Divorce is an annulment or marriage. It is a lawful cancellation of marriage which also involves reorganising responsibilities and duties of the individuals involved in divorce. Whenever a divorce occurs, it raises a lot of other issues. It is why you should hire a Loudoun Virginia, divorce lawyer. If you are thinking of a divorce, you should know that it will be problematic unless you get help from a family divorce attorney. The divorce attorney will help you through the entire divorce process. He will ensure that both parties agree to common terms so that there are no issues (child custody, property division, etc.) in the future for both people.
Services offered by divorce lawyers
A divorce lawyer offers serves which are not limited to representing a person for divorce. The lawyer will do all the paperwork. He will meet the client, discuss the issues, prepare the case, file the case, and pursue it in the court. He will make sure that the client goes through a smooth divorce process. He also ensures that the client will not face any divorce problems in the future form their partner. The purpose of a divorce attorney is to give a complete solution before and after divorce. It is why you should hire an expert divorce attorney.
Hiring divorce lawyers
Many people think that the divorce lawyer will only discuss issues and situation with you. You should also understand that he may also discuss and work with other partner’s lawyer to come up with a mutual understanding and an agreement. It is, therefore, important that whenever you look for a divorce lawyer, always look for the one who tries to solve the case as quickly as possible, even if it takes to talk to your partner’s lawyer. The Loudoun Virginia divorce lawyer will guide you through the entire legal process. Lawyers know how to work with the other lawyer to sort the case and come to an agreement. Our divorce lawyers also specialise in financial matters. These lawyers know that a divorce can lead to handling financial matters. It is why our lawyers deal the financial issues promptly. They know the Virginia laws for divorce and property distribution. Our lawyers have years of expertise in dealing with such cases. It is why people trust these lawyers. They know they will sort out their cases quickly and with both parties in agreement.
The divorce lawyers
Hiring a lawyer is important. The lawyer will not only take your case and help you with the divorce problems. He will also help you prepare all the legal documents which you may need after the divorce. Taking a divorce in Virginia is not easy. There are many rules and regulations which you should know to have a divorce. It is why you should always look for professional and well-trained divorce lawyers. These lawyers have helped hundreds of people with their divorce cases. You can trust them and hire one of these expert attorneys to guide you through your divorce.
The following are some of the Virginia div. laws:
A. A div. from the bond of matrimony may be decreed:
(1) For adultery; or for sodomy or buggery committed outside the marriage;
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- VA § 20-94. Effect of cohabitation after knowledge of adultery, sodomy or buggery; lapse of five years.
When the suit is for div. for adultery, sodomy, or buggery, the div. shall not be granted, if it appear that the parties voluntarily cohabited after the knowledge of the fact of adultery, sodomy or buggery, or that it occurred more than five years before the institution of the suit, or that it was committed by the procurement or connivance of the party alleging such act. Click on above link to read more.
A div. from bed and board may be decreed for cruelty, reasonable apprehension of bodily hurt, willful desertion or abandonment.
The following is a case that is illustrative of a case:
On December 19, 1996, the Complainant, Donna J. Donofrio (“Wife” or “Mother”) filed a Bill of Complaint for div. against the Defendant, Edward Joseph Donofrio (“Husband” or “Father”) seeking, among other things, a div. on the grounds of adultery and/or desertion. At the hearing the Wife’s evidence primarily concerned the adultery allegation. In final argument, the Wife’s counsel argued only for a div. based on adultery. He did not mention desertion.
The Bill of Complaint, in paragraphs six (6) and seven (7), states as follows:
- On the 24th day of October, 1996, the parties separated and have lived separate and apart thereafter without cohabitation.
- Upon information and belief, the Defendant is engaging in an adulterous relationship with Rebecca L. Rafter and has been since November 4, 1995, including specifically but not limited to February 23, 1996, and such other diverse dates and times, which adultery continues to the present time. Such adultery did not occur with the Complainant’s consent, nor was it procured by her. Furthermore, condonation has not taken place since the Complainant learned of the Defendant’s adultery.”
The Wife’s counsel asserted that the adultery took place in November 1995, February 1996, between August 1996 and October 1996, and post-separation when the Husband and Ms. Rafter commenced living together.
No witness testified to observing the Husband commit adultery. The Wife testified that the Husband admitted to her in August 1996 that he was having an affair (which included adultery) with Ms. Rafter. The Husband denies the admission. Two friends of the Wife testified that Ms. Rafter admitted to a sexual relationship with the Husband before October 1996. Ms. Rafter denies that she admitted to anyone that she had a sexual relationship with the Husband before October 1996.
The Wife offered considerable testimony of activities by the Husband and Ms. Rafter before October 1996. There is no need to recite here such testimony. However, considering (1) that the testimony came from friends of the Wife (and such friends were obviously biased in favor of the Wife), and (2) that the Husband denied that most of the activity occurred, the testimony does create a suspicion of a close romantic relationship between the Husband and Ms. Rafter before October 1996.
Both the Husband and Ms. Rafter denied a sexual relationship before the date of separation in October 1996. While the evidence of the relationship between the Husband and Ms. Rafter before October 1996 might not rise to the level of clear and convincing proof of adultery by the Husband, the evidence of what occurred after October 1996 does provide clear and convincing evidence of adultery.
The Wife testified that the Husband moved out of the marital home when Ms. Rafter obtained a townhouse in Leesburg. The Husband and Ms. Rafter both admitted that they have been living together in Leesburg since April 1997. The Husband currently lives with Ms. Rafter and her two minor children. His evidence almost flaunts how well the four of them get along as a family. Furthermore, after the parties separated, the Husband took at least two trips to California and one to Israel with Ms. Rafter.
Both the Husband and Ms. Rafter asserted the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination when asked questions about a sexual relationship after October 1996. I allowed them to assert the privilege over the objection of the Wife. Although they only admitted to living together since April 1997, I feel it is a reasonable inference, in light of the evidence of the romantic activities between them before October 1996, that they have been living together since the Husband left the Wife in October 1996.
Pursuant to Virginia Code Section 8.01-223.1 (“In any civil action the exercise by a party of any constitutional protection shall not be used against him”), I draw no adverse inferences against the Husband because he asserted his Fifth Amendment rights. However, I can draw adverse inferences from his admission that he and Ms. Rafter are living together which carries with it the connotation that there is a sexual relationship between them. It stretches my credibility, to believe that in light of the evidence of a close romantic relationship between them before the Husband separated from the Wife, that they are not engaged in a sexual relationship, including sexual intercourse, now that they are living together. I must also note that the protection of Section 8.01-223.1 does not apply to a witness (Ms. Rafter).
Post-separation adultery can be the grounds for a div. based upon adultery. See, e.g., Robertson v. Robertson, 215 Va. 425, 211 S.E.2d 41 (1975); Surbey v. Surbey, 5 Va. App. 119, 360 S.E.2d 873 (1987).
Any argument by the Husband that he and his Wife cohabited until they separated in October 1996, and, therefore, she may have condoned any adultery by the Husband is not persuasive because I find that the Husband committed adultery after the parties separated.
Because the Husband may raise the issue later, I feel I must address the possibility of a no-fault as opposed to an adultery based div. It is clear that even if a fault ground exists along with a no-fault ground for div., then the ground for div. lies within the discretion of the Court. Here the Wife seeks a div. on a fault ground. She does not seek an alternate no-fault div. However, the Wife did agree that if adultery was not proven, then the Wife would seek a no-fault div. pursuant to Section 20-121.02 without amending the Bill of Complaint. That point is not reached because the Wife is awarded a div. on the ground of adultery.
The Husband has filed a separate Bill of Complaint for div. based on a one-year no-fault ground (Chancery No. 18892). The Husband’s case was stayed after I denied his Motion to Consolidate his case with this case on January 8, 1999. The motion was denied when the Wife agreed that she would not nonsuit her case if adultery was not proven at the final hearing.
A no-fault div. is not being sought by the Wife, and the Husband’s case seeking a no-fault div. is stayed. Therefore, a no-fault div. is not an option.
Even if a no-fault div. were an option, I would not choose it. Normally, because a finding of fault now has decreased legal significance, a no-fault div. is usually preferable. However, I feel that if the fault ground contributed significantly to the break-up of the marriage, then the div. should be awarded on the fault ground if proven. Although the Husband offered evidence that financial problems and the Wife’s drinking and partying contributed to the dissolution of the marriage, I feel that this marriage ended primarily because of the Husband’s relationship with Ms. Rafter.
In final argument counsel for the Husband argued that the Husband should not be penalized because of what he characterized as a small amount of discovery responses by the Wife in light of her evidence at trial. I agree that the Wife offered more at trial than she revealed in discovery, but even considering only what was revealed in discovery I would not reach a different conclusion as to the adultery. The Wife’s discovery responses show the romantic relationship between the Husband and Ms. Rafter before separation. The Husband did not contest his or Ms. Rafter’s admissions about their living together.
The Wife is awarded a div. on the ground of adultery.
CUSTODY AND VISITATION
After a lengthy pendente lite hearing in August 1997 the Mother was awarded sole legal custody of the parties’ children. The Father was granted every other weekend visitation.
Neither party argued that there has been no change in circumstances. Therefore, I must decide whether a change in custody and/or visitation is justified in the best interests of the children.
Both parties have different jobs since August 1997, and the Wife has moved. In August 1997 the Wife lived with the children (two boys, Jason, now almost 13, and Joey, now 10) in Westminster, Maryland. The Husband then lived in Leesburg, and he still does. The Wife worked for a builder in Maryland in August 1997. Shortly after the August 1997 hearing she went to work for a real estate agency in Reston. In August 1998 she moved to Ashburn. In September 1998 she went to work for Century 21 New Millennium Real Estate in Ashburn as a real estate agent.
As a result of the move, the children transferred from Carroll County, Maryland schools to Virginia schools. While in Maryland the children may have missed more days from school than the Father liked, but they both made excellent grades. Their report cards show mostly As (Defendant’s Exhibit 10). In Virginia their report cards for this year are equally impressive (Plaintiff’s Exhibit 4). Jason had straight As for the second period.
The children are thriving. They obviously are doing well academically. There was no evidence that either son has any physical, mental, or emotional problem.
There is no evidence that the Mother is not meeting the needs of the children. The Father argues that the Mother put her interests above the children’s interests when she moved to Virginia because it was convenient to her and to her work. I see nothing inherently wrong with her moving to be closer to her work. She moved back to the area of the former marital home, and she moved much closer to the Father. I do not think that the Mother put her interests above the interests of the children when she moved back to Virginia.
There is evidence that the Mother may not have actively supported the children’s contact and relationship with the Father. There are obviously bad feelings between the parties. They cannot communicate. It would be surprising if the Mother did not have difficulty dealing with the Father considering that he is living with the woman who contributed significantly to the dissolution of the marriage.
There is evidence that the Mother did not follow this Court’s order with respect to summer visitation. The Mother must understand that she must follow a court order. Although it was frustrating and costly to the Father, he did get the summer visitation he requested except for having to return the children a little early so they could participate in an activity that the Mother had scheduled for the children without consulting him. This, however, is not an exoneration of the Mother’s conduct.
There is no evidence that the Father was denied any weekend visitation. It appears that the parties even exchanged weekends when it suited their individual schedules and the children’s schedules. The ability of the Father to telephone the children at the Mother’s may have been frustrated at times by the Mother, but I feel that the frustration was caused by the actions of Ms. Rafter.
Neither parent is an unfit parent. Neither has any mental or physical problems. Each parent can and does meet the needs of the children. I cannot find from the evidence that the Father ever abused the children physically or otherwise. The evidence of abuse by either party toward the other is all pre-separation during the last days of the marriage. It is not significant. There is no evidence that abuse affected the children or that either party was injured.
Stability and continuity are always in a child’s best interest. I feel that the children are in a very stable environment in the custody of the Mother and that it should continue.
After consideration of all the factors of Section 20-124.3, sole legal custody shall remain with the Mother, and visitation is established as set forth below.
Before leaving the custody issue I feel I must address something that disturbs me because it is indicative of the moral decline of this country. The Wife never once raised the issue in the context of custody that the Husband is living with a woman to whom he is not married. The Husband asked this Court to give him custody which would result in the children living in a house with their father who is living with a woman to whom he is not married. What kind of an example does that set for children ages 10 and 13? I realize that this issue is not that important to some, probably many, judges, but it is important to me. So there will be no misunderstanding, the fact that the Husband is living with a woman to whom he is not married played no role in my decision to let sole custody remain with the wife. But it played no role solely because the Wife never raised it.
VISITATION IS ESTABLISHED AS FOLLOWS
- The Father shall continue to have every other weekend visitation from Friday at 6:00 p.m. to Sunday at 6:00 p.m.
- The Father shall have visitation from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. on the Thursday evening during the week that he does not have weekend visitation, i.e., the week following his weekend visitation.
- The Father shall continue to have three (3) weeks visitation each summer, not necessarily consecutive, provided he gives notice to the Wife of the dates for such visitation on or before May 1st.
- The children shall be with the Father on Father’s Day, and with the Mother on Mother’s Day.
- All major holidays and the days that the children are off from school shall be alternated.
- The Father shall have reasonable telephone access to the children.
- Property of the Parties
The property of the parties that may have some equitable distribution implications is as follows:
- The personal property listed in the Wife’s petition in bankruptcy (Defendant’s Exhibit 12).
- The settlement reached between the Husband and Liebert Corporation.
- The Husband’s retirement plan with Liebert Corporation.
Each item of property is address below.
In January 1998 the Wife filed for bankruptcy protection. In her petition she listed on “Schedule B-Personal Property” various items of personal property with a total value of $ 21,010.00.
The Husband testified that the personal property listed in the Wife’s bankruptcy petition is all marital property and that it was purchased during the marriage with his funds. Although the evidence was not exactly clear, I do find that the personal property listed in the petition is now in the possession of the Wife. However, I cannot find that the 1997 Saturn listed in the petition is marital property. I do find that the other personal property, except for the cash and bank account, listed in the petition is marital property.
As to the 1997 Saturn, Schedule B of the petition shows a value for the vehicle of $ 16,000.00 with it being co-owned by the Wife’s father. It also shows a lien of $ 15,727.74 in favor of Primus. On Schedule D of the petition Primus is listed as a secured creditor with the debt incurred in 1997, and the Wife’s father is listed as a co-debtor. The petition was offered in evidence by the Husband. It was admitted for the truth of its contents. The Husband’s testimony is at odds with the bankruptcy petition. Therefore, I find that the 1997 Saturn is the separate property of the Wife which was acquired by her after the parties separated in October 1996.