Family Law & Mediation Center, PLC

asset division). We also provide mediation services as agreed.

We represent married and unmarried parties in contested family law matters such as divorce, support, custody, premarital agreements, settlements of property and family law issues (e.g.

09/14/2022

Thank you Bob for the wonderful dinner at my favorite restaurant, Capital Grill. Their lobster bisque rocks.

09/08/2022

May God rest her eternally Queen-ly soul. She reigned with great dignity and style.

Photos from Family Law & Mediation Center, PLC's post 09/08/2022

Front row center seats with Mike and Laura Mannix to see Van Morrison at Wolf Trap. Ran into John McGavin and Michael Robinson too. Thanks Mike and Laura!

11/25/2020

Leslie Weber Hoffman is grateful to have once again been listed in both Washingtonian Magazine and Northern Virginia Magazine as a top family lawyer in the WDC metropolitan and Northern Virginia areas. There are many bright, talented, dedicated attorneys in WDC and Virginia who deserve the same recognition for their excellent services, and I applaud them for their perseverance and professionalism in the absence of the lime-light.

08/21/2020

We are honored to announce that we have been included in the 27th Edition of "The Best Lawyers in America" again for our work in family law. This publication is based entirely upon peer nominations and reviews, with only roughly 5% of practicing lawyers receiving this designation.

07/20/2020

#7 Child Support in Virginia: In the late 1980s, Congress passed a law requiring each state to issue presumptive (mandatory) child support (“CS”) guidelines or risk losing their highway funding. They all complied. Since then, there have been a number of tweaks to the Virginia support guidelines, the most entertaining of all was colloquially known as the “Jack Kent Cook CS guidelines reduction” which became effective around mid-1995 and benefitted payors with greater income. Thereafter the CS guidelines in Virginia expanded to include higher earning payors and made it easier to advise clients of what to expect, and thus easier to settle the issue.

In addition, there are separate CS guidelines for parties who have shared custody (where each party has more than ninety 24-hour periods-a “day”- with the children each year), as well as split custody CS guidelines (where each party has one or more children in his or her primary custody). Be careful relying on internet CS guidelines as they have historically resulted in incorrect calculations. Work with a reputable attorney to ascertain what the obligation may be and then discuss the likelihood of any increase or decrease based upon deviation factors (e.g. private school; boarding school; travel costs; extraordinary medical expenses; special services for the child; defraying of other expenses; et cetera).

To properly run accurate CS guidelines, you will need the correct cost for the children to be covered under health insurance (children cost differential, excluding cost for the participant); the day care cost paid to allow the parents to work (annualized to ensure you capture the summer camps and typical cost increase); and the correctly counted number of days the parent who has lesser time has custody of the children.

Child support ends in Virginia when the child attains the age of 18, but shall continue for any such child who continues to live in the recipient’s home until graduation from high school or attaining age 19, which ever first occurs. If you have a disabled child who requires continued child support beyond that age, speak to your attorney and be sure to file the request and substantiating allegations timely. Once the child support is terminated by age, it may be too late to seek continued CS for a disabled child.

Unmarried parties are not eligible to seek or receive spousal support from their partners.

07/10/2020

AAML: Congratulations to Leslie Weber Hoffman for being accepted as a fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers.

05/06/2020

SUPER LAWYERS: We are proud to announce that Leslie Weber Hoffman and Amy Mirabile were both named to the 2020 list of top lawyers in Super Lawyers Magazine.

Super Lawyers has a multi-phase selection process: peer nominations and evaluations are combined with independent research. Each candidate is evaluated on 12 indicators of peer recognition and professional achievement.

04/02/2020

Thank you all for the support you have shown Family Law & Mediation Center, PLC presently and over the years. Please be safe and stay well. Leslie Weber Hoffman

04/02/2020

Today we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the opening of the Family Law & Mediation Center, PLC. We are grateful for all of the wonderful support we have had in the legal community and from our clients. Thank you all. Stay safe.

03/31/2020

Family Law & Mediation Center will remain open for our clients and prospective clients during this pandemic. If we are required to close our physical office space, we will be available by telephone appointment and by electronic mail for our clients and those in need of our services, and we will monitor calls and communications regularly. The courts will be closed for roughly 30 days, so only serious emergencies, such as protective order cases, will be heard by the court on a limited basis. Stay well everyone. 703-691-3066

03/17/2020

Family Law & Mediation Center will remain open for our clients and prospective clients during this pandemic. If we are required to close our physical office space,we will be available by telephone appointment and by electronic mail for our clients and those in need of our services, and we will monitor calls and communications regularly. The courts will be closed for roughly 30 days, so only serious emergencies, such as protective order cases, will be heard by the court on a limited basis. Stay well everyone. 703-691-3066

03/03/2020

#6 Spousal Support for Married Parties:
This is an area of law in Virginia that has changed significantly over the past 20 years. Whereas years ago the court could only award open ended spousal support (with no termination date assigned) once it was determined that a spouse was a candidate for SS, the court can now, and routinely does, order a limited term of SS, typically for one-half the length of the marriage. “Length of the marriage” is measured from the date of marriage until date of separation. The one-half measurement is not mandatory and there are many reasons why the SS award may exceed that period, such as a long marriage exceeding 20 years or the disability or poor health of the recipient party or a evidence of clear agreement that the parties wanted the recipient spouse to stay home and not work (beyond child rearing ages).

Although some jurisdictions have temporary SS guidelines imposed while the trial or resolution is pending (such as Fairfax, Harrisonburg and Richmond) the Virginia courts are not permitted to use those guidelines for the final resolution. The standard at the final determination is a measure of how much the proposed recipient needs to live and how much the proposed payor is able to pay. Income and expense sheets are used to reflect what each party identified as his or her need, and verification of the amounts reflected is the best course.

While the parties’ standard of living is one of many factors, it is not determinative in and of itself. After all, the income that once supported one household is now supporting two. In addition, a non-working party who seeks SS can have income imputed to him or to her based on various considerations, such as education, training, prior work experience, job market, length of time needed to secure work, et cetera. Typically, to prove underemployment and have income imputed to the spouse seeking SS, the payor party engages the services of a vocational expert to make an assessment and then to testify in court to his or her findings. Speak to your attorney about the need for such services and consider engaging your expert early as there are not many who do this work in the Northern Virginia area.

There are a couple of types of SS that can be awarded or considered by the court: Lump sum (such as multiple lumps paid annually or just one payment); periodic for a period of years which is modifiable (“defined duration”); periodic open ended that is modifiable; or any combination. The SS obligation ends by operation of law upon the remarriage of the recipient, the death of either party, or proof to the court by the payor that the recipient is living in a relationship like a marriage for 12 months or more.

In addition, parties can craft their own SS benefit, such as a buy-out of the obligation. The buy-out option can be tricky for SS as the parties must consider and negotiate the amount and length of the SS payments and reach an agreed discount rate (not to mention the likelihood of death or remarriage). In addition, if the proposed recipient spouse takes the home equity in lieu of a regular SS payment, then how will he or she qualify to refinance the debt to remove the other party?

Last, while fault grounds in Virginia are a consideration in the determination of amount and award of SS, proven adultery of the proposed recipient spouse creates a prohibition for him or her to revive SS, with some exceptions (“manifest injustice”).

02/14/2020

#5 Value Of Proving Fault In Divorce: Proof of fault grounds in a divorce case may be worth far less than you expect. Ever since the Virginia court’s ruling in Astor vs. Gross in the late 1980s, the impact of proving fault grounds on the marital property division has been limited. The issue addressed was to what extent a finding of fault might impact the marital property division. Simply stated, the court ruled that the property division should only be impacted by fault grounds if there was an economic impact on the marital estate from the fault ground proved. For example, if one party proved that the spouse engaged in adultery, how did that adultery diminish the marital estate? Did the adulterer spend $10,000 on a watch for, or vacation with, the paramour? Did the adulterer draw marital funds which were used on the relationship or transferred to the paramour? If the fault ground was cruelty, did the harm cause the faultless party to seek medical care? An ER visit? Therapy sessions? RX usage? Those are but a few examples of economic impact of fault grounds that may cause an impact on the marital property division. The costs related merely to the creation of separate households itself has not, from what I have heard in court, been sufficient economic impact to trigger a disparate distribution.
In addition, fault grounds can have an impact on spousal support. The adulterer, with some exceptions, cannot be awarded spousal support and proof of fault grounds can affect the amount and duration of a support award. Desertion/adultery/cruelty can have an impact on custody cases, as well. Did the adulterer choose to spend evenings with the paramour, thus forfeiting his or her time and relationship with the children? Likewise with the abandoning parent. Did the party who was cruel expose the children to abhorrent behavior which a court might find should not have been modeled to the children?
Proving a fault ground can also have an impact on the award of attorney fees in a case, but it is not an automatic benefit. Sometimes the court will find that, while the deserting party or adulterer may technically have ended the marriage, the marriage was miserable for years prior to his or her departure and that the factors and circumstances causing the breakdown of the marriage included the actions or behavior of both parties.

02/03/2020

#4 Divorce Fault Grounds: Do not discuss fault grounds with a spouse before talking to your family lawyer. Distraught or angry spouses find this difficult, but not doing so can help preserve crucial evidence. Learning of a spouse’s betrayal often triggers an immediate desire to address it with the other party (typically in a confrontational manner). However, if you have certain fault grounds to allege against your spouse for the marriage break-up, it is always better to speak to counsel before you do so with your spouse so as to avoid the possibility of elimination of evidence necessary to prove the fault ground. Assembling evidentiary proof is typically far more difficult once the spouse is aware that you are doing so, and alerting a spouse that you know he or she is committing adultery nearly assures he or she will make it impossible for you to get your proof if you have not already done so. The “independent corroborating evidence” required under Virginia law is more than you might expect, so guidance by counsel can be crucial in securing sufficient evidence. Virginia fault grounds include: adultery (requires highest level of proof in civil cases-clear, convincing evidence); desertion (actual or constructive); cruelty (mental or physical); and conviction of a felony and sentence to incarceration of 12 months or longer.

01/27/2020

#3 What to bring to your attorney meeting:

For a custody case alone, far fewer documents are needed. Perhaps some relevant communications reflecting custody settlement discussions with the other parent may have merit. Travel schedules for each parent, if any. For the initial meeting on custody alone, mostly the history of parenting is helpful and that can be given orally in the meeting. For the trial and the discovery process, school records, medical records of the children (and sometimes the parent, if mental health is an issue), therapeutic evaluations and diagnostic records, summer camp data, day care information, sports/music/other schedules and participation and other program enrollment data for the children may be pertinent.

For a child or spousal support matter, evidence of income of the parties, as well as the children, if any, is necessary. W-2s from the preceding year and tax returns for the 3-5 prior years are helpful. A summary of party and household expenses will be necessary as well, particularly for spousal support cases as there are not guidelines for long-term spousal support awards in Virginia (Fairfax, Harrisonburg and Richmond have some temporary guidelines). There are mandatory guidelines for child support, from which the court may deviate for good cause shown, so the expense statement can make a difference in child support deviation cases.

For property division matters (equitable distribution cases = “ED”), all documents reflecting the assets and liabilities of each party are needed in the long run. Initially, a summary of assets and liabilities is helpful and should reflect all real property, investment accounts, bank/MM accounts, retirement interests (defined contribution accounts and defined benefit plans), accounts held for the children (VPEP, 529 accounts, college savings, other savings, trusts),valuable art, rugs, jewelry, collectables, coins, musical instruments, and other personal property, vehicles and all encumbrances attached thereto. The list should also reflect balances and estimated values as well as all encumbrances to assets and title/ownership.

01/23/2020

#2 Social Media, Texting And Electronic Evidence: Whatever you put on social media, or that others post about you, may arise as evidence in a case against you. If you post a picture of yourself with your new lover, or of yourself inebriated, or smoking ma*****na, you should anticipate it surfacing in your case. If you text your lover with naked pictures, they can be incriminating exhibits; likewise if your lover posts incriminating data or pictures, and your spouse has access to them directly or through a friend of your lover, and if they can be authenticated (and are relevant), they can be used as evidence against you.

Similarly, if you grouse about your marriage, your children, your spouse or are engaged in any illicit or other behavior adverse to the family’s well-being, that may appear as evidence in your case indicating the marriage breakdown or as impeachment if you testify otherwise in court.

Once the case is filed, you should not simply delete the electronic data, whether social media posts, texts, emails, or other forms of communication. If discovery has issued, and perhaps even beforehand, that may be considered spoliation of evidence and cause you (and your lawyer if he or she directed its destruction) significant trouble. Besides which, much can be recovered through forensic experts such as those used in many divorce cases. Many of my clients have brought the family or the spouse’s hard drive to a forensics company to have the hard drive imaged and held for use at trial. Password protection may be an initial obstacle, but it can be overcome by obtaining a court order permitting access to protected files.

The obvious solution to avoid future problems is to cease using social media for anything related to your family or marriage before getting embroiled in the family break-up. The older the adverse material you posted, the less impact it may have in court (unless you lie about it, in which case you face a credibility problem). Speak to your counsel about these issues as he or she may have some solutions that do not amount to spoliation of evidence.

Last, be very careful not to run afoul of the laws on electronic interception and evidence. There are many such laws, both state and federal; they are complex and the violation can lead to serious consequences. Be sure to address the laws with your counsel before you engage in any surreptitious interception (for example, audio or video recordings) of your spouse or others in the hope of using it as evidence at trial.

01/21/2020

#1 Information Gathering: Talk to a family lawyer before talking to your spouse. When contemplating divorce or separation, it is useful to speak to a family lawyer before you speak to your spouse. This sounds counter-intuitive, but planning your exit strategy and assembling data in advance can save you significant costs and eliminate some stress. After all, knowledge is power. If you cannot have an attorney meeting beforehand, do so as soon as possible after you have spoken to your spouse or significant other. This is important to do even if you hope to save your marriage or relationship as the knowledge imparted to you in such an information-gathering session can help guide you in marriage counseling or therapy as well as in a relationship-ending situation.

01/21/2020

General Information about Family Law: I will be posting some general information about family law a few times a week that some of you may find interesting. It is not legal advice; any such advice should come from an attorney who is working for you and knows the facts of your specific situation. These pieces of information will not be exhaustive in one area, but rather, will address different topics at various times.

Do not post your case information or any questions on this page as all such postings will be deleted as unread; also, doing so may be detrimental to your case, and will most certainly waive the confidentiality your attorney will want to retain for you.

01/08/2020
What Must the Court Do When Making a Determination Regarding Equitable Distribution? 01/07/2020

Check out a clip of our presentation on LawLine, October 14, 2019.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DyKU6kwAnXc&feature=youtu.be

What Must the Court Do When Making a Determination Regarding Equitable Distribution? Settling and litigating equitable distribution cases in Virginia requires a detailed knowledge of the statutory authority and case law governing the issue. V...

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4000 Legato Road, #400
Fairfax, VA
22033

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