Family law can be complicated and confusing if you aren’t familiar with the rules. In Virginia, two separate courts, the juvenile and domestic relations (J&DR) district court and the circuit court, both handle family law cases. Believe it or not, to make matters even more confusing, the J&DR court specifically hears family law cases relating to custody, visitation, child support, and spousal support. The circuit court can hear all of those same cases and also divorce and equitable distribution cases. Confused yet? Here’s what you need to know about filing family law cases in Virginia.
Family Law Filing: The Basics
Unmarried couples with shared children need to file in the JD&R court for any of their custody, visitation, and child support cases. If couples are divorcing, they may need to file one case in the JD&R court and the other in the circuit court. Sometimes it makes sense to start in the circuit court and go from there, but other times it’s less clear.
The Family Law Court Questions You Need to Ask
When choosing which court you need to file your family law case in, there are many questions that you need to answer:
- Is the family law case you are filing an initial action? Or, are you trying to modify an existing court order?
- Are you married? If you are not married, you will automatically file in the J&DR court.
- Do you have grounds for divorce? If not, you can wait to get them and file in the circuit court or immediately file in the J&DR court.
- Are you cohabitating with your spouse? If you are currently living together, neither court can give any custody, visitation, child support, or spousal support order to either party.
- Do you have shared children? If you do have children, and since child support is retroactive to the filing date, the primary physical custodian may want to file as soon as possible in the J&DR court.
- If spousal support is a concern, you should keep in mind that both courts handle it differently. The J&DR court will treat it as child support and use the state guidelines for the matter. The circuit court is not bound by those same state guidelines so the matter may be decided differently.
Family Law Assistance from The Carlberg Law Firm
The Carlberg Law Firm has been guiding clients through all of life’s difficult situations since 1970. We have a wealth of experience in family law, whether you are seeking pre-marital agreements, working through your will, or seeking a divorce. We serve all of our clients with dignity, dedication, and determination. To hear more about us and what we do, contact us online or give us a call at (703) 549-5551. For more legal tips and to see what we are up to, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.