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FAQ

Family Law

When do I need a lawyer?

Adoption: After you have located a child who is available for adoption and are ready to have the adoption finalized, you need a lawyer.
You also need a lawyer if you receive notice that the other parent has filed to have a step-parent or others adopt your child, and you object to the adoption.
Divorce: When a case is filed or needs to be filed in the Circuit Court (the only court that can grant you a final divorce or divide your property), you need a lawyer.
A lawyer can also be useful in visitation, custody and support cases in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court.
It is imperative that you contact an attorney immediately if you are served with papers. If you miss a deadline, you can lose your rights. Never fail to appear in court if you receive a summons. Also, always pick up your certified mail. Ignoring it will not make it go away.
The sooner you contact a lawyer, the more time you will give your lawyer to prepare.

What is Family Law?

We are family law attorneys. Family law covers all areas that have an impact on families – for better or for worse. Adoption is a joyous experience of adding a new member to the family. Divorce is a disruption of the family unit, which can be far from joyous.

We are not “divorce lawyers.” We do not encourage divorce. That is a decision that the parties must make. They also must take responsibility for how the process is handled. They ultimately are responsible for how long the case takes to complete, how much it will cost and how difficult (or not) the case will be for all involved.

All of these cases require specialized legal knowledge and training. They are controlled by Virginia statutes and case law from the courts. As the law is constantly changing, an attorney must work to keep up. The policy of this office is to remain current through frequent training, review of current literature and court decisions and participation in national, state and local family law organizations.

We recognize that family members will need to deal with each other for years to come.  For this reason, we encourage communication and often, therapeutic intervention. We also encourage the use of mediation and collaborative law in the appropriate situations. A consultation will help us determine the best course of action in your case.

How long do I have to live in Virginia before I can file for divorce?

Six months. This can be the result of a voluntary relocation to Virginia or pursuant to valid military orders.

How long do I have to be separated before divorce can be finalized?

One year if there are children under 18 years of age or if there is no written agreement. Six months with no children under 18 and a written agreement. The Complaint for divorce, however, can be filled prior to the expiration of this period if there are fault grounds claimed.

 

Adoption

Who can adopt?

Agencies consider single and married women and men of all races, ages and income levels for adoption. You can be experienced parents with children in your home, first-time parents, or have grown children.
Two unmarried adults cannot adopt a child in Virginia.

How long will it take to adopt?

The time frame, like the cost, varies with the type of child being adopted. For example, step-parent adoptions can be completed in a matter of weeks, while others may have specific waiting periods.

How can my spouse adopt my child?

This is not a difficult process if the other biological parent will consent to the adoption. If you are unable to obtain consent, it is still possible. Contact us for more information.

Can I find out information about my adoption when I become an adult?

Yes.
To initiate a search for the birth family, you must fill out an Adoptee Application for Disclosure from: Adoption Reports Unit, Department of Social Services, 730 East Broad Street, Richmond, VA 23219-1849; Phone (804) 692-1944

 

Mediation

What is mediation?

Mediation is a highly effective process in which the mediator is a neutral person who helps parties in dispute reach an agreement.

What are the advantages of mediation over litigation?

Cost is greatly reduced. Time is greatly reduced. Emotional wear and tear is also reduced. Satisfaction is increased. You walk away with something you have agreed to instead of rolling the dice with a judge who does not know you.
Courts encourage parties to try to resolve issues between themselves first. Experienced attorneys also recommend this.

How do I schedule a mediation session?

Both parties should schedule a time to come in together. The mediator cannot meet with one party alone. There is a full explanation of how the process will work prior to the beginning of the initial session.

Who should I use as a mediator?

You should look for a mediator who is certified by the Virginia Supreme Court. Mary Commander is certified as a mediator and as a mediator mentor. She also trains other mediators in the Supreme Court approved certification classes.
The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. We invite you to contact us and welcome your calls, letters and electronic mail. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to us until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established.
Commander Law