Children’s Birthday Parties Post Divorce

September 25, 2014


A child’s upcoming birthday can cause anxiety for newly divorced or separated parents.  The parents are maintaining two separate households, yet each parent wants to be part of the birthday celebration.  What are the options?

A Shared Birthday Party

Many couples have made a promise to celebrate the child’s birthday together.  Obviously, this only works if the parents and their families are cordial and can all get along in the same room.  Many parents suggest the joint party is easier if it is held on neutral ground, like a park or restaurant.  At a shared party, it’s a good idea to warn both sides in advance that they are all going to be there. Younger kids seem to prefer a shared party, so they can see both of their parents and share the celebration together.

Separate Parties 

If there is tension between the two sides of the family, and there may be some uncomfortable situations at the party, the parents will opt for separate parties.  Other parents just want to keep potential drama out of the situation.  For some parents, separate parties are easier – the parents can have the party at their own house, and the child gets two parties out of it!

Your Child’s Preference

Sometimes, depending on the age of the child, you can ask him/her to decide.  Ask what is less stressful and more enjoyable for the child.  Sometimes the child will tell the parent that he wants separate parties and sometimes the child will tell the parent he wants everyone together.  Either way, parents can make the sacrifices to make it work.

Whatever your family decides, remember that it is your child’s day, and just try to keep the “happy” in the party – we do say “Happy Birthday”‘ after all.

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Shoplifting in Fairfax

September 12, 2014


In Virginia, if you are charged with shoplifting, you should take steps to ensure that your rights are protected.  Shoplifting is categorized as a larceny, and a crime of moral turpitude – which may affect your employment, your credit, and your ability to get admission into college or graduate school.

If it is your first shoplifting charge, you may be able to take advantage of the Opportunities, Alternatives, and Resources (OAR) program.  The OAR program allows individuals to have their case dismissed if they perform community service, and take an anti-theft class.  If you are eligible for the program, the Judge will call your name to be interviewed by a member of the OAR staff.  If you are eligible and decide to participate, the Court will set another date for you to return in about six months.  During the six month period, you must complete the required community service, complete the anti-theft class, and stay out of trouble. If the all the paperwork has been completed, at your final court date, the case will be dismissed.

If you are facing a shoplifting charge in Fairfax County, your rights may be waived if you don’t protect them.  Take whatever steps are necessary to make sure you understand the OAR program and how to proceed.

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Can I Move With My Child?

September 8, 2014


People move or relocate all the time – sometimes for a job, sometimes to be closer to family, or sometimes just for a new start.  However, for separated or divorced parents who share custody of a child, a move is complicated.  The decision to relocate has an effect on your custody order and visitation schedule. In D.C., if you have joint custody, you have to seek permission before moving with the minor child.

The Court will consider the best interest of the child, and the factors under D.C. Code 16-914(a)(3).  However, when a request to relocate has been made, the Court will consider additional factors along with the factors listed in the D.C. Code.

The factors for a request to relocate are:

  1. The strength of the relationship of the child with each parent
  2. The individual resources, temperament, and special development needs of the child
  3. The psychological stability of the relocating parent and the parenting effectiveness of both parents
  4. The success of the current custody arrangement and the effect the proposed relocation will have on its stability and continuity
  5. The advantages and disadvantages of the proposed relocation, including the potential disruption of the child’s social and school life and a comparison of the educational, health, and extracurricular opportunities the child would have in each location
  6. Any benefits to the child likely to be derived from the parents’ improved circumstances
  7. The feasibility of an alternative visitation and access schedule, including the geographic proximity of and travel time between the parental homes and as this relates to the practical considerations of the child’s residential schedule
  8. The motivations of the parents in proposing and opposing relocation
  9. The effect the move will have on the child’s relationship with the non-custodial parent, and whether there is any established pattern of promoting or thwarting that relationship
  10. The extent of any conflict between the parents and the recentness of the marital separation

See generally Estopina v. O’Brian, 68 A.3d 790 (D.C. 2013).


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Victims of Violence: Getting Out of Your Lease

September 2, 2014


In Virginia, tenants who are victims of domestic violence are afforded special protections.  Virginia’s early lease termination law (codified in Virginia Code § 55-248.21:2) provides certain victims of domestic abuse the right to early termination of their lease.

Who Is Covered by the Law?

To qualify for protection under the early lease termination law, a tenant must have one of the following court orders: (1) a final order of protection for family abuse pursuant to Virginia Code § 16.1-279.1; or (2) an order convicting the tenant’s abuser of any crime of sexual assault, sexual abuse, or family abuse.

The tenant can use a protective order to terminate any lease in effect during the term of the protective order or any extension of the protective order.  A tenant can also use a single conviction order to terminate the lease in effect when the conviction order was entered, or one subsequent lease.

What Steps Does the Tenant Take to Terminate the Lease?

To terminate the lease, the tenant must provide the landlord with written notice of an intent to terminate the lease.  Along with the written notice, the tenant must give the landlord a copy of the protective order or conviction order.  The written notice must specify the date on which the lease will terminate, and the date must be at least 30 days before the next rent payment is due.

Until the termination date stated in the notice, the tenant must continue to pay rent and abide by the terms of the lease. After the termination date, the tenant is no longer required to pay rent to the landlord (the landlord may still come after the tenant for back rent or damages).

Being aware of this law will allow victims of violence to be safe, as well as keep them informed of their rights and options regarding their rental agreement when these situations arise.

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