Divorce and Family Law

The wedding season is upon us! Lovebirds Beyonce and Jay-Z, Brad and Angelina, Nicole and Keith, Kim and Kanye, and numerous other celebrity couples all have at least one thing in common: a Premarital Agreement. However, Premarital Agreements are not just for the high-profile among us. Every couple can benefit from considering a Premarital Agreement.

Unfortunately, the best ways to avoid a spousal support obligation involve consideration of the issue prior to marriage. The best way to avoid an obligation to pay spousal support is to enter a premarital agreement in which the parties waive their rights to pursue spousal support in the case of divorce. If both parties are able to support themselves after the divorce, spousal support may not be an issue. Since an award of spousal support is based upon the payor spouse’s ability to pay and the payee spouse’s need, a support obligation may be avoided or lessened if both spouses are working and earning an income during the marriage.

If you’ve recently become separated or are contemplating divorce, you may be curious about divorce mediation. In Virginia, a property settlement and separation agreement (“PSSA”) is a necessary element to a divorce and mediation is a way to craft the PSSA.

A mediation is basically a facilitated conversation. The mediator is a neutral party who assists the parties in identifying the issues to be resolved. These issues typically include child custody, visitation and support, equitable distribution of property and spousal support. Once the issues are identified, the mediator will help the parties come up with solutions for each issue. The mediator is not able to provide either party with legal advice, although he or she can tell the parties what the law would say about a particular issue. Parties are free to consult with their own legal counsel during the mediation and may even opt to have counsel present for the mediation.

Once the parties are in agreement, the mediator drafts the PSSA. Parties are encouraged to consult with legal counsel prior to signing the mediated PSSA. The mediator, as a neutral party, is not able to file the divorce petition on behalf of one of the parties, so once the PSSA is finalized, signed and notarized, another attorney is engaged to file the divorce petition.

Mediation is a good way for parties who are not able to reach agreement on divorce related issues on their own to find common ground. If you would like more information on mediation or other options in divorce, please contact Amy Miles Kowalski at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 434-846-2768.

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At some point, divorcing spouses will need to divide their property between them. Parties may be able to come to an agreement as to what constitutes an “equitable distribution” of property through a kitchen table discussion, attorney facilitated settlement or mediation, or they may require the court’s assistance. When a court is involved, it must first classify the couple’s property as separate, marital or hybrid. This distinction is important as only marital property and the martial portion of hybrid property is subject to equitable distribution.

Divorcing couples may agree on what is in the best interests of their children and be able to work out custody and visitation issues.  They may even be able to agree upon equitable distribution of their retirement accounts and personal effects. But for many, the issue of spousal support becomes a sticking point.

An uncontested divorce is typically the most efficient, economical path to divorce. In an uncontested divorce, the parties are able to agree on all issues regarding property and debt, spousal support, child support, and child custody and visitation. This agreement is reduced to writing, and no court appearance is necessary. An uncontested divorce may be simple or complex.

Fortunately, divorce does not have to look like War of the Roses in which divorce lawyer Gavin D’Amato, played by Danny Devito, tells his client that “A civilized divorce is a contradiction in terms.” Going through a divorce certainly creates stress and anxiety, but knowing that you have options can be a source of comfort. The most common divorce options are discussed below.

The Kitchen Table Divorce: In this scenario, husband and wife are able to sit down and amicably address all of the issues involved in their separation and divorce. An attorney hired by one of the parties can finalize and file all of the necessary paperwork. This is often the least expensive divorce option.

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