It is never easy to make the decision to end your marriage, but there is something cathartic about initiating a Virginia divorce case and moving through the process promptly so you can get started on a new life. Unfortunately, if you filed in 2020, the novel coronavirus COVID-19 probably brought things to a screeching halt. Many matters were delayed with court closures, leaving you wondering whether you will ever be able to finish the process. The good news is that the Supreme Court of Virginia has already issued guidelines on transitioning from emergency to routine operations, though the return to normal scheduling could take several months.
You could patiently await Virginia divorce courts to get back on track, but there is also a lot you can do to maximize your downtime. By taking initiative, you can support the work of your Virginia divorce attorney and preserve your interests through the proceedings. A few tips may help you get started with taking advantage of lag time.
Identify Divorce Issues Where You Can Agree: There is a common preconception that every aspect of a divorce case must go before the judge for a determination. To the contrary, many parties can agree upon multiple issues without ever seeing a courtroom. If you can reach a compromise on asset division, alimony, and child custody and visitation, you can greatly streamline the divorce process. You also have more control over these key issues. For instance, in a hearing on equitable distribution of assets, a judge must apply Virginia’s law on property division.
Through an agreement, the parties can work out a suitable arrangement. With potential delays in court, now is a good time to address areas where you believe you can resolve issues through agreement.
Consider Your Goals in Divorce: You certainly have a vision with respect to your post-divorce future, so you should take time to write down your goals and what you want from the process. It is unlikely that everything will go your way, but at least you can identify your objectives and your priorities in terms of achieving them. Having a list of what is most important to you will also help you if and when you are negotiating an agreement on asset division, spousal support, and issues regarding minor children.
Continue with Custody and Visitation Arrangements That Work: If a judge has already entered an order regarding care and support for minor children, it is important that you comply. These orders are legally binding under Virginia’s statute on child custody and visitation, even while the case is pending. If you are the residential parent, you must allow visitation as long as there are no COVID-19 issues that put your child’s safety in question. For parents who want to exercise visitation and cannot do so in person, you should consider other ways to engage with your child. Set up video conferencing to talk to your child, play games, and enjoy other fun activities.
Address the Needs of Children with Schools Reopening: Local officials and the Virginia Department of Education have determined that Fairfax County will be fully remote for school, so you might need to revisit your child custody and visitation arrangement to support e-learning. If one parent is better set up to work with the child at home, you may need to adjust the schedule. Talk to your lawyer about the legal requirements, since many modifications will need to be incorporated into a new divorce court order.
In addition, you should note that significant changes in custody and visitation to accommodate remote classes may also result in the need to modify child support. The parent who will be providing care the majority of the time is entitled to payments.
Update Your Attorney as Necessary: Your lawyer will be diligently working on your case by discussing issues with opposing counsel, attending court appearances, negotiating agreements, and engaging in other essential tasks. You should do your part to check in with updates that might affect your case.
Trust a Virginia Divorce Lawyer to Move Your Case Forward
Every divorce case is different, so you should remain in contact with your attorney about tasks you can undertake as Virginia courts get up to speed and decrease lag time. For more information on how we are handling these matters and supporting our divorce clients, please contact Roop Xanttopoulos Babounakis PLLC. You can schedule a consultation at our office in Northern Virginia by calling 703-442-0040 or visiting our website. Once we review your circumstances, our lawyers can advise you on making the most of lag time during COVID-19 slowdowns.
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