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Fairfax Family Law Blog

Virginia pastor to face trial in connection to custody case

A Virginia man who made news in connection to high profile child custody case will go to trial to face federal charges. The man, a Mennonite pastor, allegedly helped a woman illegally flee the country with her daughter in 2010. The woman had been involved in a bitter child custody dispute with her former lesbian partner.

The couple dissolved their partnership in 2003, after which the woman denied her ex-partner visitation rights. The Virginia Supreme Court ruled in favor of the ex-partner.

The benefits of collaborative divorce

While divorce can frequently and understandably lead to emotional tension, bitterness and harsh feelings between a couple, experts say that collaborative divorce is becoming increasingly more common.

One divorce consultant and attorney explained that many divorcing couples now see the advantage in working together on their divorce, particularly when it comes to the welfare of their children. The consultant explained, "I've watched so many disasters, and I can honestly call my former spouse a co-parent and friend today. But this has to be a priority for each parent in order for it to work."

Couples of different religions more likely to divorce

News of Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise's divorce has renewed public interest in a long-debated question: Are married couples who practice different religions more likely to divorce?

According to an article published by USA Today, the answer is yes. While it is unclear whether Holmes' Catholic upbringing and Cruise's Scientologist beliefs contributed to the Hollywood couple's split, interfaith couples do appear to come into conflict more often than those that share the same religion.

Census Bureau releases child support figures

The United States Census Bureau has released a new report entitled "Support Providers: 2010," which includes child support data drawn primarily from the Survey of Income and Program Participation. According to the report, non-custodial parents across the U.S. paid an average of $430 in child support each month, or $5,150 each year. The SIPP was conducted by the Census Bureau in order to collect and record information about the economic and social state of American households.

According to data from the state Division of Child Support Enforcement, Virginia has been largely successful in its efforts to improve child support collection. The state collected an all-time high of $648 million in support payments in fiscal year 2011, marking a 2.3 percent uptick compared to 2010.

Social media playing role in high number of divorces

Facebook, Twitter and other social networking services allow users to share their lives with their friends and family, but posts and pictures on such sites can result in negative consequences during a divorce. According to a recent survey conducted by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, over 80 percent of lawyers in the United States have seen an increase in the number of divorce cases involving social networking. Likewise, a study from 2011 found that over 33 percent of U.K. divorce filings from that year contained the word "Facebook."

Virginia currently has no laws preventing digital evidence, such as that collected from a Facebook page, from being used in a divorce case. This makes it important for those considering or currently undergoing divorce to ensure that they hide or delete any online information that might be used against them in court. For instance, an individual who posts hundreds of pictures of themselves on expensive vacations is unlikely to win when the time comes for a judge to determine alimony or child support obligations.

What are the best ways to deal with shared child custody?

Courts in Virginia, and many other states, increasingly favor joint legal custody arrangements, as they allow children to maintain healthy contact with both parents. While such custody decisions are often beneficial for the children involved, they can be difficult for parents, who must adjust to handing over their children to their former spouse.

While shared custody is the best option in many divorce cases, others call for one parent to receive full custody. These cases are typically difficult for those involved. Virginia parents involved in such a case should employ a qualified family law attorney to help maximize their chances of being awarded legal custody of their children.

Dennis Rodman penalized for delinquent child support

Despite court documents from early 2012 claiming the former NBA star was broke, Dennis Rodman has been sentenced for failure to pay child support. Rodman, known for his often bizarre off-the-court antics, was found guilty of four counts of contempt for failing to pay child support in 2011. A superior court judge sentenced the 51-year-old former player to 104 hours of community service work and three years of probation. The probation is to remain informal as long as Rodman continues making alimony and child support payments.

In Virginia, non-custodial parents who repeatedly fail to make child support payments face a number of penalties. These include fines, wage deduction, suspension of driving privileges, probation and even jail time in some cases. In order to avoid such harsh sentences, Virginia residents accused of failing to pay child support should contact an experienced family law attorney to best represent their interests in court. A parent finding a support obligation difficult to manage can also seek a modification prior to facing penalties.

Dividing retirement funds in a divorce

According to recent research, divorce is becoming increasingly common among couples above the age of 50. In 1990, less than one in 10 divorces involved an individual in that age group. Today, that figure has since risen to 1 in 4. As such, retirement accounts are now often just as significant as checking or savings accounts during the property division phase of a divorce.

Virginia couples with retirement accounts who plan on divorcing should contact a qualified family law attorney to ensure that their assets are handled properly.

Counseling plays increasingly common role in divorce cases

A licensed counselor with a history of dealing with substance abuse problems has added divorce recovery services to her repertoire, explaining that counseling has become an increasingly common sight in divorce cases. The counselor, who has herself undergone a difficult divorce, says counseling can be especially helpful for children who feel abandoned during their parents' divorce. She claims children are often still stressed when given the opportunity to regularly see each parent. "The transition, even in the best situations, is stressful just because it exists."

Many experts agree on the psychological impact of divorce, with counseling providing a solution to issues often raised by a couple's separation. Despite divorce's sometimes negative repercussions, especially on children; it is necessary for thousands of couples in Virginia and across the United States. For such individuals, divorce provides a much needed source of relief from the stress of an unhappy marriage.

Respecting a child's wishes in a custody case

While divorce and accompanying child custody issues are typically quite complex, experts say that parenting agreements following divorces often fail to properly account for the needs and interests of the Virginia children at the center of such cases.

This is largely due to the divergent nature of divorce and custody cases; a parenting arrangement that meets the needs of a young child will likely be inappropriate for an adolescent.

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