Virginia Family Law
A Blog by Jason A Weis, Esq.
Virginia & Maryland Family Law Attorney

Virginia Family Law: 7 Tips For Working Effectively With Your Divorce Attorney


October 15, 2014

1.  Come Prepared. To a large degree, the quality of advice I can give you during an initial consultation is a function of the quality of information you give me. Bring your tax returns, pay and account statements, and/or court documents (if your case has begun) to the initial consultation. Those documents will help me help you

2.  Ask Questions. Your understanding of the divorce process is critical to its success. I want you to leave our consultation confident that I have answered all of your questions (to the extent I am able). Writing out your questions in advance may help you organize your thoughts and should ensure the topics most important to you are covered.

3.  Be Organized.  Keep a log of important events, dates and times.  This may prove useful in the future.  It may also help you focus and recognize the issues of greatest importance to you.  Organization is important for both you and your attorney. You will receive a copy of everything this firm sends out on your behalf. In most cases, you will have reviewed and approved the content of those documents beforehand.  Our firm will keep an organized file of your pleadings and correspondence. We’ll also keep an organized box (sometimes several boxes) of the documents we may use at trial. It’s important for you to do the same if you are able.

4.  Get Involved.  Don’t sit back and allow your spouse (or your attorney to a degree) to make your most important decisions. Being passive is a tough way to accomplish your goals.  I understand that being proactive is especially hard if you’re in shock or suffering grief from the end of your marriage.

5.  Seek Clarification.  If you’re confused or don’t understand something, do some independent research before speaking with us.  We’re always willing to explain and properly address your concerns or issues, but that shouldn’t excuse some level of “self-help.”  Also, make sure your lawyer can speak plainly and without complicated “lawyer speak.”

6.  Be Honest.  Make sure you don’t hide any information that could be pertinent to your case. The more your lawyer knows about you the more s/he can help represent your best interests and protect your assets.  Waiting to disclose your issues until immediately before your trial or (worse) at trial is not a winning strategy.

7.  Set Realistic Goals.  Make sure that you and your lawyer are on the same page and that s/he really understands you and your goals. Your lawyer will work relentlessly to protect what’s most important to you and preserve the assets you value the most.

If you’ve got questions about these issues, feel free to drop me a line. Jason A. Weis, Esquire – Curran Moher Weis P.C. – jweis@curranmoher.com – 10300 Eaton Place, Suite 520, Fairfax, VA 22030 – 571-328-5020.



Tags : Tags: , , ,

     Comment      Tweet This    
Email this article



Virginia Family Law: Pensions, 401(K)s and IRAs – A Primer


January 3, 2014

Dollar bills 150x150 Virginia Family Law:  Pensions, 401(K)s and IRAs – A Primer Retirement accounts are often among the largest assets divided during the property division associated with divorce. Below is a quick primer on how these assets may be addressed during your divorce.

Most retirement accounts fall into one of two categories: (i) Defined Contribution Plans or (ii) Defined Benefit Plans.

A “defined contribution plan” is a plan in which the employee and/or employer make monthly defined contributions to a qualified retirement account in the employee’s name. 401(K) accounts, Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) and the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) are perhaps the most common defined contribution plans.

A “defined benefit plan” is a pension. An employee accrues this benefit as he or she works and then receives a monthly defined benefit upon retirement based on a predetermined formula. The Federal Employees Retirement Systems (FERS), Civil Service Retirement Systems (CSRC), and Virginia Retirement Systems (VRS) are all examples of defined benefit accounts. Similarly, military pensions, foreign-service pensions, and other civil service pensions are defined benefit plans.

Like other forms of property the divisible portion of a retirement account is likely limited to that portion acquired between the date of the parties’ marriage and the date of the final separation for purposes of divorce. For example, say you’ve been contributing to your 401(K) retirement account (a defined contribution account) for a total of 20 years. You contributed to that account for 5 years prior to your marriage and then for another 15 during your marriage. The 15 years of contributions during your marriage is likely the “marital property” subject to division and the 5 years of contributions prior to the marriage is likely your “separate property.” Thus, if your spouse was awarded one-half of the marital share of your retirement account, he or she would receive an amount equal to 7.5 years of your contributions (e.g. one-half of 15), plus gains and losses on that share through the date of division.

Dividing a defined benefit account works much the same way. Say you have 20 years of credible service with your employer – you worked for 5 years prior to your marriage and then for another 15 during your marriage. If your spouse was awarded one-half of the marital share of your pension, he or she would receive an amount equal to 7.5 years of your contributions, plus gains and losses on her share through the date of division. With a pension, however, the award is typically expressed as a fraction: the numerator being the total number of months of credible service during the marriage and prior to separation and the denominator being the total number of months of credible service through the date of retirement. This fraction is then multiplied by one-half.

Dividing a qualified retirement account typically requires the entry of a special order that effectuates the transfer without either spouse incurring an early withdraw penalty or contribution limit. Sometimes these orders are referred to as Qualified Domestic Relations Orders (QDROs), though the precise document you will need will depend on the nature of the account being divided.

If significant retirement assets are at issue in your divorce, I encourage you to speak with an attorney. Often the consequences of small errors in the division of these assets or the wording of the orders themselves can have large consequences. Also, a fair amount of gamesmanship may occur during the process such as withdraws from accounts for questionable purposes, forgotten or concealed loans taken from accounts, or, in the case of military pensions, shielding a portion of the pension by claiming disability.

If you’ve got questions about these issues, feel free to drop me a line. Jason A. Weis, Esquire – Curran|Moher P.C. – jweis@curranmoher.com – 3554 Chain Bridge Road, Suite 100, Fairfax, VA 22030 – 571-328-5020.



Tags : Tags: , , , ,

     Comment      Tweet This    


Virginia Family Law: Spying on your Spouse – Recording, Email Intercepting and GPS Tracking


January 3, 2014

Women whispering 150x150 Virginia Family Law:  Spying on your Spouse – Recording, Email Intercepting and GPS TrackingI am often asked questions about spying on a spouse: “can I record my spouse?”, “can I read my spouse’s emails?” or “can I put a GPS on my spouse’s car?”  The answers to these questions can be surprisingly complex and often extraordinarily fact-dependent.  Federal and state laws may come into play.  Moreover, this area of law is constantly changing as new technologies emerge to facilitate this form of espionage.  Below is a brief summary of some general rules to consider.  Like all of the posts on this blog, the information provided is NO SUBSTITUTE for consulting with an attorney.

“Can I make a tape recording of my husband?”  Many spouses consider using a tape recorder (or similar audio-only device) to catch their spouse saying something inappropriate.  Virginia is a “one-party consent” state, which means it is illegal to record a conversation between two people unless at least one of the people consents to the recording.  So, for example, you may record yourself and your husband having a conversation, because you have knowledge of the recording and you consent to it.  You may not, however, hide a recording device in his car hoping to catch him with another woman (unless one of them consents to being recorded).  Recording a telephone conversation and/or making a video-recording may triggers different legal regulations that I will not touch upon here other than to note that both are substantially more risky and difficult to legally obtain.

Whether the issue is child custody, infidelity or domestic violence, an audio recording can often be quite helpful.  Before making such a recording, however, it is advisable to speak with an attorney.

“Can I snoop into my wife’s email?”  Emails are often a treasure trove of divorce-related information.  Though the law regarding access to your spouse’s email account is evolving, the most important concepts appear to be “authorized access” and “expectation of privacy.”  When your wife knows that you know the password to unlock her iPhone and you use her iPhone to occasionally make calls, browse the internet, start videos for the kids, etc., you are probably authorized to use her phone and look at its contents.  She has no expectation of privacy.  Knowing your wife’s password is very different than guessing it or obtaining it without her knowledge.  In such cases, you probably do not have authorization to look through her phone.  She has an expectation of privacy.

Determining what constitutes “authorization” can be thorny.  Do you have a “family password” for all password protected items?  Has your spouse given you limited authorization to access certain materials, but not others?  Can your spouse authorize you to view her work email account?  If you feel like you are invading your spouse’s privacy, it would be a good idea to speak with an attorney before moving forward.

Two other related notes:  First, “spyware” is nearly always a bad idea.  Often, it’s also illegal.  Second, using your FaceBook account to view your spouse’s FaceBook timeline is perfectly acceptable.  That is public material; there is no expectation of privacy.

            “Can I put a GPS device on my husband’s car?”  There is conflicting authority on whether you can place a tracking device on your spouse’s car.  The U.S. Supreme Court has held that police officers may not place a GPS tracking device on an individual’s car where there is no warrant in place to do so.  Does that decision create a blanket prohibition or is that decision limited to police procedure?  Virginia has a statute that discusses “motor vehicle recording devices” that indicates such devices are permissible provided the information is accessed only by an owner or owner’s agent.  Many attorneys, me included, believe the issue boils down to ownership:  if you own the vehicle (or if you are a joint owner), you can consent to such a device being placed on your vehicle.  Reasonable attorneys disagree about this issue.

If you’ve got questions about these issues, feel free to drop me a line. Jason A. Weis, Esquire – Curran|Moher P.C. – jweis@curranmoher.com – 3554 Chain Bridge Road, Suite 100, Fairfax, VA 22030 – 571-328-5020.



Tags : Tags: , ,

     Comment      Tweet This    


About

My experience and background reflect the hallmarks of success one must demand of a lawyer in Northern Virginia's legal landscape.  As a native of this area, I have here focused my practice on providing sound and balanced representation to clients navigating the difficult legal waters of family law, including contested divorce, custody, visitation, spousal and child support, and equitable distribution.  More >>>

Contact Me

Jason A. Weis, Esquire
Curran Moher Weis
10300 Eaton Place, Suite 520
Fairfax, Virginia 22030

Email       LinkedIn

Phone: (571) 328-5020

Follow this Blog

Subscribe via RSS

Subscribe by Email



Search this Blog



Recent Posts

Tags

Legal Disclaimer

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog. I hope you find the information here as enjoyable to read as I find to write. Please note that reading this blog does not create a legal relationship between you and Jason A. Weis, Esquire or any other attorney associated with familylawva.com. Moreover, all postings on this blog are merely attorneys' commentary on the state of family law in the Commonwealth of Virginia. THE POSTINGS ARE NOT LEGAL ADVICE – if you have a legal issue or question, I strongly encourage you to contact a lawyer. I would be pleased to refer you to someone if I am able.