The Ultimate Guide to Divorce and Custody in Virginia: Quickly Get Back to Fully Living Your Life

Free Consumer Guide:

The Ultimate Guide to Divorce and Custody in Virginia: Quickly Get Back to Fully Living Your Life

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Divorce Planning: The 7 Essential Steps

Free Consumer Guide:

Divorce Planning: The 7 Essential Steps

Instant Access

Virginia Divorce Lawyer with Legal and Emotional Intelligence - True "Counselors at Law"

People grow apart, communication breaks down, affairs happen, financial stress mounts, and disagreements escalate to non-stop fighting--and then the search for competent, professional, prepared legal counsel begins--but which one to choose?

At Smith Strong, we understand the hurt and pain our clients experience in the midst of these tough questions, so we believe our award-winning service to our client members makes the transition just a little easier. We want to make sure you are able to begin your new life financially secure, and as quickly as possible. If you aren't ready to talk yet, or you would simply like to learn a little more about divorce in Virginia, please get our book as an instant download, The 7 Essential Steps for Divorce Planning in Virginia, or our free e-book, The Ultimate Guide to Divorce & Custody in Virginia.  You may also purchase the hard copy of attorney Van Smith's book on Amazon.  All new clients receive this book during their first meeting with our firm.

Our Approach to Divorce at Smith Strong, PLC

Most clients are relieved to learn that divorce lawyer Van Smith and his team report that over 75% of his divorce clients never set foot in a courtroom.  This only happens when clients come meet with us early in the divorce process and allow us to uniquely craft settlement agreements after our efficient negotiation process.  Often the other spouse, because of our reputation Virginia Divorce Attorneysfor integrity and professionalism at this stage of divorce, do not feel the need to even hire their own attorney.

We believe our negotiation is aided by our calm, but thorough manner at the settlement table not only with our clients, but with the opposing spouse as well.  If we were honest, however, at times it does help to have a reputation for legal strength in the courtroom.

For the remaining 25% of our divorce clients, however, court is needed to establish the plan of action our firm sought in settlement.  For these clients, attorney Van Smith and his team are in court every week from the Richmond metropolitan area to Williamsburg, Virginia.  Understand, if you have tried to reach an agreement and are stuck because your spouse refuses to accept the terms of a civil transition, or because your spouse is making unreasonable demands on your property or trying to take the children from you--court may be needed.  Don't despair.  Court was built, in the divorce context, to bring these unreasonable, irrational individuals back into the fold to accept a reasonable plan.  Our firm carefully weighs your in-court options with you--not with some vague notion of 'aggressive' as other firms so quickly applaud themselves--but to strategically deploy litigation, in some cases, in order to achieve the desired outcome, and only when needed. 

Our experience day-in, day-out in court will assist you in knowing what settlement offers to make and accept.  This role as trusted legal advisor to our clients brings true peace of mind.  Our complex litigation experience in the courtroom, we find, enables us to guide our client-members effectively toward positive settlement outcomes.

The experience our clients have with us often leads to a long term attorney-client partnership as our business owner-clients and our high net worth client-members face other civil litigation actions or need a trusted legal advisor to negotiate other legal agreements.  Of course, we also are pleased to report our firm is built on the referrals from past clients who become raving fans of our approach through one of the most difficult chapters of their life.

You Need Not Just the Right Divorce Lawyer, But a Professional Team.

virginia divorce lawyerWe believe the best Virginia divorce attorneys keep their clients off the front page of the newspaper, by discreetly negotiating outcomes that enable our clients to proceed with dignity and financial security.  Skilled negotiation is informed and enabled by in-court, complex litigation experience of their attorney.  To prepare for litigation, however, requires an attorney to develop a team of highly trained problem solvers to assist in preparing matters for resolution.  This is why it is critical that you consider not just the attorney but the team around that attorney you choose.  The team ensures speed of outcome.  The team prepares the case alongside the lead attorney to empower our clients to make the best decisions for their divorce and property division.

If you are thinking of filing for divorce in the metropolitan Richmond or Williamsburg areas, contact divorce lawyer Van Smith and his team at Smith Strong, PLC for a SMARTSTART Comprehensive Case Preparation Meeting at 804.325.1245 or 757.941.4298.

The Highest Standards of Legal Excellence to Represent Our Client's Best Interests

Learn more about our firm's award-winning approach to divorce in attorney Van Smith’s new book from the Legal Strength Series:  The Ultimate Guide to Divorce and Custody in Virginia: Quickly Get Back to Fully Living Your Life, which can be immediately downloaded from this website.

We cannot be successful at Smith Strong unless we are listening carefully to our client-members, ensuring their voice is heard, their needs met--each day.  Though our experience informs our advice, each client brings unique interests and goals that inform our plan of action.  This requires humility amongst our team--that without first listening carefully to our client's needs we cannot possibly achieve their definition of a successful outcome.  We then communicate with our client's voice and goals in mind.  It is this skillful communication that also sets us apart from our peers.  That adaptation to our client's mindset and viewpoint, matched with our experience and training, leads to raving reviews found online among our past clients.

After careful planning with our clients, we act decisively on behalf of their interests.

***** 5-Star Testimonial from family law client, Brian Conner

Mr. Smith and his team have been wonderful to work with. They meet their deadlines and don't waste / bill unnecessary time. They have their way of streamlining the divorce process that has preserved me and my family. The best attorney experience ever!

I appreciate everything this firm has done for me throughout this difficult time and have been extremely happy with the professionalism and courtesy that were extended to both myself and my wife during the deliberations. My career requires the highest levels of customer service so I am very particular about the businesses and associations I have based simply on how they treat their clientele. I chose this firm because of the level of customer service that I perceived in Van's reviews and the fact that he actually takes the time to read them and respond. His responses show the passion he has for his career and his clients. I was thoroughly impressed by everyone that I spoke with in the firm and they far exceeded my expectations.

Our "Firm" Commitment

SMITH | STRONG, PLC, focuses on protecting assets and preserving futures for individuals and their families at three critical transition points:  (1) separation/divorce; (2) estate planning/retirement; and (3) elder law/avoiding unnecessary nursing home and long-term care costs.

Smith Strong is widely known for its use of a team approach to support each client, keeping family law and estate planning solutions cost-effective and goal oriented.  We implement this team approach with carefully selected staff that maintains our commitment to service, delivering complete solutions for our clients. 

For many of our clients, this is their first time in a law office; therefore, we make every effort to ensure each client is as comfortable as possible. 

The SMARTSTART comprehensive new client preparation meeting establishes the goals the client has for the representation and allows the divorce lawyer to outline the plan of action to reach those client-centered goals.  This includes candid analysis of the strengths—and weaknesses—of the client’s case in family law matters.  And the benefits (and unintended downsides) of various estate planning options.

Clients often comment that they have peace of mind leaving our office after that first meeting.  We’d like to think it’s the connection we make with each client in part due to the small size of our firm.  Probably greater than the connection made, however, is the plan of action established during that first meeting.  

Becoming a client-member of our firm really means you are becoming part of our firm’s extended family, as we introduce each new client-member to the team that will assist them through the transition—the attorney, client services specialist and paralegal.

To meet our firm’s mission, we hold weekly meetings each Monday, reviewing the status and ensuring each matter is maintaining its momentum and reaching the goals set forth in that initial SMARTSTART comprehensive case preparation meeting.

Our lead divorce lawyer and founder, Van Smith, typically ends each weekly meeting with a reminder of our firm’s mission and commitment.  In January, he reminded his team, “We are a service-based company, first, that just so happens to also practice family law at the highest level in Virginia.”

Here are 7 Steps to Consider Before You Initiate Planning Your Divorce

STEP 1: Don’t leave the marital residence until you get the OK from your attorney.

Particularly when there are children involved or spousal support issues to consider, leaving the marital residence too soon can lead to unintended bad consequences for your case.

If domestic violence is an issue, by all means, leave--but in most other cases you are far better to consult an attorney before moving out.

Moving out is usually the “first step” to a divorce for most couples. Get started on the right foot, however, and make the first step getting the “OK” from your divorce lawyer.

STEP 2: Make a one-page summary of your finances.

TV financial guru Suze Orman is fond of saying, “Stand in your truth,” when it comes to your financial picture. Oftentimes your financial snapshot will be difficult to assemble. We’ve had client bring in shoeboxes of tax files, retirement statements, and credit card bills to their first consultation—and that’s OK.  Still others bring detailed accounting statements from their personal accountants.

If possible, jot down your finances on a one-page summary. Take a blank sheet of paper. Picture four columns running from left to write on the page: (1) type of account; (2) institution; (3) account #; and (4) balance.

Then outline your:

  • Bank accounts;
  • Car loans;
  • Home loans;
  • Credit card balances;
  • Retirement accounts; and
  • Investments.

At the bottom of the page, include your income and your spouse’s, along with the income of any businesses.

Extra Credit: Attach pay stubs and W-2 tax forms to this one-page summary.

STEP 3: Prepare your ideal parenting plan.

Every family is unique. Each family has its own way of doing things. You should begin thinking about how two parents will now parent—apart.

Coordinating work schedules, medical appointments, school and extracurricular activities, holidays, weekends, and summer breaks will need to be carefully considered.

When we meet, we can balance your drafted plan with what the courts in our area typically award.

Your creative plan will be balanced with our experience to get it done— teamwork is essential here.

Begin maintaining a journal and calendar of your role and your spouse’s role with the children. This journal will come in handy as we prepare the statutory-based custody factors that every court must consider prior to awarding custody and visitation.

STEP 4: Itemize property & debt.
 An accurate list of property and debt, along with supporting documentation, is critical to a successful transition.

General records to assemble:

•  Tax returns & pay stubs

•  Account statements (supporting docs from step 2)

•  Loan statements, including title information (cars, houses)

•  Inventory and pictures of household furnishings, etc. 

Debts to list and photocopy supporting documentation of:

•  Mortgages, equity loans, other debts

•  Car loans, debt secured by tangible assets

•  Outstanding student loans and tax obligations 

Assets to list and photocopy supporting documentation of:

•  Marital residence, real estate holdings, timeshares

•  Intangible, financial assets, like stocks and 401-Ks

•  Tangible assets, such as cars, furniture, collections

•  Business interests

Extra Credit:  Prepare a snapshot of your monthly expenses—from eating out to car insurance—it is important for your attorney to know the lifestyle you wish to maintain.

STEP 5: Gather resources, secure passwords & establish a separate bank account.

Set up a secure, separate bank account from your spouse, if you don’t already have one. Ensure the passwords to your email and social media sites are changed, and then secured.

Legal fees are an unexpected expense on most household budgets. Don’t be left at a strategic disadvantage without counsel. Ensure your share of any joint account is removed and placed into a secure, separate bank account.

The goal here is to leave both parties on equal footing, so don’t go overboard and take all of the money from a joint account.

Ensure you have enough resources to retain competent legal counsel to see you through an effective settlement negotiation.

This is the time to lean on friends and family for support.  If not now, when?

STEP 6: Don’t date—[but if you do, don’t post pictures on Facebook…]

You may have just the “right” person in mind to date…  

You’ve waited so long to be “done” with your spouse; you just need to take your mind off of everything… 

We’re just “friends” going out to dinner, anyway…  

The kids are with their grandparents, and I’ve really wanted to go see that movie…  

If that person is worth it, really, he or she will wait for you.

Look, I know divorce is tough, but don’t date until your divorce decree is final. There are strategic, legal reasons for this advice, which we’ll talk more about it as we proceed.

Trust us—don’t date.

STEP 7: Pick your “dream team.”

Divorce is one of the most, if not THE most difficult time in your life. You owe it to yourself to pick the very best team possible.

You will need loved ones, a counselor (such as a therapist or clergy person), friends, and yes, even a lawyer.

Ensure the divorce lawyer you choose focuses on family law.  Are the attorney and staff focused on you and your unique goals for the representation? Will they ensure you move through this transition as quickly and as cost-effectively as possible? Will your attorney act as a discreet advisor, if settlement is possible? Does he or she have trial experience if settlement won’t work?

Do you have peace of mind as you leave the initial consultation? If you assemble your dream team—you’ll never regret it.


Family law matters, including divorce, support, and custody cases, require preparation.

These 7 steps will ensure you get started with confidence and peace of mind.

Don’t go it alone. The stakes are simply too high, and mistakes could be permanently damaging.

The next step is to meet with legal counsel. The right guide can coach you through and ensure you achieve the goals established in your initial consultation.

Our firm is ready to help you.

The Making of a Pen--and a New Life--For One Recent Divorce Client

The following is a special story written and published with our client’s permission and encouragement—

He was all-natural.  Nothing synthetic, from his personality to the fabric of his clothes.  There was a studied naturalism, an intentional simplicity to “Roger” and his approach to life.  And in spite of that purposefulness, designed for lifelong stability, his wife developed a different vision—a new life, riding off in a gleaming convertible, a fresh start, with someone new.  The children were grown.  And she had grown apart from him.

“Van, my magic stopped working on her.”  He held his head down.  The hurt and failure, the finality of the statement, finally said aloud was too much.  He clinched back tears.

He lifted an old leather briefcase holding his assets and debts for review.  If divorce was required--how to do it while preserving his retirement and life-savings and preventing a court battle?  His wife hired a top-notch firm, known for brutal litigation tactics.

We went through all of the property statements, accounts, debt.  I closed my eyes and said, “Here is how this case will settle.”  I went through the opening offer, their response, our counter, and how the final settlement would look—to the dollar.  A few weeks later, we reached an agreement, exactly as outlined in that first meeting. He was relieved.

“You must come, Van, and make a pen with me—my gift—for getting this case done.”

I arrived at his house.  Somehow, the house appeared, much as he did in that first meeting.   Authentic, all-natural, brown wood and bent iron.  Nothing vinyl attached to this home.

He seared steaks on the charcoal grill, wetting wood chips on top of the charcoal to lend the meat a smoky flavor.

And after dinner, he held out rectangular blocks of ivory and ancient wood.  Our mission:  turning the blocks into a custom-made pen on his lathe.  The sharp edges worn down, smooth.  Next, polish.  The hard edges, rounded, polished, the wood and ivory now ready for a new chapter.

And so was he.

“I went on a date last week,” a bit of the old smile returning.  It wouldn’t be the last.

I looked down at the beautiful pen, a lasting expression of thanks.

View our Divorce Article Library by category:

Divorce and Children

Divorce and Dividing Property

Divorce and Emotions

Divorce, Alimony, and Retirement Plans

Divorce, Communication and Co-Parenting

Contested Divorce

Divorce and Your Finances

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H. Van Smith
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Trusted Virginia Family Law Attorney Serving Richmond to Williamsburg