betrayal associated with lies and deceit (even if unintended) can suffocate you to the point where you can no longer breathe. You may withdraw from life. You may question your faith in God. It all seems pointless. What's done is done. Why even bother? It's all been a lie. If you haven't reached out for help until this point, now's the time. Depression can last a long time and can manifest itself physically, affecting your eating habits, social interaction, and general well-being. Depression is devastating.

5. Acceptance

In the fifth stage, you finally come to grips with reality. You understand what has happened. You've worked through your anger, you've made your deals, and you've conquered (for the most part) your depression. You're ready to fight. Everything is going to be okay. The question is, however, for what are you fighting? Your new life? Your marriage? Yourself? Your children?

Please know that nothing is impossible. However, if you're not willing to accept what has happened and move forward with it, you need to move on. Your marriage will likely never be the same, but it is possible to adapt. In he end, it's your choice. Through it all, you may even be surprised to find that your relationship can grow stronger. Different, yes, but stronger. Do you have what it takes? It's really okay to say no. I'm not judging. It's not my place.

If you are, consider that: "Opportunity dances with those who are ready on the dance floor." - H. Jackson Brown Jr.

It Gets Better!

Whatever you decide, just know that it does get better. It may not be easy and it may take a long time (an eternity even), but you will succeed. Should you commit to salvaging what is left of your relationship and building a new one, I'll leave you with the following:

Let 'em say we're crazy, I don't care about that. Put your hand in my hand, baby. Don't ever look back. Let the world around us just fall apart. Baby we can make it if we're heart to heart.

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Minority Report: Family Court Judges Are Not Precogs?

"I know he's going to hurt me. I just know it. Wait, so you're telling me I just have to wait for something to happen before the court will intervene?"

Previsualize Domestic Violence

Unfortunately, yes. That's how it works. Judges do not have precognitive abilities. They cannot predict the future. Can you imagine a world where the courts previsualize future acts of violence? Even worse, what if those previsualizations were acted upon and the future victim-perpetrator were punished for a something yet to happen. Outrageous, you'd say, right? Well, that was the premise of the 2002 Spielberg directed movie, Minority Report, loosely based on a short story of the same name by Philip K. Dick. This too, is the premise of a large number of client cases.

A Legal Shield: The Domestic Protective Order

In Virginia, a protective order may be granted to provide legal protection to victims of abuse from a family or household member. Domestic violence is taken very seriously. An alleged victim can wage an accusation against another under certain circumstances, and may be granted an emergency protective order. He or she can further perpetrate the accusation in an ex parte hearing and may be granted additional protection with a temporary protective order. After a formal hearing, the same may be granted a permanent (two-year) protective order. And while the protection may extend only to the alleged victim, it will most certainly cause problems when children are involved.

Sadly, there are those who use the protective order as a tool to gain an upper hand in a child custody dispute. It's an imperfect system filled with imperfect people, mostly trying to do the right thing. Some are motivated by money and others see it as a way to get back at someone who has wronged them. Those who cry wolf make it harder for judges to weed out actual victims in need of protection.

By necessity, judges are left to reconcile custody on some level. Some judges decline to handle custodial issues, especially when the only evidence presented is he said, she said testimony. Others pass judgment and address the issue head on. In either event, most judges tend to err on the side of caution. Protective orders are not terribly difficult to obtain under the right circumstances; however, an unrealized threat without any imminent danger is not one of them. A feeling is simply not enough.

When A Protective Order Is Not Enough ...

The reality is, a protective order cannot prevent the worst from happening in every case.  A protective order relies upon the assumption that a person will follow the law, that the order issued will be honored by all parties involved. This flawed logic leads one to conclude that it is not enough to seek legal protection. Any attorney worth his or her salt will tell you that a protective order is only one of several tools an alleged victim should utilize to help ensure his or her safety. Put simply, a protective order may not be enough. Nothing is failsafe.

Judges Don't Want To Be The One That Got It Wrong.

Frustrated yet? Well, consider what a judge goes through when posed with an allegation of potential abuse. Sure, the judge cannot technically take action if there is no imminent threat or realized harm; however, judges don't really like to get it wrong (and with very good reason). Getting it wrong has led to extreme domestic violence and, even worse, death, not just against the victim spouse/partner, but against children as well. That sad reality has caused judges to issue protective orders against people who are purely innocent.

Dig Deep(ly).

Here's the hard part. We know a judge cannot predict the future. We know that, even if it were technically possible, a judge could not act upon said prediction (not without changing the law, of course). The law only allows a judge to act on threats, imminent danger, or actual harm. And for now, at least, precognitive previsualizations do not constitute imminent danger. Besides, even if we buy into the concept of previsualizations, we would also need to buy into a reality where the future is not subject to change. Wouldn't the very act of intervening prove that our futures are not predestined?

If you believe within your heart that something may happen, ask yourself why you hold this belief. What is it about your spouse/partner that causes you to believe something will happen? If your belief is founded on something that is actionable, lead with that. While past actions are not necessarily indicative of future events, they may be just enough to convince a judge that the protection you're seeking is warranted.

Domestic violence is never acceptable and there is simply no excuse for it worth entertaining. If you are the victim of domestic violence seek help immediately.

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