How to Prepare for Court

vbjdrAt Commander Law, we try our best to do everything possible to settle our cases outside of a courtroom. Of course, this isn’t always possible and many clients will find themselves unsure of what to expect or how to adequately prepare for their time in front of a judge. Each situation is different and your attorney can help you prepare for the particular facts of your case, but there are some things that any party in a court case should keep in mind.

Be on Time

Or better yet, be early. We have had countless cases that were able to reach an agreement in the hallway of the courthouse instead of having to subject the parties to a trial in front of a judge. This isn’t possible without you being there with plenty of time. If you are late and your case is called, then your first impression with the court is a bad one, and you also risk the judge putting the case on without you! This would mean that the opposing party can say whatever they want and ask for whatever they want without giving you the opportunity to defend yourself.

Be Respectful

The way you say things is just as important as what you say. Remain calm and take your time thinking about what you are going to say rather than reacting emotionally and letting the opposing counsel’s questions rattle you. Judges are watching each party carefully and observing body language and facial expressions as well as listening to tone. Do not roll your eyes, or raise your voice or use anything other than extremely professional language. Your demeanor should be respectful to everyone involved in the case. This also carries over into what you wear. Your appearance should be clean and professional to show respect to the court.

Answer Only What is Asked

Lawyers are trained to pull out the facts that help their particular case and often parties will waste the court’s time by going on unrelated tangents or over explanations on things that weren’t the direct subject of a question. If there is more information that needs to come out, there will be follow-up questions, so do not feel as though you need to lay everything on the table at the first opportunity you get to speak. Judges have to listen to countless cases every week, and do not have patience for people who do listen and provide considered responses and instead are dragging a trial out unnecessarily. Make sure you stick to the facts rather than the emotions or what you think should have occurred. Do not go into back stories unless prompted. And never speak unless you are certain it is your turn.

Listen to your Attorney

Commander Law is here to help you. We have years of experience and we are dedicated to getting you through this difficult period in your life. We will work tirelessly to fight for you, but the best case results happen when the client is committed to working with the attorney and trusting our judgment.

What about the dog?

commander law dog

This is an issue that comes up on occasion when negotiating the terms of a Separation Agreement. It may seem silly to people who don’t own a dog, but dog owners often are extremely emotionally attached to their pups and often feel similarly to them as they do about their children.

Virginia treats pets as personal property, no different than your favorite armchair. This means that pets are subject to the same rules regarding property and the court will consider whether the dog is marital property to be divided, or separate property that belongs only to one party. Obviously most dog parents will not want to simply sell the dog and split the proceeds to resolve the matter, which is why it is not unusual to have people ask if it is possible to enter into a visitation schedule for the dog!

The answer to that is Yes! As long as the parties agree, it is possible to specify a visitation schedule for a dog in a Separation Agreement. Other solutions treat the matter the same as they would determine where the children should live, and consider the best interest of the dog. Who is the dog most attached to? Who has more space for the dog to play and run around? Which party is the dog’s primary caregiver?

As with most divorce matters, the best solution is for the parties to negotiate and then agree to in a separation agreement rather than taking the issue in front of a judge.

Let Children Be Children

leo 2017

During a separation or divorce, it may be tempting for a parent to use a child as a sounding board, ally or confidante. Children also can be used as intermediaries to deliver messages or support payments between parents or as a means to gather information about the other parent’s activities.

Avoid the temptation! Placing children, even older children, in the middle of adult conflicts damages them.

Let children be children. Adult situations are for adults to handle.

The Unemployed or Underemployed Parent

Posted January 12, 2018


In Virginia, both parents have a duty to support their children. However, something that happens fairly often in child support cases is that one parent does not work or is underemployed. In situations like this, the Court can often consider the parent’s earning potential rather than their actual income. This is called “imputing income.” The Court will calculate child support as though the parent was earning at their potential level, with the idea being that the parent cannot get out of their duty of support by purposely not working or working only part-time. At the very least, minimum wage will be imputed to a parent who does not have a valid reason for their situation.

As with everything related to children, imputing income to the parent must be in the child’s best interest. Sometimes there do exist special circumstances, such as a child who has special needs and therefore requires extra attention. Situations like this may justify a parent working only part time or not at all. A situation that would not justify unemployment however,  is when a parent is terminated from a job for cause. It is not uncommon for a judge to impute the income that the parent was earning before they were terminated, regardless of whether they have obtained a new position yet.

The bottom line is that the parent asking for income to be imputed has to demonstrate two things: the other parent’s earning potential and that imputing income would be in the child’s best interest.

New Year! New You!

The beginning of a new year is the perfect time to consider your life and your options. It also is a time to prepare for the future.

Sometimes, you just need to get information or to have questions answered. At our law firm, we often see men and women who need information or clarification regarding family law issues. With our assistance, you are prepared to make the important decisions regarding your future.

You may decide that you do not wish to make any changes.

You may decide that you want to make small changes.

You may decide that you want to make BIG changes.

Whichever you choose, it should be the result of an informed decision.

At CommanderLaw, we are here to help you make these difficult decisions. Call us today at (757) 533-5400.