Confused About Virginia Family Law? You're Not Alone. Read Our Most Frequently Asked Questions

Dealing with divorce comes with a lot of questions. You may feel very alone, but we hear several of your questions more often than you may think. Browse our FAQs—we think you'll find a lot of helpful answers!

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  • How should I prepare for a court appearance, and how should I behave while in court?

                While attending court may be nerve racking, it is very important that you are prepared for your visit.  Whether you are the plaintiff, defendant, or witness, how you present yourself could dramatically affect your credibility.

                First, take care with your physical appearance. It is important that you dress respectfully and neatly. Avoid wearing clothing that looks messy or unprofessional, as how you dress can express a lot about your character. Instead, opt for professional, business-style clothing. Woman should wear clothing that is not revealing, such as a dress, skirt or dress slacks with a blouse. For men, dress pants with a clean, tucked in shirt or a suit are appropriate. Overall, avoid wearing jeans, t-shirts, shorts, mini-skirts or any revealing clothing.

                Second, be respectful of court personnel. Whether you are addressing the Judge, the Commonwealth’s Attorney, the Deputy or the Court Clerk, everyone you come in contact with at the court deserves your respect. Avoid foul language as it can come across as disrespectful and rude. Follow court protocol and directions.

                Third, be honest. Always tell the truth in court. When asked a question, answer clearly and politely. Attempt to give answers as completely as you can. If you do not know the answer to a question or don’t understand a question, say so. This way, the party asking the question can frame it in another way so you can understand. Remember, if you take care with your appearance and show good character, court may be a far less daunting experience.

                Most importantly, hire legal counsel who will help you prepare for your court appearance. Our attorneys here at Smith Strong, PLC are ready to support you throughout the court process. With offices in Richmond and Williamsburg, Virginia, we will gladly guide you through any family law issues you may be facing, including divorce, custody and support matters. You are also welcome to request a free copy of our Founder H. Van Smith’s latest book, The Ultimate Guide to Divorce & Custody in Virginia: Quickly Get Back to Fully Living Your Life, emailed to you instantly.

                Call us today at (804) 325-1245 or (757) 941-4298 to schedule a SMARTSTART comprehensive case preparation meeting.


    Disclaimer: Please note that every case is different, therefore, this article should not be construed as legal advice or replace an attorney-client relationship. 

  • What is the UCCJEA and what does it have to do with my Virginia Child Custody case?

                Virginia, among 49 other states, implemented the 1997 UCCJEA Law, or Uniformed Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Law, which hands jurisdiction to either the “home state” or the state with “significant connections.”

                “Home state” by definition is the state where the child last lived for six months or longer, or the child’s birthplace if that child is under six months old. What is important to note is that a state can remain the child’s home state for legal purposes even if the child is not currently living there, as long as a parent still lives in the state.

                In the event there is no home state or the home state rules to not exercise jurisdiction, then “significant connections” comes into play. This second aspect of the UCCJEA rule is very interesting. For such a state to qualify for “significant connections” jurisdiction, clear and plausible connections to that state must be existent. Specifically, there must be “substantial evidence about the child’s care, protection, training and personal relationships.”

                One important point of UCCJEA is to prevent a parent with legal intentions from attempting to relocate in haste and then file for custody or visitation rights. The UCCJEA replaces the UCCJA, and as such, it reinforces more consistently and clearly the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act as to determine proper jurisdiction in Child Custody and Visitation cases.

                Your child custody case starts here. Call our Williamsburg office at (757) 941-4298 or our Richmond office at (804) 325-1245 and sit down with one of our Virginia attorneys who will assist you in your navigation.

  • What is the role of a GAL (Guardian ad litem)?

       The role of the Guardian ad Litem (GAL), usually an attorney, is one who acts as an advocate for the child, providing to the judge a forthright, third-party perspective in the entire duration of cases when minors are involved. Having this third-party representation provides an immeasurable service to custody and support cases, where the best interest of the children is paramount.

       Rules of the Supreme Court of Virginia defines the role of the Guardian ad litem as “The role of counsel for a child is the representation of the child’s legitimate interests. When appointed for a child, the guardian ad litem shall vigorously represent the child, fully protecting the child’s interest and welfare. The guardian ad litem shall advise the court of the wishes of the child in any case where the wishes of the child conflict with the opinion of the guardian ad litem as to what is in the child’s interest and welfare.” (8.3)

       Vigorous is the key. In addition to serving as the child’s attorney when necessary, the GAL acts ‘behind-the-scenes’ as an investigator and witness from the beginning of court process to resolution of your matter. The GAL has the right to talk to whoever—attorneys on both sides, parents, doctors, teachers—all to the effect of advocating for your child’s best interests.

       The purpose and role of the GAL is absolutely positive, and here at Smith Strong PLC we work closely with you and the GAL to help you get the right answers. We encourage you to give us a call at (804) 325-1245 and set up your consultation with one of our Virginia attorneys to answer all of your legal questions.

    Disclaimer: Please note every case is different, therefore, this article should not be construed as legal advice or replace an attorney-client relationship.


  • My ex-husband—the non-custodial parent for our two daughters—has not paid his child support in over six months. What should I do?

    If you have a child support obligation in place, the parent ordered to pay cannot simply ignore that fact. There are a few things that can be done to make sure a child support order is upheld. You should ask your lawyer to file one of a few different motions:

    • A Motion to Show Cause will force the parent who hasn't paid to appear in court and explain to the judge why he has not made his required child support payments. It is up to him to prove why he should not be held in contempt of court.
    • A Motion for an Income Deduction Order requests to have child support payments withheld from the parent's paycheck at work. That puts the non-custodial parent's employer in charge of taking the money out of your ex-husband’s paycheck and making sure you get it. Even if—for some reason—the employer forgets to withhold the money one week, it is still the non-custodial parent's job to make sure you are paid.
    • A Motion and Notice for Judgment for Arrearages has the court calculate how much money the non-custodial parent owes you and enters a judgment against him for that amount.

    Not paying child support can result in fines and even jail time.

    In some cases, a parent is unemployed and simply unable to pay child support. If you are the custodial parent, remember that this is not your fault and you should not feel bad still needing money to support your child. It is the unemployed non-custodial parent's duty to contact the court himself to plead his case and ask for a modification in the support order. If the non-custodial parent chooses not to tell the judge about his job situation, he is still required by law to pay his child support obligation.

    If you need assistance establishing a child support order in Virginia, call 804-325-1245 (Richmond) or 757-941-4298 (Williamsburg) to contact the attorneys at Smith Strong for a consultation.