Legal Frequently Asked Questions from Petersburg & Richmond, Virginia

Frequently Asked Questions

Family Law

What is the difference between a no-fault divorce and an uncontested divorce?
Nothing. Other states use the term "no-fault," whereas Virginia uses the term "uncontested."
When can I file for divorce?
For an uncontested divorce without minor children, you have to live separate and apart for six months before you can file. If there are minor children, then you have to live separate and apart for one year.
Can I address custody and support matters before filing for divorce?
Yes. These can be addressed by the Juvenile & Domestic Relations Courts.
Are there grounds on which I can seek a divorce?
Yes. The most common are adultery, cruelty, and desertion. There is no waiting period to file for divorce on these grounds.
How does the court divide marital property?
Property acquired during the marriage is usually split evenly between the parties. Inheritances or certain gifts given by friends or relatives to one party may usually be kept by the party.
What do we do with the house?
The party who usually keeps possession of the house typically buys out the marital share of the other party. However, often times the house is sold, and the proceeds are evenly split.
Will I be entitled to spousal support?
Maybe. The court will review a variety of factors including the length of the marriage, the relative economic situation of each party, the reason for the divorce, and whether one party gave up income potential to support the other during the marriage, such as a stay at home mother.
Will I get child support?
Absolutely. The court will follow the state guidelines in determining how much child support is given to the custodial parent.
Can we get joint legal custody?
The courts prefer to give joint legal custody unless one parent is somehow unfit or joint legal custody is not in the best interests of the child.
How does the court determine custody?
The court must determine what is in the best interests of the child and whether the party seeking custody is somehow unfit.
Is there an alternative to going to court?
The court may refer the parties to mediation. The parties are entitled to have their attorneys present. Sometimes this is successful if the parties have a relatively amicable relationship.

Lemon Law

Does my vehicle have to go to the repair shop three times for the same problem?
No. If your vehicle goes into the repair shop three times for the same problem and such problem continues to exists, then all that means is that you have a very good case. Your vehicle can go into the repair shop less than three times for the same problem. For example, taking your vehicle into the repair shop twice for brakes, twice for steering, and twice for electrical problems may give rise to a valid lemon law claim.
Do I have to go to the same repair shop?
No, you can go to any certified repair facility authorized by the manufacturer which is usually any proper dealership.
Do I have to accept what the manufacturer has offered me?
No. You have the right to pursue a full buy back or receive a comparable replacement vehicle.
Is it a good deal if the manufacturer offers me an extended warranty?
Sometimes it is, but usually not since the automobile will probably continue to give you headaches.
Am I responsible for mileage?
Yes, from the time of first notification of your claim to the manufacturer. There is no case law on what this means in Virginia however.
How much will a Lemon Lawsuit cost me?
Attorney's fees are typically paid by the manufacturer, not the client. The filing fee is $81, and should the matter go to trial, then expert costs may range between $300–$500. There will be other minor costs. If you win, then you receive all of these costs back. If you lose, then you lose these costs but the attorney does not get paid.
Do most of these cases settle?
Over 95% of these cases settle to the satisfaction of the client. The manufacturer will either buy back the vehicle, replace it, or give the client a significant cash refund whereby they take the vehicle and cash and trade into a new car with no loss. Payment of attorney's fees by the manufacturer are included in any settlement.

Criminal Defense/Traffic

What is your acquittal rate?
Over 50% of the charges against my clients are dismissed by a judge or jury after trial. An additional 30% of the charges against clients are significantly reduced, such as reducing a breaking and entering to misdemeanor trespass.
What are the penalties for a DUI first offense?
The court will impose a fine, suspended jail time, and payment of court costs. You will also have to attend VASAP.
Can I get a restricted driver's license?
Yes, usually. The court will authorize a restricted license to drive to and from work, school, medical appointments, and related activities.
Will I go to jail if I am charged with simple possession of illegal drugs?
Usually not if you have few, if any, prior convictions. Also, you may qualify for the First Offender Program, the successful completion of which may qualify you for a dismissal of the charge.
What can I expect if I have been charged with domestic assault and battery?
If you are convicted of a second offense, you may face some jail time, especially if it involves the same person. If it is a first offense, then you may qualify for a First Offender Program. The successful completion of such may result in the dismissal of the charge.
How can charges be dropped?
Only the Commonwealth's Attorney can move to dismiss or take no action (nolle pross) a case prior to trial. A victim or complainant can only make his or her wishes known to the Commonwealth's Attorney.
Can I get work release?
Maybe. Depending upon the charge, the court may authorize work release. However, it is up to the sheriff to actually approve it. The more serious the charge, the less likely it is to get work release.
How can a juvenile be tried as an adult?
It is becoming increasingly popular to try juveniles as adults. If the juvenile was over 14 years of age and is accused of committing a serious felony, such as robbery or breaking and entering, then the Commonwealth may file a motion to transfer the juvenile to try him as an adult.
What penalties can a juvenile face?
Depending upon the seriousness of the charge(s), he may be given probation or community service. He may also be sent to a local juvenile detention center. Also, he may be committed to the Department of Juvenile Justice at a regional facility or as a serious offender whereby he is sent to a much sterner regional facility.