Ask An Attorney: We are here to answer your legal questions!

Ask An AttorneyEach week, Parks Zeigler attorneys respond here to your legal questions.

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  • Can I be charged for kidnapping if I move out of state with my children away from my husband?

    Mother and ChildQuestion: “My husband abandoned our family. We've been separated for almost a year and we’re still legally married. Our children live with me and I take care of them with no help from their father, but they do see him regularly. I would like to move back home (out of Virginia) closer to my family but my husband doesn’t want me to. He doesn't pay child support, and there is no custody order in place. Can I leave without facing kidnapping charges?"

    The simple answer is yes, you can move out of state. However, if you move and he files for custody with the courts, the court could make you move back or give him custody of the children. If you move and remain for at least six months, that state will then have jurisdiction over the children and he would have to file for custody and/or visitation in that state.

    Visit these links for related information:
    Virginia Child Support Laws & Guidelines
    Can a Separation Agreement or Court Order Stop My Spouse From Moving Out of State With My Children?

  • Can I legally require my soon-to-be ex-spouse to only communicate with me via text messages?

    Texting and child custody arrangements.Question: "I have asked my wife to only contact me via text since we finalized our divorce. She refuses. I'd like to document all of our conversations for posterity's sake and I fully intend to request a modification to the custody agreement. My questions are: 1) Legally speaking, am I in the wrong with any of this? 2) What's my best course of action to get a court order in place to state that our communication can only be via text? 3) If I pursue a text-only court order, would that affect my ability to Facetime with my son?"

    If there is not a current order which prohibits telephonic communication, then you cannot force her to only communicate via text. While we understand the need to document your communication, if your only reason for seeking a modification is to get an order requiring that all communication occur via text, then you may not be successful. In Virginia, you must show a material change in circumstances that justifies a modification of a current custody/visitation court order. Also, so long as the text-only order relates to communication between the parents, it should not affect your ability to Face-Time with your son, however, I would ensure that was in a court order as well.

    Visit these links for related information:
    Four Ways to Avoid Smartphone Wars in a Joint Legal Custody Battle
    Benefits of Meeting with a Divorce Lawyer

  • Can my ex-spouse force me to pay retroactive child support payments?

    Retroactive Child SupportQuestion: "I have heard that if I have my son less than 40% of the time I may have to pay child support. When we were together she agreed to pay for nearly everything for our son considering my financial situation. In her custody agreement, she is wanting me to pay for past expenses that she willingly paid. Is there any merit to this?"

    In Virginia, the court only has the authority to modify child support once a Motion to Amend has been filed and the opposing party has received proper notice of the Motion to Amend. If there is not a current child support order and it is an initial determination of child support, then the court has the authority to order child support commencing from the date the Petition for Child Support is filed. Thus, she cannot seek reimbursement for expenses and/or child support for periods of time prior to her filing a Petition or Motion with the court.

    Visit these links for related information:
    Benefits of Meeting with a Divorce Lawyer
    What if My Spouse Won't Agree to a Divorce?

  • I'm worried my mother isn't preparing for the transfer of her assets properly.

    Mother and daughter, end of life decisions. Question: "My mother is planning to leave $20,000 in savings to my sister and me, but I'm not sure about the way she is going about it. She plans to leave $10,000 for each of us, but she wants us to just transfer all of her funds from her bank account to our own, and that be that."

    Your mother can speak with her bank and see if there is a payable on death (POD) option on her savings account. If she fills out a payable on death form, then at her death, the funds will go to the person(s) listed on that form. As these funds are in her name, they could possibly be subject to creditor's claims at her death regardless of the payable on death designation.

    Visit these links for related information:
    Are You Considering Your Digital Assets in the Estate Planning Process?
    Writing and Updating Your Will


  • At what point does your business credit activity stop affecting your personal credit?

    Credit applications and your business credit scoreQuestion: "I got my first business credit card earlier this year, which shows up as an inquiry on my personal credit record & has been affecting my personal credit score, which is totally understandable since I had zero business credit history. But at what point does your business credit activity stop affecting your personal credit? If I were to apply for a 2nd business card now, will it still show up as an inquiry on my personal? I'd greatly appreciate any insight, thank you!"

    Whether a business credit card affects your personal credit depends on if the credit card issuer reports to consumer credit bureaus or business credit bureaus. Unfortunately, there is no uniform behavior; different companies do different things. One standard behavior; however, is a hard credit inquiry when you apply. This will cause a small temporary drop in your personal credit score and will remain on the report for two years as a pull. If you are concerned, you should inquire to the issuer of the business credit card as to their policy before applying.

    Visit these links for related information:
    Ins and Outs of Small Business Credit
    Different Types of Business Loans

  • Will I be responsible for my parents' debt after they die?

    Parental Debt Question: "I am an only child with two parents who don’t have a lot of money and have a fair amount of debt. They don’t have any assets or an estate. Neither is in great health. I am very worried that their debt and hospital bills will transfer to me when they die."

    Children are not generally responsible for the debts and other obligations of their parents when their parents die. A child is liable only if he or she is a joint debtor, co-signs, or otherwise agrees to pay the creditor. Virginia law sets out the priority for debts to be paid by an estate. Generally, if there is not enough to pay creditors, the administrator of the estate can send each creditor a letter stating that debts exceed the assets and creditors will be paid in accordance with the priority set under Virginia law. Estate administration costs are paid first, then creditors in the order established by statute until funds run out.

    Visit these links for related information:
    What Happens to Credit Card Debt After You Die?
    Five Common Estate Planning Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

  • What should I do if my Social Security Number is stolen?

    Social Security TheftQuestion: "What should I do if my Social Security Number is stolen?"

    A stolen SSN is cause for serious concern because it grants the thief complete access to your identity. If your bank card is stolen, you can close your accounts. It’s not that simple when your SSN is stolen. If your SSN is stolen, there are 5 things you should do immediately:

    1. Contact one of the three major credit reporting agencies and place a fraud alert on your profile. The agency to which you reported will notify the other two.
    2. Notify all three agencies that your SSN has been stolen. They will give you a free copy of your most recent credit report.
    3. Report the incident to the IRS.
    4. Report the incident to the Federal Trade Commission.
    5. Report the incident to the Internet Crime Complaint Center. They will notify all relevant federal, state, and local authorities.

    In addition, you should monitor your accounts closely and report any suspicious activity to your credit card company and bank. If you have any questions about your lost or stolen SSN, please contact us.

    Visit this link for related information:
    Credit Agencies and Your Rights

  • Can I adopt my girlfriend's child if the birth certificate was never signed by the bio father?

    Adoption without a signed birth certificateQuestion: "Can I adopt my girlfriend's child in Ohio if the birth certificate was never signed by the bio father and [he] hasn't made contact in 3 years?"

    Laws vary from state to state so you will need to seek the advice of an attorney licensed to practice law in Ohio. The lawyers at Parks Zeigler are licensed in Virginia. However, if you, your girlfriend, and child all lived in Virginia, you may be able to adopt the child. Virginia has a fairly streamlined process for step-parent adoptions should you choose to marry your girlfriend. If you still wanted to adopt her child but not marry her, the process is a bit more complicated.

  • Should I get a new Social Security Number if mine is stolen?

    New Social Security CardsQuestion: "Should I get a new Social Security Number if mine is stolen?"

    If your SSN is stolen, and it continues to cause problems years after the fact (presuming you've taken all steps to rectify the situation), it might be worth considering. However, it's not an easy process and it comes with some caveats.

    1. You must prove that the theft has caused substantial hardship, e.g. denied mortgages, problems with the IRS or law enforcement, or irreparable credit.
    2. Being issued a new SSN doesn't mean the problems will go away, as the old number will remain valid and you will have to continually monitor your accounts with that in mind. The SS agency never invalidates a number it has already issued.
    3. A new SSN means you have zero credit history, and your credit will have to be built back up - which, for reasons mentioned above, could prove difficult.
    4. The decision to issue a new SSN is up to the SS agency, not you.

    If you have any questions about your lost or stolen SSN, please contact us. 

  • Are divorce law and family law the same thing?

    Divorce and Family Law

    Question: "Are divorce law and family law the same thing?"      


    No. Divorce law pertains to divorces only. Family law encompasses divorces and other family law matters like custody, child support, and adoptions. If you are facing a separation, knowing this distinction is important when searching for an attorney that best suits your needs. If you have any questions about choosing a divorce or family law attorney, please contact us.