Family Law Attorney for Christiansburg, VA,
and the Surrounding Areas
Wade M. McNichols Attorney at Law Offers Legal Services
When you need a family law attorney for Christiansburg, VA, and the surrounding areas, call Wade M. McNichols Attorney at Law. Our firm has been serving area families in family court matters for years. Domestic violence, separation, divorce, custody, and support matters require experience in law and skill in negotiation. Call Wade M. McNichols Attorney at Law today at (540) 251-3426 for a consultation.
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Strong Representation to Uphold Your Rights in Family Court
This is what our attorney says about family law:
“I have been practicing family law, in one form or another, for most of my legal career. I have represented mothers, fathers and children in Juvenile and Circuit Courts. I am currently taking cases involving child custody and support, as well as some divorces. I know that for many family law clients, their relationship with me starts at one of the most difficult times of their lives. In these cases, I endeavor to provide my clients with as many different options for pursuing their interests and their children’s interests as possible.”
When you need strong representation to uphold your rights in family court matters, you can rely on the experience of Wade N. McNichols Attorney at Law.
Representation for Custody, Support, and Modification Matters
For many Virginia residents, family law matters do not end with divorce. Issues relating to child custody, child support, spousal support, and modifications of these agreements can be ongoing situations. Whether you need to make a change to an existing agreement or seek to uphold your rights, our firm can help. Contact us to find out more about child custody and support. Let us help you assert your rights under visitation and support agreements you have in place.
Divorce Lawyer in Virginia Serving the Christiansburg Region
As a divorce lawyer in Virginia, Wade M. McNichols Attorney at Law serves residents of the greater Christiansburg region. Our local firm can help those who are seeking divorce under Virginia law. We know the difficult realities that divorcing couples experience—from child custody and visitation to property division and settlement. Consult with attorney McNichols today about representation in divorce matters.
Child Custody Matters in Virginia
Virginia law requires placing a child with a person or persons who will promote and protect the child’s best interests. Children may inform the court of their wishes and the court will follow those wishes if they are reasonable and if the child is sufficiently mature.
Virginia law presumes that parents are the appropriate custodians for their children. However, if the court finds parents unfit or unable to promote and protect their children, the court may take them. Most custody cases involve disputes between the parents. In those cases, the Court will decide what kind of custody arrangement best promotes and protects the child’s best interests.
Types of Child Custody Arrangements
In cases between parents, the court has the following custody arrangements from which to choose:
Shared Custody (or joint physical and legal custody): Each parent has the child approximately half the time. These arrangements can split the time in any way that is feasible for the parents. Shared custody works best where the parents can “get along” with each other and where the parents live near each other. Shared custody usually means that neither parent will receive child support.
Sole custody: One parent has the child most of the time, the other parent has the right to periodic visits with the child. The custodial parent has all authority to make major life decisions for the child. In this arrangement, the court may order the non-custodial to pay child support to the other parent.
Primary physical custody to one parent, joint legal custody: One parent has the child most of the time, the other parent has the right to periodic visits with the child. Both parents shall consult each other regarding major life decisions for the child.
It is possible to modify child custody orders whenever there is a change in circumstances that affects the child.
What to Expect for Custody Cases in Local Jurisdictions
In local jurisdictions, custody cases typically proceed in the following fashion. After filing the petition, the court will set a date for a pretrial conference. The pretrial conference is a short hearing with the judge. They will ask you and the other parent or party whether or not you have an agreement about custody. The judge may ask if you believe that mediation will be successful. The judge may also appoint a Guardian ad litem.
A Guardian ad litem is a lawyer who represents the best interests of the child(ren). This lawyer’s job is to conduct an independent investigation of your case. They make recommendations to the Court about what outcome would be best for the child(ren). The Guardian ad litem is also required to inform the Court of the children’s preferences regarding custody or visitation. (The Court does not have to follow these preferences, but that is one factor in determining custody and visitation).
Custody Decisions Based on the Evidence
At your hearing the judge will hear evidence about which of the two parents will be better able to care for the child and what sort of custody arrangement will best benefit the child. The judge will consider the following factors (found in Virginia Code Section 20-124.3):
- The age and physical and mental condition of the child, giving due consideration to the child’s changing developmental needs;
- The age and physical and mental condition of each parent;
- The relationship existing between each parent and each child, giving due consideration to the positive involvement with the child’s life, the ability to accurately assess and meet the emotional, intellectual and physical needs of the child;
- The needs of the child, giving due consideration to other important relationships of the child, including but not limited to siblings, peers and extended family members;
- The role that each parent has played and will play in the future, in the upbringing and care of the child;
Additional Factors Under Consideration Include:
- The propensity of each parent to actively support the child’s contact and relationship with the other parent, including whether a parent has unreasonably denied the other parent access to or visitation with the child;
- The relative willingness and demonstrated ability of each parent to maintain a close and continuing relationship with the child, and the ability of each parent to cooperate in and resolve disputes regarding matters affecting the child;
- The reasonable preference of the child, if the court deems the child to be of reasonable intelligence, understanding, age and experience to express such a preference;
- Any history of family abuse as that term is defined in § 16.1-228 or sexual abuse. If the court finds such a history, the court may disregard the factors in subdivision 6; and
- Such other factors as the court deems necessary and proper to the determination.
Child Support Determination in Virginia
Virginia law requires non-custodial parents to pay support to the custodial parent. It does not matter to the Court how the support will be spent. It also does not matter whether or not the non-custodial parent has visitation with the child.
The Court determines the amount of support by a mathematical formula based on both parents’ income. It is possible to change child support orders whenever there is a change in the income of either parent. There is no procedure for automatically changing child support.
The Court may order you to pay support if you lose your job, or have a cut in pay. If you fall behind on the payments, immediately notify the Court that you need to change the amount of support. If you do not modify the order, you will be held responsible for making the higher payments. Failure to pay child support WILL result in jail time.
Domestic Violence Protective Orders, by the Numbers
1. The Scope of a Protective Order
People often accuse one another of acts of domestic violence in the aftermath of failed relationships. The Virginia court system takes accusations of domestic violence, no matter how slight, or how unsupported by evidence, very seriously. A person who accuses their partner of an act of domestic abuse has the right to seek a protective order. These orders can impose severe penalties and heavy obligations upon the estranged partner.
The protective order can order that there be no contact between the former partners. It can include an order barring any contact between the accused and his/her own children. It can include a requirement that the accused pay for separate housing for his/her accuser. A protective order also bars the accused from possessing or purchasing firearms and can require the surrender of the accused’s concealed handgun permit.
The accuser may extend protective orders for up to two years. They need only prove domestic abuse by a preponderance of the evidence. In other words, if a court finds that it is more likely than not that an act of abuse took place, it can issue a protective order.
2. How a Protective Order Begins
The protective order process begins with an accusation of domestic abuse. The Code of Virginia defines an act of domestic abuse as “any act involving violence, force, or threat that results in bodily injury or places one in reasonable apprehension of death, sexual assault, or bodily injury and that is committed by a person against such person’s family or household member.” (Virginia Code §16.1-228)
In order to start the process, the accuser (or petitioner) or a police officer goes before a magistrate and makes a sworn statement that an act of abuse has occurred and that a protective order is necessary to protect the accuser. The magistrate may issue a protective order if they believe that there is probable cause that an act of abuse occurred. The accused (or respondent) has no right to present at the emergency protective order hearing.
Emergency Protective Orders
An emergency protective order can remain in effect for the longer of either three days or the next regular day of Court for the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court. The accuser can later go before a juvenile court or general district court judge and request either a preliminary or permanent protective order.
Preliminary Protective Order
Once the judge finds there is probable cause that an act of abuse occurred they may enter a preliminary protective order. They may issue it without any notice to the respondent. Like the emergency protective order, the preliminary protective order does not require any notice to the respondent. A preliminary protective order may only last for fifteen days before holding another hearing.
The emergency protective order and the preliminary protective order bar firearms possession, may bar contact with children, and may bar a respondent from entry into his own home. The protective orders may also require that the respondent allow the petitioner to have possession of a jointly titled vehicle.
Permanent Protective Order
A permanent protective order may be in place for up to two years. It may order the same things that the preliminary and emergency orders do. The petitioner has the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that abuse occurred they need relief. In other words, they need only prove that it is more likely than not that the act occurred. The order is necessary for their protection.
Rights of the Respondent in Domestic Violence Matters
The respondent is to receive notice and to be present during the final protective order hearing. There are numerous resources that the petitioner for a protective order has that the respondent does not receive. Many localities have “battered women” shelters that provide assistance to female petitioners in these cases. Many communities in Virginia have legal aid societies that provide free legal counsel for females who make accusations of domestic violence.
No such organizations exist to help male victims of domestic violence or anyone who is falsely accused of domestic violence in a protective order proceeding (those charged in criminal cases are entitled to court-appointed counsel ONLY in the criminal case). Since the stakes are high in these cases, it is important to have competent legal counsel at all steps of these proceedings.
3. Requirements Found in a Protective Order
A protective order can require any of the following:
- Prohibiting acts of family abuse or criminal offenses that result in injury to person or property;
- Prohibiting contact with the accuser by the accused.
- Ordering that the accused vacate any residence they are sharing with the accuser.
- Ordering the accused not to terminate utilities to any residence that they shared with the accuser.
- Granting the accuser temporary possession or use of a motor vehicle owned by the accuser or jointly owned by the accuser and the accused.
- Requiring that the accused provide suitable alternative housing for the accuser and, if appropriate, any other family or household member and where appropriate, requiring the accused to pay deposits to connect or restore necessary utility services in the alternative housing provided.
- Ordering the accused to participate in treatment, counseling or other programs as the court deems appropriate.
- Ordering a provision for temporary custody or visitation of a minor child or children.
- If the Court orders custody of a minor child to the accuser, the Court may award temporary child support to the accuser.
4. Benefits of a Protective Order
Protective orders are important parts of any domestic relations dispute. A person involved in a custody dispute can begin their case at a huge advantage if they are able to obtain a protective order against the other parent. Conversely, a person who is the victim of domestic violence can obtain a great deal of additional security from a protective order.
A good lawyer can present your side of the coherently and in a fashion that will be persuasive to the judge. A good lawyer can also warn you about possible pitfalls of negotiated settlements offered by the other party. Finally, if your accuser has legal counsel and you do not, you will be at a great disadvantage in presenting the case in a manner allowed within the rules of evidence.
Divorce and Separation Matters in the Christiansburg, VA, Area
Wade M. McNichols Attorney at Law has been representing people in divorces for most of his career. He has experience with all aspects of divorce law. Are you and your spouse seeking an amicable, fair dissolution of your marriage? Are you are seeking to end a painful, abusive relationship and keep a fair amount of your assets? Attorney McNichols can help.
Divorce Based on Separation or Abandonment
Often, spouses will seek divorce based upon separation or abandonment. Once they decide to end the relationship, they will want to prepare a separation agreement. This agreement outlines how they are going to divide the assets that they have built up during their marriage.
Separation agreements have been the source of much litigation over the years. A court can declare one unenforceable if is not written and executed properly. Wade M. McNichols Attorney at Law has experience in preparing all kinds of separation agreements. These range from simple agreements to remain separated to complex divisions of multiple real estate parcels and retirement accounts.
Determining Spousal Support or Alimony
Wade M. McNichols Attorney at Law can help if you are entitled to spousal support (also known as alimony). Virginia law allows spouses of either sex to seek spousal support. They must convince the court they need it to survive and/or that it is fair that the other party supports them. Often, support proceedings require detailed examination of the parties’ financial records and assets. Attorney McNichols’ varied experience with all kinds of marital situations will help win support for you if you need it.
Experienced Attorney for Unusual or Extraordinary Divorce Situations
Attorney McNichols also has experience in some of the more obscure areas of divorce law. He has prepared retirement distributions by means of Qualified Domestic Relations Orders (QDRO’s) for people with retirement accounts. These were from the Railroad Retirement Board, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Federal Employee Retirement System, and the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board.
Our attorney has also represented people who needed to divorce spouses who they could not locate. He has experience with the court procedures for Orders of Publication and out-of-state service of process in those situations.
Attorney for Disputed Divorce Cases in Virginia
If you and your spouse cannot come to any sort of agreement, rely on Wade M. McNichols Attorney at Law. He has experience in divorce and equitable distribution litigation, which involves representing people in a variety of disputed cases. These may include:
- false allegations of adultery
- spouses wiretapping telephones and planting listening devices in their residences
- physical and mental abuse by spouses
- disputes about who would care for the household pets and livestock