Practice Areas

With an emphasis on comprehensive service, our attorneys are dedicated to assisting clients in a wide variety of family related matters.

The attorneys of MDMB have significant experience handling high net worth divorce cases and the most complex family law issues, and also efficiently resolve many routine and straightforward uncontested matters.  Our services are tailored to the unique circumstances of each client.

Our attorneys are mindful of the great emotional stress clients experience when facing domestic disputes and make every effort to reach resolution through amicable negotiations, mediation and out-of-court settlements.

Unfortunately not all cases can be settled. The attorneys of Mullett Dove Meacham & Bradley, PLLC are known for producing positive results in the courtroom and zealously advocating for their clients when litigation is necessary.

While our practice is focused primarily in the trial courts of Arlington, Fairfax, Alexandria, Loudoun, Prince William and Washington D.C.; we also practice in other jurisdictions throughout the state as well as the appellate courts of the Commonwealth of Virginia.



DISSOLUTION OF MARRIAGE/DIVORCE

Fault Divorce:  You may file for divorce on specific grounds that allege your spouse’s fault in ending the marriage.  These grounds include adultery, cruelty, desertion, sodomy, and buggery.

No-Fault Divorce:  You may also file for divorce without alleging fault if you have been separated for a period of at least 1 year, or 6 months if you have a Property Settlement Agreement and do not have any children under age 18.

Virginia Code § 20-91. Grounds for divorce from bond of matrimony; contents of decree.
A. A divorce from the bond of matrimony may be decreed:
(1) For adultery; or for sodomy or buggery committed outside the marriage;
(2) Where either of the parties subsequent to the marriage has been convicted of a felony, sentenced to confinement for more than one year and confined for such felony subsequent to such conviction, and cohabitation has not been resumed after knowledge of such confinement (in which case no pardon granted to the party so sentenced shall restore such party to his or her conjugal rights);
(3) Where either party has been guilty of cruelty, caused reasonable apprehension of bodily hurt, or willfully deserted or abandoned the other, such divorce may be decreed to the innocent party after a period of one year from the date of such act; or
(4) On the application of either party if and when the husband and wife have lived separate and apart without any cohabitation and without interruption for one year. In any case where the parties have entered into a separation agreement and there are no minor children either born of the parties, born of either party and adopted by the other or adopted by both parties, a divorce may be decreed on application if and when the husband and wife have lived separately and apart without cohabitation and without interruption for six months.


CHILD CUSTODY & VISITATION

Legal Custody:  The authority to make decisions on behalf of the child, particularly with regard to the child’s education, health, and general welfare.

Physical Custody:  The authority to have physical care and control of a child on certain designated days/times.  Physical custody may be allocated as follows:

  1. Primary physical custody to one parent, with the other parent having visitation, commonly on alternating weekends.
  2. Shared physical custody, meaning that each parent has the child for more than 90 days per year (up to a 50/50 division of time).
  3. Sole physical custody, where one parent has complete authority to have the child and the other parent has no required visitation schedule.
  4. Split physical custody, where each parent has primary physical custody of one or more children.

Virginia Code § 20-124.3. Best interests of the child; visitation.

In determining best interests of a child for purposes of determining custody or visitation arrangements, the court shall consider the following:
1. The age and physical and mental condition of the child, giving due consideration to the child's changing developmental needs;
2. The age and physical and mental condition of each parent;
3. 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;
4. 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;
5. The role that each parent has played and will play in the future, in the upbringing and care of the child;
6. 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;
7. 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;
8. 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;
9. 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
10. Such other factors as the court deems necessary and proper to the determination.


INTERNATIONAL & INTERSTATE CUSTODY DISPUTES


International and interstate custody disputes are governed by the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA).
The purpose of the UCCJEA is to set default rules for jurisdiction over custody matters when parents and children reside in more than one state or country.
The full text of the UCCJEA can be found here:
http://www.uniformlaws.org/shared/docs/child_custody_jurisdiction/uccjea_final_97.pdf


CUSTODY MODIFICATION AND RELOCATION

In order to modify custody, a parent must show:  1) that there has been a material change in circumstances since the entry of the last custody order, and 2) that a modification of custody is in the best interests of the child.

In order to relocate with a child, a parent must demonstrate that it is in a child’s independent best interests to move to a new state or country; this is a very high burden of proof, as the benefits to the child must outweigh the negative consequences he/she will suffer as a result of being moved away from the other parent, and the relationship with the other parent can be substantially maintained.

Virginia Code § 20-108. Revision and alteration of such decrees.

The court may, from time to time, on petition of either of the parents, or on its own motion or upon petition of any probation officer or the Department of Social Services, which petition shall set forth the reasons for the relief sought, revise and alter such decree concerning the care, custody, and maintenance of the children and make a new decree concerning the same, as the circumstances of the parents and the benefit of the children may require. The intentional withholding of visitation of a child from the other parent without just cause may constitute a material change of circumstances justifying a change of custody in the discretion of the court.


PATERNITY DISPUTES

Virginia Code § 20-49.10. Relief from legal determination of paternity.

An individual may file a petition for relief and, except as provided herein, the court may set aside a final judgment, court order, administrative order, obligation to pay child support or any legal determination of paternity if a scientifically reliable genetic test performed in accordance with this chapter establishes the exclusion of the individual named as a father in the legal determination.
The court shall appoint a guardian ad litem to represent the interest of the child.
The petitioner shall pay the costs of such test.
A court that sets aside a determination of paternity in accordance with this section shall order completion of a new birth record and may order any other appropriate relief, including setting aside an obligation to pay child support.
No support order may be retroactively modified, but may be modified with respect to any period during which there is a pending petition for relief from a determination of paternity, but only from the date that notice of the petition was served on the nonfiling party.
A court shall not grant relief from determination of paternity if the individual named as father (i) acknowledged paternity knowing he was not the father, (ii) adopted the child, or (iii) knew that the child was conceived through artificial insemination.


THIRD PARTY VISITATION RIGHTS

A person with a “legitimate interest” in having custody or visitation with a minor child may petition the Court for an order granting custodial rights. 
The court must give due regard to the primacy of the parent-child relationship, but may, upon a showing by clear and convincing evidence that the best interest of the child would be served thereby, award custody or visitation to any other person with a legitimate interest.

Virginia Code § 20-124.1.

“Person with a legitimate interest” shall be broadly construed and includes, but is not limited to, grandparents, step-grandparents, stepparents, former stepparents, blood relatives and family members provided any such party has intervened in the suit or is otherwise properly before the court.
The term shall be broadly construed to accommodate the best interest of the child.
A party with a legitimate interest shall not include any person (i) whose parental rights have been terminated by court order, either voluntarily or involuntarily, (ii) whose interest in the child derives from or through a person whose parental rights have been terminated, either voluntarily or involuntarily, including but not limited to grandparents, stepparents, former stepparents, blood relatives and family members, if the child subsequently has been legally adopted, except where a final order of adoption is entered pursuant to § 63.2-1241, or (iii) who has been convicted of a violation of subsection A of § 18.2-61, § 18.2-63, subsection B of § 18.2-366, or an equivalent offense of another state, the United States, or any foreign jurisdiction, when the child who is the subject of the petition was conceived as a result of such violation.


PARENTING AGREEMENTS

 

            Parenting Agreements are a tool that can be used to encourage separated or divorced parents to amicably and successfully “co-parent” their children by focusing on encouraging frequent and regular communication between parents that is productive and free of animosity. 

These agreements contain more detail and structure than a typical Custody Agreement or Separation Agreement, and both parties must be willing to bind themselves to the many rules and requirements set forth in the agreement.


CHILD SUPPORT

            Child support is determined by statute, and is calculated based on:

  1. Each parent’s gross annual income.
  2. The amount of time each parent has physical custody of the child during the year.
  3. The cost of maintaining health insurance coverage for the child.
  4. The cost of any work-related childcare that either parent requires.

“Gross income” means all income from all sources, including income from salaries, wages, commissions, royalties, bonuses, dividends, severance pay, pensions, interest, trust income, annuities, capital gains, social security benefits except as listed below, workers' compensation benefits, unemployment insurance benefits, disability insurance benefits, veterans' benefits, spousal support, rental income, gifts, prizes or awards.

The Court also has the authority to deviate from the statutory child support calculation upon consideration of the following factors:
1.      Actual monetary support for other family members or former family members;
2.      Arrangements regarding custody of the children, including the cost of visitation travel;
3.      Imputed income to a party who is voluntarily unemployed or voluntarily under-employed; provided that income may not be imputed to a custodial parent when a child is not in school, child care services are not available and the cost of such child care services are not included in the computation and provided further, that any consideration of imputed income based on a change in a party's employment shall be evaluated with consideration of the good faith and reasonableness of employment decisions made by the party, including to attend and complete an educational or vocational program likely to maintain or increase the party's earning potential;
4.      Any child care costs incurred on behalf of the child or children due to the attendance of a custodial parent in an educational or vocational program likely to maintain or increase the party's earning potential;
5.      Debts of either party arising during the marriage for the benefit of the child;
6.      Direct payments ordered by the court for maintaining life insurance coverage pursuant to subsection D, education expenses, or other court-ordered direct payments for the benefit of the child;
7.      Extraordinary capital gains such as capital gains resulting from the sale of the marital abode;
8.      Any special needs of a child resulting from any physical, emotional, or medical condition;
9.      Independent financial resources of the child or children;
10.    Standard of living for the child or children established during the marriage;
11.    Earning capacity, obligations, financial resources, and special needs of each parent;
12.    Provisions made with regard to the marital property under § 20-107.3, where said property earns income or has an income-earning potential;
13.    Tax consequences to the parties including claims for exemptions, child tax credit, and child care credit for dependent children;
14.    A written agreement, stipulation, consent order, or decree between the parties which includes the amount of child support; and
15.    Such other factors as are necessary to consider the equities for the parents and children.


SPOUSAL SUPPORT / ALIMONY

            In the event that you and your spouse are unable to agree upon whether any spousal support should be paid, and the amount and duration of support, then a judge will have the sole discretion to make an award of spousal support after consideration of the factors set forth below. 

Contrary to popular belief, there is no rule that a spouse will receive financial support for a period of time equal to half the length of the marriage.  Spousal support may open-ended/indefinite in duration, or for a defined duration.

1.      The obligations, needs and financial resources of the parties, including but not limited to income from all pension, profit sharing or retirement plans, of whatever nature;
2.      The standard of living established during the marriage;
3.      The duration of the marriage;
4.      The age and physical and mental condition of the parties and any special circumstances of the family;
5.      The extent to which the age, physical or mental condition or special circumstances of any child of the parties would make it appropriate that a party not seek employment outside of the home;
6.      The contributions, monetary and nonmonetary, of each party to the well-being of the family;
7.      The property interests of the parties, both real and personal, tangible and intangible;
8.      The provisions made with regard to the marital property under § 20-107.3;
9.      The earning capacity, including the skills, education and training of the parties and the present employment opportunities for persons possessing such earning capacity;
10.    The opportunity for, ability of, and the time and costs involved for a party to acquire the appropriate education, training and employment to obtain the skills needed to enhance his or her earning ability;
11.    The decisions regarding employment, career, economics, education and parenting arrangements made by the parties during the marriage and their effect on present and future earning potential, including the length of time one or both of the parties have been absent from the job market;
12.    The extent to which either party has contributed to the attainment of education, training, career position or profession of the other party; and
13.    Such other factors, including the tax consequences to each party, as are necessary to consider the equities between the parties.
 

MODIFICATION OF SUPPORT

Both child support and spousal support are modifiable upon demonstrating that 1) there has been a material change in circumstances since the entry of the last order for support, and 2) a modification of support is warranted.

Virginia Code § 20-108. Revision and alteration of such decrees.

The court may, from time to time, on petition of either of the parents, or on its own motion or upon petition of any probation officer or the Department of Social Services, which petition shall set forth the reasons for the relief sought, revise and alter such decree concerning the care, custody, and maintenance of the children and make a new decree concerning the same, as the circumstances of the parents and the benefit of the children may require. The intentional withholding of visitation of a child from the other parent without just cause may constitute a material change of circumstances justifying a change of custody in the discretion of the court.
No support order may be retroactively modified, but may be modified with respect to any period during which there is a pending petition for modification in any court, but only from the date that notice of such petition has been given to the responding party.
Any member of the United States Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, National Guard, or any other reserve component thereof, who files a petition or is a party to a petition requesting the adjudication of the custody, visitation or support of a child based on a change of circumstances due to one of the parent's deployment, as that term is defined in § 20-124.7, shall be entitled to have such a petition expedited on the docket of the court.

Virginia Code § 20-109. Changing maintenance and support for a spouse.

A. Upon petition of either party the court may increase, decrease, or terminate the amount or duration of any spousal support and maintenance that may thereafter accrue, whether previously or hereafter awarded, as the circumstances may make proper. Upon order of the court based upon clear and convincing evidence that the spouse receiving support has been habitually cohabiting with another person in a relationship analogous to a marriage for one year or more, the court shall terminate spousal support and maintenance unless (i) otherwise provided by stipulation or contract or (ii) the spouse receiving support proves by a preponderance of the evidence that termination of such support would be unconscionable.
B. The court may consider a modification of an award of spousal support for a defined duration upon petition of either party filed within the time covered by the duration of the award. Upon consideration of the factors set forth in subsection E of §20-107.1, the court may increase, decrease or terminate the amount or duration of the award upon finding that (i) there has been a material change in the circumstances of the parties, not reasonably in the contemplation of the parties when the award was made or (ii) an event which the court anticipated would occur during the duration of the award and which was significant in the making of the award, does not in fact occur through no fault of the party seeking the modification.
C. In suits for divorce, annulment and separate maintenance, and in proceedings arising under subdivision A 3 or subsection L of § 16.1-241, if a stipulation or contract signed by the party to whom such relief might otherwise be awarded is filed before entry of a final decree, no decree or order directing the payment of support and maintenance for the spouse, suit money, or counsel fee or establishing or imposing any other condition or consideration, monetary or nonmonetary, shall be entered except in accordance with that stipulation or contract. If such a stipulation or contract is filed after entry of a final decree and if any party so moves, the court shall modify its decree to conform to such stipulation or contract.
D. Unless otherwise provided by stipulation or contract, spousal support and maintenance shall terminate upon the death of either party or remarriage of the spouse receiving support. The spouse entitled to support shall have an affirmative duty to notify the payor spouse immediately of remarriage at the last known address of the payor spouse.


EQUITABLE DISTRIBUTION OF PROPERTY & DEBT

“Equitable distribution” is the authority of the court to distribute marital assets and marital debt between the parties, in the event that the parties are unable to reach a settlement agreement. 
“Equitable” means “fair”—i.e., there is no presumption that marital property and debt will be divided equally between the parties. 
The Court must consider the following factors before dividing marital property and debt:
1.      The contributions, monetary and nonmonetary, of each party to the well-being of the family;
2.      The contributions, monetary and nonmonetary, of each party in the acquisition and care and maintenance of such marital property of the parties;
3.      The duration of the marriage;
4.      The ages and physical and mental condition of the parties;
5.      The circumstances and factors which contributed to the dissolution of the marriage, specifically including any ground for divorce under the provisions of subdivisions (1), (3) or (6) of Code § 20-91 or § 20-95;
6.      How and when specific items of such marital property were acquired;
7.      The debts and liabilities of each spouse, the basis for such debts and liabilities, and the property which may serve as security for such debts and liabilities;
8.      The liquid or nonliquid character of all marital property;
9.      The tax consequences to each party;
10.    The use or expenditure of marital property by either of the parties for a nonmarital separate purpose or the dissipation of such funds, when such was done in anticipation of divorce or separation or after the last separation of the parties; and
11.    Such other factors as the court deems necessary or appropriate to consider in order to arrive at a fair and equitable monetary award.


SEPARATION AND PROPERTY SETTLEMENT AGREEMENTS

            Also called a “Marital Settlement Agreement,” a Separation and Property Settlement Agreement is a contract that resolves all issues arising from your marriage, including the division of property and debts, spousal support, custody, child support, etc. 
If you and your spouse are able to reach an agreement on all issues, you can avoid the necessity of a contested divorce trial in court; your divorce can be finalized simply by filing certain paperwork with the court.


PREMARITAL / PRENUPTIAL AGREEMENTS

 

            Also called “Antenuptial Agreements,” these contracts set forth an agreed division of property and debts in the event of a future separation/divorce, address whether one or both of the parties will waive spousal support, and identify and protect any separate property that each spouse may have owned prior to the marriage.

            Premarital Agreements are very flexible and can be specifically and narrowly tailored to address your and your spouse’s concerns about your future.



PRE-DIVORCE PLANNING

 

            If you aren’t yet certain whether you’re ready to pursue a divorce, we can help you understand what your options are, what to expect in the event of a separation/divorce, and what steps you can take to protect yourself while you take the time to make your decision. 

            More information can be found on our Consultations page:  http://www.mdmblaw.com/consultations


SAME-SEX CUSTODY RIGHTS

            You may have rights to custody and visitation of minor children that are biologically unrelated to you, regardless of whether you and your partner were ever married.
            Although the laws on this issue are in the process of changing for your benefit, if you have established a parental relationship with the biological children of your partner, the existing laws recognize you as a person with a legitimate interest and can afford you custodial and visitation rights. 
However, marriage does not automatically confer parental rights over the biological child of your spouse.
 
           

SAME-SEX PROPERTY DIVISION

            If you and your partner never married, but have lived together in a long-term relationship and acquired property together, you may require legal assistance in dividing your property in the event that your relationship comes to an end. 
            Specifically, real property that is jointly titled in the names of you and your partner may require a partition by the Court in order for you to be made whole upon the termination of your romantic relationship.


COLLABORATIVE DIVORCE

 

Collaborative divorce is a dispute resolution process by which couples choose to divorce outside the traditional adversarial and court-based litigation model.
            You and your spouse agree not to initiate any court proceedings while you work together with your attorneys, and possibly with neutral third-parties such as a financial professional and/or mental health professional, to reach a mutual agreement resolving all issues arising out of your marriage.
            More information can be found on the websites for the
International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (IACP) and the Collaborative Professionals of Northern Virginia (CPNV).


ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTION AND MEDIATION

 

            Alternative dispute resolution embodies all methods of resolving divorce disputes outside of the courtroom, and includes mediation, where a neutral third party such as a retired judge assists you and your spouse in finding middle ground, and Collaborative Divorce.
            You and your spouse may choose to work with a mediator directly, or with your attorneys present.  A mediator cannot give you legal advice, so many couples find it helpful to have their attorneys participate in the mediation process in order to ensure they understand their rights as they relate to the divorce process.


NAME CHANGES

            You have the right to petition the court to change your name at any time, whether you are restoring your maiden name upon your divorce (in which case your name change will be automatically granted), or if you simply dislike your given name. 
            We can also assist you in the event that you wish to change the name of your child or children.


DIVISION OF MILITARY AND GOVERNMENT PENSION & RETIREMENT BENEFITS

We have extensive experience working with the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and Defense Finance and Accounting Services (DFAS) to effectuate former spouses’ agreements to divide military and government retirement benefits, including the election and payment of survivor benefits.


 

 

PREPARATION OF SIMPLE WILLS

            It can be very important to have an up-to-date Last Will and Testament upon your separation from your spouse, as you remain legally married unless and until a Court enters an order granting you a divorce, and therefore your estranged spouse will retain the right to inherit your entire estate during the duration of your separation.

            And, it is always advisable to revise your Last Will and Testament upon divorce, to ensure the smoothest possible administration of your estate.


HEALTH CARE POWERS OF ATTORNEY &
ADVANCE MEDICAL DIRECTIVES

            A “Health Care Power of Attorney” gives a third party the authority to make decisions regarding your medical care in the event of your incapacitation.

            An “Advance Medical Directive” (also called a “Living Will”) instructs your doctors on your medical treatment preferences in the event that you are incapacitated and/or on life support. 

 

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Three Ballston Plaza, 1100 N. Glebe Road, Suite 1060, Arlington, Virginia 22201   |   Telephone: 703.522.8100   |   Facsimile: 703.522.3770