Divorce and Family Law


For many of us, relationship and family law matters are the most difficult obstacles we face throughout our lives. When emotions and tensions run high, an experienced family law attorney can keep you grounded and focused on achieving the best outcome for you and your family.

Family law covers many different situations. Separation, divorce, child custody, child visitation, spousal support, child support, adoption, domestic violence, and guardian ad litem services all fall under the umbrella of family law.

Grounds for Divorce

In Virginia, grounds for divorce must be established prior to filing. According to Virginia family law, the acceptable grounds for divorce are:  

  • Separation with a signed Property Settlement Agreement
  • Adultery or sodomy outside of the marriage
  • Abandonment or willful desertion
  • Conviction of a felony charge
  • Cruelty and Abuse

Once grounds are established, your divorce is categorized as either uncontested or contested.

Separation and Uncontested Divorce

Uncontested divorce occurs when both parties agree to cooperate and peacefully end their marriage. These types of divorces are typically filed on the grounds of separation.

To qualify for separation, the two parties must have separate sleeping arrangements and no physical relations. If the parties do not share children, the separation period must be at least six months. If the parties do have children together, the required separation period is one year.

An uncontested divorce also requires that both parties can negotiate the terms of their Property Settlement Agreement without conflict. The Property Settlement Agreement specifies how child custody, visitation, property division, retirement accounts and other post-marriage matters will be handled between the two parties.  

Contested Divorce

Contested divorce covers all situations that involve disputes that cannot be resolved through mediation. These types of divorces are typically filed on the grounds of adultery or sodomy, abandonment or willful desertion, conviction of a felony charge, or cruelty and abuse. These are all complex situations that require legal guidance from a family law professional to navigate the law with a clear mind and conscience.

Child Custody and Visitation

Child custody arrangements are a critical component of divorce when parties have children together. In all cases, mediators and judges prefer for parents to work together to create a custody and visitation agreement that works best for their situation.

In instances where there is too much conflict for parents to reach an agreement on their own, judges must weigh many factors to determine child custody arrangements that are in the best interest of the child. Safety, well-being, current relationships with parents and family members, child preference and minimal disruption to the child’s daily life are just some of the factors that are considered.

Generally, courts want to work with parents to grant joint legal custody and shared physical custody to both parties. Unfortunately, this outcome may not always be possible and other arrangements may need to be negotiated. Alternate arrangements can include custody agreements, visitation agreements, split decision-making, living arrangements that specify custodial parents, split custody or a combination of several of these family law solutions. When child custody is involved, experienced divorce attorneys are a must. You can trust that our family law attorneys will fight for your parental rights and the best interest of your children.

Guardian ad Litem

It’s easy for kids to feel lost or unheard in the middle of custody, visitation and divorce proceedings. Guardian ad Litem services are critical to giving your child a voice throughout the process. Acting as attorneys and unbiased advocates for your children, a guardian ad litem is sworn to protect and advocate for your child’s best interests.

Spousal Support and Child Support

Only a court of law can award and enforce spousal support or child support payments. Spousal support payments, also known as alimony, occur when one spouse pays another to help them maintain the quality of life they had while married. Certain grounds for divorce can increase or nullify alimony payments.

Child support payments are meant to assist with covering the day-to-day care expenses for each child shared by the parties. In Virginia, there are separate guidelines for shared custody, sole custody and split custody. The courts will consider current financial assets, parent income, and existing and anticipated child needs when determining the amount and frequency of child support payments.

Adoption and Termination of Parental Rights

Adoption is the legal process of permanently separating a child from their birth parents and placing them in the care and custody of their new parents. Virginia family law allows for agency placement adoptions or non-agency adoptions.

Agency placement adoptions are facilitated by local departments of social services or other child placement agencies. In these instances, all existing parenting rights are terminated and the state agencies act as the consenting party for any and all adoption matters.  

Non-agency adoptions occur when a child’s birth parents or legal guardians consents to an adoption and terminates their own parental rights. There are three types of non-agency adoptions: stepparent adoption, parental placement adoption and adult adoption.

There is always a lot at stake when adoption and termination of parental rights are on the line. Our adoption attorneys can give you the peace of mind you need to make sound decisions, no matter the circumstances.

Domestic Violence and Protective Orders

Domestic violence involves assault committed by a family member or another party that lives with you, such as a roommate. Threats to commit any physical acts of violence also constitute grounds for domestic violence charges.

Domestic violence charges are serious offenses that can result in fines, counseling, restraining orders, protective orders, probation or imprisonment. Whether you are involved in a domestic violence matter as a victim or the accused, you should have experienced legal representation by your side to represent your interests throughout the case.

We're Here to Help

The attorneys at Goodall, Carper & Dillon, PLLC have extensive experience with guiding individuals and families to favorable outcomes in the courtroom. With the support of our law firm, you can feel confident making decisions that will impact the lives of you and your loved ones for years to come.

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