Because I’m a lawyer, my friends tend to ask me questions whenever they find themselves in a tough spot. I can’t always help, of course, but I do try to help point them in the right direction, just like I do for the women who I see when I speak at the YWCA’s battered women’s shelter or at our monthly divorce seminars for women. The law is complicated and constantly changing, so it’s no surprise that the average person really doesn’t know all that much about it. A lot of times, they don’t even know the things that they think they know! It’s not unusual, but I do like to make sure that women know the facts.
Without the facts, it’s hard to make a good decision or come up with any kind of strategy. Whether you’re headed towards divorce, have a potential custody battle on your hands, or just want to know a little bit more about how to legally separate in Virginia, you owe it to yourself to get the right information. Really, the sooner the better, too, because you’re making decisions now that can potentially have a long term impact on your life.
The good news is that you really don’t have to try that hard to get the right information, either. While you have to be careful what Internet sources you trust, you’ve already found a place where you can get up to date information about Virginia divorce and custody law, straight from Virginia divorce and custody attorneys. You probably shouldn’t rely on the information you get from random nameless, faceless sources, but you can get good (free!) information online that can help you begin to move your life forward, regardless of whether you choose to pursue a divorce or custody case.
So, where can I find good, reliable, up to date, Virginia specific divorce or custody information on the internet?
You’ll have to do a little research on your own, but you can find lots of information for free online. In fact, if you want to start out getting information on your own, you’re already in a great place. Our library provides information on tons of divorce, custody, and separation related topics; all you have to do is click on the library link and start reading! Just click here (LINK), and I’ll take you to the library right now. It’s really, really useful, and we’re always adding new information, so you can be sure that it is accurate and up to date (at least as of the date it was published).
Once you reach the library page, you can click on the drop down navigation tool and click a specific category, if there’s a particular question that you’d like answered, search through the options in the order that they’re posted on the site, or, if you prefer, you can enter your search phrases in our search bar on the top right hand side. It’s powered by Google, so it’ll help you make sure you get the information that you need.
We post SO MUCH information, it’s really pretty overwhelming. My advice is just to take it one step at a time. Find the information that relates to whatever issue you’re having right now, and read that. Re-read parts, if you need to. We’ve done our best to make sure that everything we post is clear, concise, and free of complicated legal jargon (you know, those legal sounding words that you don’t understand), but we’re only human. Sometimes it happens. Once you’ve read up on whatever it is that’s bothering you now, you can move on to the next item on your list.
It’s important to take it one step at a time. If you’re just at the beginning stages, wondering whether you’ll eventually start heading towards divorce, just concentrate on how to get legally separated. If you’re planning on living separate under the same roof, make sure you’ve read up on those requirements. After all, not every couple that separates for a period of time ends up divorcing, so if you get too far ahead of yourself, you could give yourself unnecessary anxiety over something that isn’t going to happen. Why borrow trouble and worry about something that is several steps beyond where you are now? You’ll only end up feeling overwhelmed and stressed. Concentrate on the issues you’re having now, and read as much as you need to read in order to feel in control.
One of the things we see happen all the time is that husbands (who are usually incredibly uninformed) tell their wives something and swear that it’s true. For example, they’ll say something like, “You know you’ll never get spousal support, right? It’s true; we haven’t been married long enough.” And, for some reason, even though logic and prior dealing with this man should have taught the woman not to believe what he says (or, at least, not to unequivocally accept it without further research), she listens and then, inevitably, panics. It’s not her fault, of course. She married this man, and she has probably spent a number of years with him. She trusts him, to a degree, even now, even despite the evidence to the contrary. It’s hard to change that pattern of thinking, no matter how bad things in your marriage have been, and start thinking of your husband as your adversary. Not only that, but it’s even more difficult when he is deliberately seeking out your weaknesses and exploiting them. If you’re afraid of what might happen financially in the wake of your divorce, and your husband specifically manipulates your insecurity, it’s hard to escape that sick, panicky feeling.
You’re much less likely to fall for this trap if you’re well informed. If finances are your chief concern and you take some time looking into how finances work in divorce, you won’t be caught off guard if your husband tries to tell you something different.
I did some research online, but I still want more information. What should my next step be?
After you’ve had a chance to check out our library and read up on our divorce, custody, and separation advice, it might be time to start thinking about attending one of our low cost seminars. They’re all created and presented by one of our licensed and experienced Virginia divorce and custody attorneys, and you’ll even get an opportunity to ask your questions directly to the attorney.
Which seminar is the right one for me?
We offer two seminars designed to help Virginia women get the divorce and custody information they need. Second Saturday: What Every Virginia Woman Should Know About Divorce is our divorce seminar. Custody Bootcamp for Moms, on the other hand, is designed to help moms (whether or not they were ever married to their child’s father) fight for custody, visitation, and support at the juvenile court level—which may or may not be part of a larger divorce action.
Our divorce seminar is affectionately called “Second Saturday,” because that’s when we teach it. On the Second Saturday of each month, we teach the seminar in two locations—in Virginia Beach at the Friends Meeting House near the Hilltop East shopping center, and in Newport News at the Hilton Garden Inn next to Regal Cinemas. For those who can’t make it on Saturday, we also offer the seminar on the Third Tuesday of the month, in Virginia Beach only, and still at the Friends Meeting House.
The real title of the seminar, “What Every Virginia Woman Should Know About Divorce,” is really what the seminar is all about. We teach Virginia women all about how Virginia divorce law works, from what the grounds for divorce are to how you file, the difference between contested and uncontested, how spousal and child support work, what discovery is, how property is classified and divided, how retirement accounts are handled, and even how attorneys fees work in a divorce case. You’ll learn about the different types of divorce (specifically, negotiation, mediation, collaboration, and litigation), and talk about the advantages and disadvantages of each type.
Each seminar is 3 hours long, and is taught by one of our attorneys (on a rotating basis). We also have a mental health professional available on site so that you’ll also have an opportunity to ask some of your non-legal questions as well.
At Second Saturday, we’ll also talk about custody—at least, we’ll talk about custody and how it works when it’s part of a divorce. We’ll talk about the different types of custody and some of the more common issues in custody cases, like what happens if one parent wants to relocate.
The seminar costs $50 at the door, or $40 if you pre register online at www.monthlydivorceseminars.com. I don’t know of anywhere else that you can get three hours with an attorney for so little.
Custody Bootcamp for Moms is an intense, all day seminar taught by Kristen Hofheimer, designed to help give Virginia moms the edge they need to actually represent themselves (without hiring an attorney) in the juvenile courts. If you can’t afford an attorney or just don’t trust an attorney to handle something as important to you as the custody of your children (but you’re not entirely comfortable going into court without a little extra help), this is the seminar for you. (In fact, there’s no other seminar of it’s kind, and certainly no other similar option available to help dads who want to fight for custody.)
At Custody Bootcamp for Moms, you’ll learn the ten critical custody factors (that you must address and that the judge must listen to), how to question and cross examine witnesses, when to sit and stand, how to address the judge, what to wear, how to make a killer opening and closing argument, and tons more. Nowhere else can you learn how to handle a custody case directly from an incredibly experienced custody attorney. For more information on Kristen, check out her bio here, and her Avvo page (where she has a perfect 10.0 rating) here.
This seminar is perfect for anyone who is litigating custody in the juvenile court. Whether you are married to your child’s father, currently divorced from your child’s father, or never married your child’s father, if you’ve filed for custody, visitation or support (or been served with notice that your child’s father has filed), this seminar is perfect for you! The cost of the seminar is $197, which includes an entire day of instruction with Kristen Hofheimer, lunch, and a super valuable book of materials, designed to help make sure you have all the information you need to prepare for your court case. To register now, or to get more information, just click here.
I still want more information! Where do I turn next?
Your next step is probably to schedule an appointment to meet with an attorney. Your attorney will talk to you one on one, listen to your story, and give you advice for how to proceed.
This is different from a seminar, because it’s tailored specifically to you and your needs. Most family law attorneys in Virginia do charge a fee for their initial consultation, so you should be prepared for that. You may want to do a little research about your potential attorney ahead of time, too. You probably won’t be running all around town having consultations with a bunch of different attorneys, so you’ll want to be reasonably sure that the person you meet with is someone you might consider hiring.
At your initial consultation, your attorney will talk to you about your options, and give you a quote for how much it would cost to retain the attorney to represent you in your case. Depending on how complicated the attorney thinks your case might be, your retainer might vary.
Most family law attorneys bill by the hour, though, not by the case. A retainer amount is not a flat fee; it’s just the minimum amount that the attorney can have on hand to open your case. The money goes into a trust account with your name on it, and the money is only taken away when the attorney does work on your case. Your case will be billed hourly, which means that your case can cost less than your retainer, and then you’d get money refunded to you. If your case costs more than your retainer, at some point your attorney’s office would ask you to replenish your trust account.
If you’re a Virginia woman facing a divorce or custody case, or just contemplating a separation, you’re in the right place, and you’re asking the right questions. There are lots of resources out there that can help you get the answers that you need to protect your rights and make sure that things move forward smoothly. For more information, or to schedule an appointment with one of our divorce and custody attorneys, please give our office a call at (757) 785-9761.