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.

We hope to help you navigate your legal issues by covering some of the most frequently asked questions regarding various areas of practice:


All disputes can be mediated, if the parties agree to participate.

Mary G. Commander is a Supreme Court Certified Mediator with more than 30 years of formal mediation experience to assist you. Have your dispute mediated by the mediator who teaches other mediators.

To encourage mediation, we offer a discount on our normal hourly rates.

If you are interested in mediation, make an appointment for you and the other party to come together for the mediation. We cannot meet with you separately, since the mediator must remain unbiased.


  • Uncontested Divorce (No issues in dispute.)
  • Contested Divorce (One or more issues in dispute.)
  • Mediation Agreements (The parties meet together with a neutral mediator to reach an agreement that will be made part of the Final Decree of Divorce. We can serve as mediators or lawyers.)
  • Property Settlement and Stipulation Agreements (The parties enter into a written agreement on issues such as property division, custody and support.)
  • Premarital and Marital Agreements (The parties can enter into a written agreement to decide in advance what will happen to property and money in the event of a divorce.)
  • Collaborative Divorce (With other collaborative professionals)
  • Child Protective Services (CPS) (Investigations and appeals)

Many divorces involve issues that require specialized experience. Mary G. Commander has extensive experience in military and civil service divorces. We know the DFAS and OPM rules.

Mary G. Commander also has experience in handling the separation of parties who, though not married, have joint property and debts that require division.


Whether in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations or the Circuit Court; whether representing the mother, father, grandparents, or other interested party; whether the parties are litigating, mediating, or agreeing – this firm can meet your needs.

We also handle child support collection and arrearage cases in court and in proceedings with the Division of Child Support Enforcement (DCSE).


We handle step-parent, single parent, same sex, adult, parental placement, agency and interstate adoptions. We literally wrote the book – “Adoption Procedures and Forms: A Guide for Virginia Lawyers,” available for purchase on Amazon.

We also handle surrogacy and assisted conception contracts.


Collaborative law is a process in which specially trained attorneys and other professionals (which can include financial and mental health professionals), work together with the clients to try to reach a settlement of areas of concern. The issues are decided by the clients.

This requires both parties to commit to collaborative law and to retain collaborative law attorneys. This is a relatively new process in Hampton Roads, although it is in great use in other parts of the state. Because of this, the number of trained attorneys is limited. Our office will provide you with a list of trained attorneys.

Settlement meetings will be conducted with all parties present. There are no court hearings.

This process greatly reduces costs and emotional wear and tear.

To discuss whether collaborative law may be appropriate for you, please call to schedule an initial consultation.


Military divorces require specialized knowledge. We have extensive experience addressing issues with DFAS, TriCare, SGLI, Thrift Savings Plans (TSP), military pensions, Survivorship Benefit Plans (SBP), disability payments, Voluntary Separation Incentives (VSI), Special Separation Benefits (SSB), the Servicemembers’ Civil Relief Act (SCRA) and the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA).


Contact our office regarding other legal matters that may arise.

Serving Hampton Roads, including Norfolk, Portsmouth, Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Suffolk, Isle of Wight, Hampton, Newport News, and York County.