How to Handle a Surprise Divorce

How to Handle a Surprise Divorce

How to Handle a Surprise Divorce
NOVA Estate Lawyers – Leesburg, VA

You think things are fine with your marriage, and then your spouse suddenly says they want a divorce. Although you may have suspected that there were issues within your marriage, you are completely thrown by their announcement.

Negotiating your way through a divorce is never easy, even when both sides agree to the split. Navigating through it when it is a surprise is even more difficult. Here are some steps that can make it easier.

Find someone to talk to
Your emotions are going to go crazy, so find a professional you can talk with, like a clergy member, spiritual leader, or therapist. Speaking with an unbiased professional can help provide clarity to your thoughts and help you think rationally when emotions flare.

Engage a family law attorney
Immediately begin looking for an attorney, and interview them to make sure you find the right fit; chances are your spouse may have already engaged an attorney even before breaking the news to you.

Knowing your rights, and what the law in your State allows, will be important as you negotiate your divorce. An experienced family law attorney like the Law Offices of Patricia E. Tichenor, P.L.L.C. can assist you to set a plan in action and help you avoid costly mistakes.

Your family law attorney can help understand the legal process, develop a strategy of what steps to take next, how to react to your spouse’s legal actions, draft legal documents for court, negotiate settlement, or even assist with obtaining temporary custody and support orders, injunctive relief to protect assets from being depleted by the spouse seeking the divorce, or a seeking a restraining order if there are issues of abuse. Be open with your attorney about what’s going on even if you feel ashamed or embarrassed, as that will ensure you get accurate advice about your case and your best course of action.

Be proactive and preemptive
Don’t just sit back and wait for your spouse to take charge. Set up your own action plan for dealing with the divorce. You will want to protect your assets, bank accounts, living accommodations and child custody arrangements, and be ready with your wishes when it is time to sit down and negotiate.

Photocopy all documents relating to finances and other legal property, and photograph your valuables. If papers seem to be missing, directly ask your spouse for them; they may be attempting to protect their own interests by hiding documents. Set up your own bank accounts and credit cards (tell your spouse if you cancel a card), but do not attempt to take all the money or run up large bills out of spite. Seek advice from your attorney about permissible uses of assets or lines of credit.

Be communicative
Although the news can come with a plethora of emotions ranging from disbelief to anger, and thoughts from sadness to revenge, it is best to remain communicative and open with your spouse. Even if they make you furious, they have rights too. It will make the entire negotiation process easier.

Keep the children out of it
Don’t involve the children in your battle, or make them take sides. They are merely bystanders to your divorce from your spouse. It is okay to let them see that you are sad, but refrain from bad-mouthing your spouse or attempting to manipulate your children to your side. It is best if you and your spouse break the news to your children together, and assure them that the divorce is not their fault.

Consult with friends who have gone through a divorce
Some of your most valued support may come from friends who themselves have gone through a successful or collaborative divorce. They may have tips on how to survive during this family upheaval, and may be able to assist in other ways, like watching the children or being there when you need to talk. Every case, however, is different, so do not use their input to gauge what you should ask for or obtain in court; instead, leave that subject to your attorney’s expertise. Beware of counsel from those who have not undergone a divorce, and avoid advice that instructs you to “get back at” your spouse to punish them.

Take care of yourself
Avoid letting your emotions drag you into a depressive or otherwise harmful state, even though you should take time to grieve. You are suffering a loss, similar to a death. Use this time to create a new life for yourself. A little pampering never hurts either. Take time to be with friends and do enjoyable activities that will take your mind off your current situation. Don’t let the divorce devastate your self-esteem, and don’t beat yourself up over it. You are still a worthy and valuable person. Don’t however, jump immediately into a new relationship; that would be disastrous for all.

Contact the Family Law Attorneys at the Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor, P.L.L.C.
Trust the counsel of Northern Virginia attorneys Patricia Tichenor and Camellia Safi to help you navigate through the separation, settlement, support, and child custody issues involved with your divorce. You’ll want to have a passionate, experienced attorney on your side. Contact us today.

Child Emancipation in Virginia

Child Emancipation in Virginia<br> NOVA Estate Lawyers - Leesburg, VA

Child Emancipation in Virginia
NOVA Estate Lawyers – Leesburg, VA

Until a person is 18 years of age, the legal age of majority in Virginia, their parents or guardians have the right to both custody and control. They have legal responsibility to provide the child with shelter, food, clothing, medical care, supervision, and education, and are legally responsible if the child breaks the law. Once a child reaches the age of majority, however, the parents’ legal responsibility ends.

There are, however, some circumstances under which a child or even parent/guardian may seek to have a child declared “emancipated” even though the child has not yet turned 18 years of age, so long as the child or the parent/guardian is able to convince the court that emancipation prior to age 18 serves the best interests of the minor child.

How does the Emancipation Process Work in Virginia?
In Virginia, a minor child of 16 years of age can petition the court to become emancipated. The parents or custodians are thereby made respondents and given notice of the petition. In addition, a parent or guardian of a minor child may also ask the court for emancipation.

A petition for emancipation must be initiated by a legal filing with the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court for the county of city in which either the minor or his/her parents or guardian resides. It should contain the minor’s gender, and if the petitioner is not the minor, the name of the petitioner and his or her relationships to the minor.

The court will appoint a guardian ad litem to the child, as a matter of law, which is a licensed attorney trained and approved by the court to serve as a legal representative to a minor child. Depending on the circumstances, the court may also appoint an attorney for the parents or guardian.

The court may require that the local Department of Welfare or Social Services, or another agency, investigate any allegations within the petition, and report back to the court. A hearing will then be held with all parties present.

Necessary Findings for Child Emancipation
Emancipation may be declared following the hearing if: (1) the minor has entered into a valid marriage (whether or not it has been dissolved since); (2) the minor is on active duty in the U.S. armed service; or (3) the minor willingly lives separately and apart from his/her parents or guardian, with the consent of the parents or guardian, and is capable of supporting himself/herself and completely managing his/her own financial affairs.

Results of Emancipation
There are a number of significant legal ramifications if emancipation is granted, including:
• The child may thereafter enter into a binding contract
• The child may thereafter establish his/her own residence
• The child may thereafter purchase and/or sell real estate
• The child may enroll in a school or college of his/her choice
• The child may marry without parental, judicial or other consent

The parents of an emancipated minor will no longer be considered the legal guardians of the child, nor have any obligations regarding school attendance or support obligations.

Contact your Family Law Attorney
The issue of child emancipation is complicated, and there are many steps and repercussions that should be discussed with your family law attorney. This post just briefly touches on some of the aspects of the process.

To learn more about child emancipation in Virginia, please contact lawyers Patricia Tichenor or Camellia Safi at the Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor, P.L.L.C. We can help explain how the process works, and whether it works for you and your family. Call our office today.

What You Need to Know about Adoption in Virginia

What You Need to Know about Adoption in Virginia

What You Need to Know about Adoption in Virginia
NOVA Estate Lawyers – Leesburg, VA

If you are considering adopting a child, there are several routes you can take to expand your family.

The first step is to decide what type of adoption works best for you. You can opt to adopt through a public or private agency that can facilitate the entire process, from locating birth parents to terminating their parental rights.

Or you can adopt privately by making all arrangements directly with the birth parents. Typically, private adoptions include close relative, adult, and step-parent adoptions, which entail a less-complicated procedure than other types of adoptions.

Most international adoptions are handled by agencies. Domestic adoptions, on the other hand, can be either done privately or with the assistance of an agency.

In Virginia, when adopting a minor child, a prospective adopting parent must be at least 18 years old to adopt, can be married, single or divorced, and must pass a home study to be approved for adoption. A home study is the assessment of the potential adoptive parent(s), performed by a licensed adoption agency. It includes detailed background checks, child protective service clearances, medical, educational, vocational, and other checks and histories, financial checks, and recommendations from non-relatives. After performing the home study, the agency can recommend whether the potential adoptive parent(s) are suitable to adopt a child, and state the recommended type of adoption (for instance, only infants or only domestic adoptions).

The most common types of adoption include:

    • Open vs. Closed Adoptions

In an open adoption, the biological parents and adoptive parents are open to sharing personal information and can stay in contact with each other throughout the child’s life if they choose. In a closed adoption, biological parents and adoptive parents do not have access to each other’s private information, and records may be sealed. There is no interaction between the two families.

    • Relative and Stepparent Adoption

Relative adoption and stepparent adoption refer to placement of a child in the permanent care of a relatives or stepparent.

    • Infant, Older, or Multiple Child Adoption

Minor children can be adopted at any age; however, there is a greater need for parents willing to adopt older children and sibling groups.
An adult child (age 18 or older) can also be adopted, by giving his or her own Consent; however, when the adult child is being adopted by a non-relative, some States (including Virginia) have a minimum age difference that must exist between the non-relative adopting parent and the adult child consenting to be adopted. In Virginia, that requirement is currently 15 years, meaning the non-relative adoptive parent must be at least 15 years older than the adult seeking to be adopted. A home study is typically not required for an adult child being adopted by giving his or her consent to that adoption.

    • Foster Care Adoption

Children placed in foster care are sometimes adopted by their foster family or through the foster care system, though this is a drawn-out legal process that can require the termination of the natural parents’ parental rights through multiple court-proceedings. Foster care adoptions can be completed through the Department of Social Services in conjunction with such court-proceedings.

    • Special Needs Adoption

In Virginia, many special needs children are available for adoption, and Federal and State programs exist to financially help adoptive parents.

    • International Adoption

Children under age 18 who are adopted from a Hague Convention country, and who enter the U.S. with an IH-3 visa may automatically receive U.S. citizenship. Those adopted from non-convention countries must qualify as orphans. Parents finalizing adoptions abroad must apply to the USCIS for an IR-3 visa for their child.

Do I Need an Adoption Attorney?
In Virginia, most adoptions are completed through an adoption agency or adoption attorney. You do, however, want to consult your family law attorney at the time when you are considering adoption. Your attorney can fill you in on your legal responsibilities, as well as provide helpful information to guide you through the process of adoption through completion. There are also important estate planning considerations to adoption, both for the parent giving up his or her rights if consenting to the adoption of a child, and the adopting parent who might also have natural children who then share any inheritance with their adopted sibling(s).

Contact Your Family Law Attorney
As you can see, there are many consideration and complications involved in adoption. Before you embark on this often overwhelming yet ultimately rewarding journey, consult with an attorney knowledgeable about Virginia’s laws on adoption, like attorneys Patricia Tichenor or Camellia Safi at the Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor P.L.L.C. This way, you can receive all the necessary legal advice and support you need, and turn your focus to welcoming a child into your life.

You May Be Liable For Your Minor Child’s Actions

You May Be Liable For Your Minor Child’s Actions

You May Be Liable For Your Minor Child’s Actions
NOVA Estate Lawyers – Leesburg, VA

Children get into trouble; it’s a given part of their growing-up process. However, when their actions cause damage to someone else’s person or property, many parents may not realize that they too could be liable for their child’s actions.

The courts decided long ago that it was unfair for someone to bear the financial burden or medical expenses resulting from another person’s wrongdoing. In fact, the first state law of this type was enacted in Hawaii in 1846. The reasoning behind this legislation was that parents have a legal responsibility to supervise their minor children, and if the minor child causes property damage due to negligent, malicious or willful actions, the parents can be held liable.

A child may willfully disregard a parent’s direction, or the mischief may occur because of improper supervision, and the damage can be as simple as a baseball going through a neighbor’s window or spray-painted graffiti, or as complicated as a computer hacking issue. Far too frequently, you read in the news that a child finds a handgun and accidentally shoots another child, or that a minor child takes a car and causes an accident.

Parental liability extends to both criminal and civil liability. Parents may be legally forced to compensate an injured party or repair damage done by a child’s actions. Parents may also be subject to lawsuits or criminal sanctions in some cases. Parental liability ends when the child becomes of majority age of 18, or if the child is legally emancipated by statute and deemed no longer under a parent’s supervision or responsibility.

Non-Criminal Liability for a Minor
Non-criminal liability, also known as vicarious liability, extends to actions that might include vandalism, defacement, or property destroyed in a hate crime. Parents are also liable for negligent actions when they know they must supervise the child and fail to do so, known as negligent supervision. Not only parents, but grandparents, guardians, and anyone having custody of the child can be liable.

Use of the family car also carries liability. The Family Car Doctrine holds the owner of that car liable for any damage caused by the driver of that car, if the owner knew of and consented to the family member’s use of the car, even if the minor child is not listed on the auto insurance policy. The uninsured motorist provision would not apply if the minor child is living in the insured’s household.

Criminal Liability for a Minor
Some states hold parents criminally liable when children gain access to firearms, or if parents know that their child is in possession of a firearm and do not take it away. More serious penalties are applied if the minor child causes injury or death. In Virginia, it is considered a misdemeanor to recklessly leave a loaded firearm within reach of a child so as to endanger the limb or life of any child under the age of 15; however, exceptions can be made if the gun is stored in a locked box and secured with a trigger lock. Criminal liability also extends to certain unlawful computer and internet activities, such as hacking, cell-phone and video cameras, and viewing (or sharing – such as “sexting”) pornography or other inappropriate photos.

Delinquent youth also fall under the area of parental liability. In Virginia and nearby North Carolina, parents are required to reimburse the State for costs associated with the detention, care, support or treatment of their child while under state agency supervision.

Children under the age of 18 are typically processed through the juvenile justice system, and not the adult criminal justice system, and are subject to laws designed for juvenile offenders. In some cases, the child may need a lawyer to represent them. But since they cannot contract with an attorney on their own, parents need to be involved.

Contact Your Family Law Attorney
As family law attorneys in Northern Virginia, The Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor P.L.L.C. can assist parents in addressing issues of parental liability or their child for acts of mischief leading to civil or criminal liability involving a minor child. Whether you need expert advice, or to engage the services of an attorney, call attorneys Patricia Tichenor or Camellia Safi today to get an experienced advocate on your side.

The Pros and Cons of Marriage Counseling

The Pros and Cons of Marriage Counseling<br>NOVA Estate Lawyers - Leesburg, VA

The Pros and Cons of Marriage Counseling
NOVA Estate Lawyers – Leesburg, VA

Once couples realize that something is wrong with their marriage, there are a number of choices they can make: they can read self-help books and try to fix it themselves, they can seek advice from friends and family, they can engage with a professional marriage counselor, or they can do nothing—each with varying results, with doing nothing having the least chance for success.

Most couples do not have the experience to know how to navigate through tough times. They fall in love and expect the fairytale life, while in reality, they repeat patterns and dynamics that are not productive and often hurtful, and wonder why the problems never seem to get fixed.

The purpose of marriage counseling overall is to teach couples effective methods of working together to resolve conflict in a marriage so they can function independent of a third party. By facing old habits and patterns, and making efforts to establish new and healthier ones, couples can learn to identify problem areas and learn new and better ways of communication.

As with anything, marriage counseling has its pros and cons:

Pros
The overall goal of marriage counseling is to resolve issues and improve and strengthen the relationship between a married couple or those involved in a committed relationship. It uncovers perhaps-unseen ways of interacting that are detrimental, as well as brings buried anger to light so that it can be resolved.

Through regular counseling sessions, couples share frustrations and truths before a neutral third party, who offers methods to move past them and ways to better handle disputes and problems when they arise. The use of personality assessments or other testing by a therapist, when effective, can aid couples in developing a better sense of their partner’s communication style and lead to learning ways to build a stronger foundation and more enriching marriage.  This can also translate to improved parenting skills for couples with children.

How well couples relate with their counselor can be more important that the treatment they provide. Couples should treat the selection of a therapist like a job interview, understanding that each of them must feel comfortable with the person selected in order to build trust in that person, and to then make real progress.  Do not be afraid to change counselors if one or both of you realize the person is not the right fit.

Cons
Marriage counseling doesn’t always work for everyone, and can uncover issues that cannot or will not be resolved.

It also requires both people in the marriage to commit to making a positive change, and, often, one spouse may seem less committed to the use of therapy and unmotivated to put in the work it takes for therapy to be most beneficiary to the marriage. It’s important to remember:  One spouse cannot fix a broken marriage; it takes both spouses to dedicate effort to looking at, acknowledging, and taking steps to resolving issues with a common goal, although there are times when only one person in a marriage may choose to work with a counselor alone. It depends on the circumstances. However, both partners must take responsibility for their role in the problems.

In addition, couples therapy is not a quick fix; it takes time, over many counseling sessions. Some couples cannot afford the cost of ongoing therapy, and eventually drop out or try to fix their problems themselves. Help may still be available through local couples-support groups or places of worship which offer counseling free of charge or at a significantly lesser expense than a private therapist.

Taking the first step to counseling is always the hardest one, but with an open mind and a dedication to making it work, many couples go on to have successful marriages.

Contact Your Family Law Attorney

If you have questions about marriage counseling, or wish to talk to your attorney about a possible separation or divorce, your legal rights, or child custody issues, contact attorneys Patricia Tichenor and Camellia Safi at the Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor, P.L.L.C. We specialize in Family and Estate law. Contact us today.

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