Tag Archives: attorney Patricia Tichenor

Post-Nuptial Agreements – Could a Contract Save Your Marriage?

Post-Nuptial Agreements-Could a Contract Save Your Marriage?

Post-Nuptial Agreements – Could a Contract Save Your Marriage?
NOVA Estate Lawyers – Leesburg

As strange as it may seem, a post-marital or post-nuptial contract might be the secret to a strong marriage. It could also heal the wounds that might otherwise result in divorce.

This can be especially true for people who are re-marrying and bringing with them separate assets, an inheritance from a deceased parents, or children from a prior marriage for whom they want to ensure protection of their inheritance. Having an agreement in place can save them the thousands of dollars it may cost them to secure in a contested divorce.

Post-nuptial or post-marital contracts can also be customized to meet the unique goals of each couple, whether dealing with chores or other household responsibilities and how these tasks might be divided between the couple, or addressing the use of therapy and relationship-building exercises in the face of a spouse’s infidelity.

What is a Post-Nuptial Agreement?
A post-nuptial agreement is a formal, written agreement created and executed after a couple marries or enters a civil union, with the intent to settle a couple’s assets and affairs in the event of a separation of divorce. It might cover matters such as property division, spousal support, death of a spouse, or the breakup of a marriage. In most states, child support and child custody are not included in a post-nuptial agreement.

There are generally three types of post-nuptial agreements:
1. One that assigns marital property upon death of one spouse;
2. One that creates a separation agreement in order to avoid time and cost of divorce proceedings; and
3. One that limits or sets forth rights in a future divorce, such as limiting alimony based on duration of the marriage, waiving alimony, or addressing marital property division.

Similar to a pre-nuptial agreement, there are certain legal requirements for the post-nuptial agreement to be valid (and these vary state-by-state):
• Written agreement
• Voluntarily executed without coercion or force
• Full and fair disclosure of assets, income, property, and debts
• Fair (not one-sided)
• Signed by both parties and notarized

When Should I Prepare a Post-Nuptial Agreement?
There are no guidelines for when to prepare your post-nuptial agreement. Some couples create one when tensions are high, others put one into place to protect assets and future assets. Before agreeing to any post-nuptial document, have an experienced family law attorney review it—especially if you are feeling uneasy about it. You can always negotiate the terms prior to signing, but not afterwards. Most agreements will withstand a challenge in the courts, leaving you stuck with something you might not want or should not have agreed to.

Contact Your Attorney

Patricia Tichenor and Camellia Safi at the Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor in Northern Virginia are experienced family law attorneys who can help you navigate the process of drafting and reviewing post-nuptial/post-marital agreements. Please contact us today—before you sign.

Choosing a Power of Attorney

Choosing a Power of Attorney

Choosing a Power of Attorney
NOVA Estate Lawyers – Leesburg

Quickly defined, a Power of Attorney (POA) is a powerful estate planning tool that allows you to appoint a spouse, trusted family member, or friend to assist with handling your financial and medical affairs during a period of disability when you might not be able to do this for yourself. This person may be referred to as your attorney-in-fact or agent. Your agent may be given these powers immediately the day you sign your POA, called non-springing, where you believe any delay to obtain a finding of disability by a doctor would be create greater problems or, instead, as springing powers granted only when one or two licensed physicians determine in writing that you no longer have the capacity to manage your financial or medical care decisions.

A Power of Attorney is a binding legal agreement that must be put into writing, witnessed, and notarized to become valid. For purposes of a financial POA, you must also make it clear, in writing, whether you are giving your agent permission to access and handle all or only some of your accounts for the POA to hold up in court.

You do not have to choose the same person as your agent for financial and medical matters; however, they do need to work together to make decisions on your behalf, according to your wishes. For instance, if you need medical treatment, your financial POA must work together with your medical POA to disclose financial information, fill out forms, or provide funds.

What’s important to keep in mind is that, absent a POA, if you become disabled and no longer have the capacity to handle your finances or make your own medical decisions, there will be delays and greater legal expenses incurred for a member of your family (perhaps even someone you would never choose for the job) to petition a court to be appointed Conservator of your assets or Guardian of your person. It is not unusual even in an uncontested matter for the costs to equal ten times the amount it would cost to simply retain an attorney to prepare a well-written POA to address these matters now before the worst happens.

Choose the Right Person for your Power of Attorney

Choosing the right person is of paramount importance. Select someone you can trust, who has your best interests at heart. Do not select someone who has had legal issues in the past or a person with whom your family does not get along. You may want to discuss your choice of person with your family before signing any documents, but this is not necessary. There are, of course, exceptions to this general rule, including same-sex couples and unmarried couples who may want their partner in the driver’s seat even if their family does not like or approve of the partner.

It is absolutely critical that you designate a person who is capable of handling your affairs and ensuring that the provisions of the POA you sign do not open the door for abuse by someone to benefit himself or herself over (which you should be their first priority) as well as your other family members by engaging in self-dealing behavior with your assets. They must fully understand their duties and be committed to taking them seriously. It is, therefore, recommended to talk to the person(s) you designate to discuss what you expect, and disclose the scope of your affairs before signing any documents. Note whether this person will charge a fee for their services; family members generally do not, but professionals like accountants and attorneys usually do.

You may also want to select a second person to serve as your secondary Power of Attorney in the event that your first choice cannot or will not perform their responsibilities, or passes away.

What if I Want to Change my Power of Attorney?
You may at any time change your assigned Power of Attorney by using a Revocation of Power of Attorney document and creating a new POA document, as a new POA document typically provides for revocation of all prior documents upon signing it. Shredding your older POA after signing a new one is absolutely critical to ensure that only the most current POA is found and utilized in the future.

Consult Your Attorney

Selecting your Power of Attorney may be one of your most important life decisions, so your choice should be considered carefully. Attorneys Patricia E. Tichenor and Camellia Safi at the Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor, P.L.L.C., specialize in Estate Planning issues and can assist in creating the legal documents you need. Please contact us today.

Grandparent Visitation Rights

Grandparent Visitation Rights<br>NOVA Estate Lawyers - Leesburg

Grandparent Visitation Rights
NOVA Estate Lawyers – Leesburg

Until as recently as 40 years ago, the legal concept of grandparent visitation rights did not exist. This is because parents have a fundamental right under the U.S. Constitution to make decisions regarding the upbringing of their children.

There are a number of reasons why grandparents might be denied visitation by family members, including a rift or estrangement within the family, divorce, death, adoption, incarceration, abuse, substance abuse, or chronic problems. In some cases, there may be actual safety issues for the grandchild. Communication problems, or control or boundary issues, can also be the cause for disallowing communication. In other cases, grandparents have been left to raise the grandchild, sometimes for years, but later find themselves confronted by the return of a parent seeking to reclaim their rights to the child.

Whatever the reasons, these life events can cause grandchildren to experience a sudden break and extended separation from a grandparent with whom they may have a strong bond, causing long-term damage to the child.

Several States sought to address the concerns these life events raise through statutes, applying a best interests of the child test to establish statutory visitation rights for grandparents, but with two different approaches being taken:
1. Restrictive Visitation Statutes, under which grandparents can seek visitation rights if the parents are divorced or if one or both parents are deceased.
2. Permissive Visitation Statutes, under which grandparents can request visitation rights even if both parents are still married and still alive.

However, as these State statutes became more commonplace, their constitutionality came under attack, leading to a 2000 United States Supreme Court Ruling which found such statutes could, in fact, be unconstitutional and thus unenforceable. Specifically, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Troxel v. Granville, that a Washington State statute was unconstitutional as written because it allowed a judge to substitute and/or overturn a parent’s decision regarding denial of visitation with a grandchild where the parent was also found to be perfectly fit to make such a decision. The Supreme Court held that parents have a fundamental right under the constitution to make the decision as to visitation between a grandparent and a grandchild absent a finding of unfitness on the part of the parent.

Because of the legal complexities surrounding grandparent’s rights to visitation, it is often best to try to mediate these issues when possible between parents and grandparents with the help of an experienced attorney-mediator. Through this process, a neutral third party can assist in creating a legally-binding agreement for all parties. If however, a satisfactory agreement cannot be reached, an experienced family law attorney should be employed to assist grandparents with preparing the most persuasive court pleadings possible in order to address why their specific case warrants the granting of visitation rights with their grandchildren.

Contact Your Attorney
If you have questions about grandparent rights, or wish to petition for rights in your own case here in Northern Virginia, it is good to have an experienced attorney by your side to walk you through the process. At the Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor, P.L.L.C., Attorneys Patricia Tichenor and Camellia Safi specialize in all aspects of family law. Please contact us today.

Modifying Your Estate Plan: How and When To Do It

Modifying Your Estate Plan: How and When To Do It

Modifying Your Estate Plan: How and When To Do It
NOVA Estate Lawyers – Leesburg

Congratulations for setting up your estate plan. You have taken the right steps to insure that your estate is distributed as you wish following your passing. But how long ago did you create this plan? If it has been longer than three to five years ago, you might want to look at modifying it.

Life is never constant. Things can change in an instant, and circumstances in not only your life but in those of your beneficiaries surely change over time. That is why you must set periodic reviews to keep your estate plan up to date, and make changes should a significant life change event occur.

When to Modify Your Estate Plan
Common events that can change the directives in your estate plan include, but are not limited to:
• Divorce, separation, death of a spouse, marriage or remarriage
• Death of a beneficiary—family or friends
• Death of a family member from whom you might inherit
• Birth or adoption, or emancipation of a child; guardianship issues
• A child who may suffer from a disability, including drug addiction
• An elderly parent becoming steadily incapacitated due to illness or injury, to avoid the cost of a guardianship/conservatorship court case
• Your own health issues
• Starting or closing a business
• Acquisition or loss of assets
• Changing your mind

How To Make Changes
The most common way to alter your estate plan documents that can include your Last Will, Living Will, Trust or Power of Attorney is through a Codicil to Will or Living Trust Amendment. These documents replace old clauses in your will with new ones. In some cases the change involves only a simple amendment to existing documents, while at other times, an entire rewrite may be necessary. Your estate attorney will assist you in creating and filing the appropriate documents.

Overall, the best strategy is to review your estate plan at regular intervals, and update it should a significant event occur. This will ensure that your estate, and your legacy, will pass on as you planned as smoothly as possible.

For Questions About Modifying Your Estate Plan, Contact the Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor, P.L.L.C.
To modify your existing estate plan, or to create a new Will, Living Will, Trust, Power of Attorney or any other estate document, contact estate planning attorneys Patricia Tichenor or Camellia Safi at the Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor, P.L.L.C.

Alimony, Spousal Support and Imputation

Alimony, Spousal Support and Imputation - NOVA Estate Lawyers – Leesburg, Virginia

Alimony, Spousal Support and Imputation
NOVA Estate Lawyers – Leesburg, Virginia

Many issues can come up during the course of a divorce, one of which is imputation of income. For most people, this is not a common term, although it can be a common problem, so let me explain it.

When two people divorce, one of the considerations is the payment of alimony or spousal support. Alimony typically refers to what parties agree to pay each other under a private agreement. Spousal support typically refers to what the court orders one spouse to pay the other. These terms, however, are often used interchangeably to mean the same thing.

In Virginia, when trying to determine whether alimony or spousal support will be an issue, each spouse must provide proof to each other of their gross incomes from all sources, which is then considered by their attorneys during settlement negotiations or is otherwise submitted to the court at trial. The court looks at the financial means and income of each spouse and weighs the relative need of the spouse seeking support against the relative ability of the other spouse to pay such support in light – with gross income being a significant factor in the consideration, along with the employment history, training and education, ages, and health of each spouse. If the court finds a need and an ability to pay, it will order spousal support.

Imputation of income can be imposed against both the paying spouse and the non-paying spouse, depending on the circumstances, to include:

(1) When the spouse ordered to pay spousal support decides to quit his or her job or takes a lower paying job in an effort to undermine his or her ability to pay support and avoid continuing to pay support. The paying spouse may think, once their support payment is recalculated based on their “new” income, they can simply return to full-time work at their higher income level and “beat the system.” A spouse may also be imputed his or her income from a former job if the spouse is fired from that job due to his or her own misconduct, thereby being the one to cause a decrease in the ability to earn a higher income.

(2) When a spouse asking to be paid support refuses to obtain employment or takes a lower-paying job in order to increase the amount of support they claim to need, or, gets fired from a job due to his or her own misconduct at the job, thereby being the one to cause a decrease in the ability to earn a higher income.

In these instances, the court can (and often does) impute income when determining the proper support amount or deciding whether modification of an existing support amount is proper.

Let’s look at an example of imputation

Let’s say one spouse is an accountant and previously brought in a salary of $75,000, but now has decided to spend the day on the couch, or they willfully reduced their work schedule to part time in order to avoid paying alimony or seek a reduced payment. Or another spouse has decided not to look for work in order to receive a supporting alimony payment. (Note that each spouse is capable of working and not restricted from working. They voluntarily chose not to, thinking it would be to their financial advantage.)

If it is determined that the spouse is capable of working, the judge will look at the spouse’s qualifications, work history and market conditions to then determine a reasonable income that person should be making. In other words, the judge will impute, or assign, a specific earnings amount. The court can then order a spousal support payment based on the imputed income as a matter of fairness or to punish the dishonest spouse. One cannot escape the responsibility of alimony payments or seek to appear unemployable to obtain a higher amount of spousal support by simply choosing to leave their job.

However, as an exception, if circumstances out of their payor’s or recipient spouse’s control cause him or her to lose their job or require a reduction in income, the court may redetermine alimony amounts, or impute a higher income amount to the other spouse. In any case, imputation will not occur without the party in question being heard by the judge.

In addition, the court can also award remedial support to assist with a spouse who is obtaining education and training to improve their earning capacity. That spouse is then expected to sincerely follow through with that training, and then seek gainful and higher-paying employment.

Contact Your Family Law Attorney
Divorce is never easy, and many people have questions, issues or concerns that arise even after the final divorce papers are signed. Imputation is a highly complex issue and best handled in court or by agreement with the input of an experienced family-law attorney. That is why the Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor, P.L.L.C. is here. Attorneys Patricia Tichenor and Camellia Safi specialize in family law and can help guide and advise you before, during and after your divorce proceedings. Contact us today.

The Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor, P.L.L.C.
Professional Legal Services or Legal Representation
(703) 669-6700

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