Addressing Frequently Asked Legal Questions And Concerns
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How long do I have to pay child support?
Unless there is an agreement between the parents in place, child support is statutorily paid until a child reaches age 18 or until that child is no longer a full-time high school student, not self-supporting, and living at home or 19, whichever comes first. The courts may also order the continuation of support for any child over the age of 18 who is severely and permanently mentally or physically disabled, unable to live independently and support him or herself, and resides in the home of the parent seeking or receiving child support. See information on how support is determined.
Does being (or having a spouse) in the Military make a difference in my Divorce?
For military families, it is vital that you have an experienced Virginia domestic relations attorney in your corner. Few lawyers understand the unique issues that military families face when dealing with a family law matter. We grew up in this area and our office is located in Tidewater. This, coupled with our extensive experience with these matters, is an advantage in military family law cases.
What is a credit report?
Although this term is widely used, the law that governs the reporting of credit matters, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”) actually doesn’t use the term at all. It discusses “consumer reports” and “consumer disclosures.”
“Consumer reports” are any written, oral, or other communication of any information by a consumer reporting agency (“CRA”)(such as Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion - the three big players) which compiles and generates reports on consumer’s credit-bearing on a consumer’s credit worthiness, credit standing, credit capacity, character, general reputation, personal characteristics, or mode of living which is used or expected to be used or collected in whole or part for the purpose of service as a factor in establishing your eligibility for:
(A) credit or insurance to be used primarily for personal, family, or household purposes;
(B) employment purposes; or
(C) any other purposes authorized under [other parts of the FCRA] 
"Consumer disclosures” are the disclosures of the information in your file at the CRA.
The difference is important to the extent of the responsibilities the CRA has under the FCRA. A consumer report is communicated to a third party (such as when you apply for a credit card or a home loan) and under the law, the CRA has a duty of “maximum possible accuracy” of the information contained in those reports. A consumer disclosure, however, does not have this standard, as it is not communicated to anyone other than you (such as when you contact a CRA to get a copy of your “credit report”). Instead, a CRA’s responsibilities for disclosures come when you dispute the accuracy of something in the disclosure.
How do I get information about my credit information held by the credit reporting agencies (“CRAs”)?
You have the right to get your credit information from the three national CRAs (Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian) once every 12 months at no charge. Because it is best to obtain the cleanest report from the CRAs, as well as to document your request should future litigation be necessary, we recommend you mail in your request instead of making the request over the phone or through the internet (both of which are permissible to obtain your reports). The form to fill out and mail is here. You also have the right to obtain your credit information when you have been denied credit by someone. When you are denied credit based on a credit check, the company denying the credit must, under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”) provide you with notice that the adverse action was based in part on the information contained in the report given by the CRA (whichever the company used) and the consumer has the right to request a free copy of that report from the CRA within 60 days of denial.
If there is incorrect information about my credit on my report, how do I fix it?
Under the law that governs the reporting of credit matters, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”), the credit reporting agencies (“CRA”), which are the businesses that gather and report on consumer’s credit information, there is the process to dispute inaccuracies.
You notify the CRA that information about your credit is incorrect (preferably in writing) and then the CRA must undertake what is referred to as a “reinvestigation” (the CRA contacting the furnisher of the information to determine if the reported credit information is, in fact, accurate). This process is as follows:
- The CRA communicates the dispute and “all relevant information” received from you to the furnisher within 5 business days of receiving the information. The requirement to communicate “all relevant information” is where most CRAs fail to abide by the FCRA in that the systems that are normally used turns your dispute (no matter how detailed or how many supporting documents are provided) into a two-digit code which it transmits to the furnishers (such as “02 disputes payment history”). This failure often leads to the information not being properly corrected (as the furnisher cannot determine from a two digit code the true nature of the issue) and also opens the CRA and possibly the furnisher to liability under the FCRA.
- The reinvestigation is to be completed within 30 days (or up to 45 days if you send additional information to the CRA during the initial 30 day period).
- The reinvestigation is to be “reasonable” under the FCRA, which is again where the CRAs usually fall short of the law’s requirements. Traditionally, the CRAs’ position has been that simply forwarding your dispute to the furnishers of the information is enough and they can report the credit information if that furnisher “verifies” it. This is not correct under the FCRA, however, as the law requires the CRA to conduct an independent investigation of the information rather than just forward along what they receive from you.
If the furnisher reports that the information is not correct, the CRA is to remove the information from the consumer’s file. The CRA is also to remove the information if the information “cannot be verified.” Unfortunately, often times unless it is clear that the information is not accurate (such as reported as such by the furnisher) the information remains in your file in contravention of the FCRA.
What are my remedies if a credit reporting agency doesn't remove inaccurate information from my credit file?
If a credit reporting agency (“CRA”) fails to remove inaccurate information from your credit file, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”) allows you to file a lawsuit against the CRA. A lawsuit against the CRA will be filed in federal court (because the matter concerns a federal law - the FCRA). In addition to seeking the credit file be corrected, you can seek actual damages (such as a loss of funds due to the mistake if it involved financing, for instance) and reasonable attorney’s fees for negligent (i.e. accidental) violations. If the violation of the FCRA is found to be willful, the Court can award actual damages or statutory damages from $100 to $1,000 per violation and punitive damages (which are damages the Court awards to punish the defendant(s) or to deter other people to take such actions).
I’ve been in a car accident, what do I do?
The first thing you should do when in an accident is to make sure you are physically O.K. The best rule of thumb is “better safe than sorry.” If you are in pain, address it immediately. Unfortunately, because legal action is often necessary to address the damage caused by an auto accident, everything you do or say after an accident may be relevant to your case. So, there are a few tips to remember beyond getting the medical attention you need at the scene should it be necessary:
- Do not discuss the accident with anyone at the scene other than a police officer. This is important because sometimes you might believe you were at fault (or partially at fault) and you may not be. If you say something at the time that indicates that you were at fault, this may be held against you later (and, again, the accident might not have been your fault at all).
- Take pictures of the cars and the scene. Most people have cameras on the phones and the best evidence of the condition of the cars or the scene of the accident is at the time of the accident.
- Do not talk to the other driver’s insurance company. They will most likely contact you and ask for you to give them a statement, you do not have to do so. Politely decline. The other driver’s insurance company will be seeking any information it can to minimize the payout and you might say something that hurts your case without realizing it. The best course of action is to decline and indicate that you plan on hiring an attorney. Once you hire counsel, the insurance company will deal with us, not you.
- Make sure you are 100% healthy after the accident. Even if you did not feel immediate pain at the scene of the accident, you might have been injured. People often hear of Whiplash, which is a layman’s term for Cervical Acceleration-Deceleration. The pain from this can become evident the day after (or even later) an accident. If you have any health concerns following an accident, be sure to see a doctor about it.
- If you are injured, call an attorney. Back to the principle “better safe than sorry,” it is always best to get professional advice as to whether it makes sense to hire counsel for an accident. Sometimes you do not need one because of the minor nature of your injuries, but often times having an attorney on your side allows for you to recover more money to compensate you for an accident which is not your fault.
I've been hurt in an accident, what can I recover?
Under Virginia Law, you are entitled to receive “full and fair compensation” for any damages suffered due to someone else’s negligence. This would include compensation for any injuries, the pain, and suffering due to those injuries, any permanent damage (such as scarring), medical expenses, property damage, and lost income.
A consultation with an attorney is the best way to proceed. Other than for very minor accidents, a lawyer can assist you in maximizing your recovery. Sometimes a lawsuit is necessary for the other driver’s insurance company to pay what it should, sometimes settlement can be made before a lawsuit is even filed; however, a competent personal injury attorney can help you navigate through the process and recover what you deserve.
If I hire you as my attorney for my car accident, how much does it cost?
Personal Injury matters are handled on a contingency basis. We charge 33 1/3% of any recovery if resolved 30 days before trial, after that time the fee shifts to 40%. This fee represents the large amount of time it takes to finish preparing for trial and actually trying the case in Court. We do not recover a fee for your case if the case does not settle or we do not prevail in Court.
While there is no fee for an unsuccessful case, Virginia law requires clients to be responsible for the costs involved in their cases regardless of the outcome. What this means is that the costs associated with your case, such as fees for medical records, filing fees, expert witness fees, court reporting fees and the like must ultimately be paid by you. When we take you as a client, we advance these fees pending the conclusion of the matter. We do not charge you interest on those advanced fees. If the matter is successful, they are taken out of the settlement or paid judgment. If the case is not successful, we work with you to pay off whatever costs have been accrued. As with all things involving your case, we go over the details with you every step of the way.