Archive for December, 2012

What Is An ‘Uncontested Divorce’?

Wednesday, December 26th, 2012

I often have potential clients come into my office saying that they want an ‘uncontested divorce’, that quickly evolves into a ‘contested divorce’ instead.  Most of the time that is because the client really doesn’t understand what is meant by an ‘uncontested divorce’.

It is more than just an agreement that the marriage should be ended.

At least one of the Circuit Courts in this area has detailed exactly what they consider to be an ‘Uncontested Divorce’:

(a) All of the issues regarding the division of property have been agreed to by the parties; and

(b) The grounds are separation for the statutory period (no-fault); and

(c) Child support, spousal support, custody, and/or visitation are not requested; or if they are requested; there is a written and signed agreement between the spouses.

Of course, there is often no signed agreement when you first come to the attorney’s office for a consultation, but in order to have a true uncontested divorce, you need to have full agreement between the husband and wife about the important aspects of the property division and matters concerning the children.

I suggest that the husband and wife should write down what they understand to be in the agreement, so both parties have a copy of what is going to be put in the final agreement drafted by the attorney.  Once the details are given to the attorney, he or she can put those details into the proper form.

If any of the above are not true, then you probably do not have an uncontested divorce.  This does not necessarily mean that the divorce has to be contentious or that we can not quickly get to an agreement, but it will take at least a minimum of time and effort.

Usually, if the other spouse has retained an attorney for anything other than to just prepare or review some paperwork, the divorce is considered contested.

If you have any questions about this or any other legal subject, please feel free to give us a call at 757-234-4650 or visit our website at

Should I ask for an attorney?

Thursday, December 20th, 2012

I was in court last week and listened to two different cases where the defendant had waived his right to an attorney.  It was not pleasant for anyone.  The hearing took much longer than it should have taken, the judge was frustrated because the defendant kept ‘jumping around’ in his argument and kept talking about things that were really not relevant to the case, and the defendant was frustrated because he lost and didn’t really understand why.

Of course, I’ve seen a few cases where the defendant was well prepared and the case went smoothly.  But that is the exception and it does not happen very often.

If you are charged with a crime that can result in a sentence of time in jail, the court must offer you an opportunity to have an attorney.  At the arraignment, the judge will give you three options.  (1) you can hire your own attorney — in fact, people often hire their own attorney even before they go in front of the judge for the first time; (2) you can request that the court provide an attorney for you; or (3) you can waive your right to an attorney.

If you ask for a court appointed attorney, the judge will ask you some questions about your income to see if you qualify for a court appointed attorney.  If you do qualify, the court will assign an attorney to represent you.  Sometimes this will be a public defender, and sometimes it may be a private attorney who is acting as a court appointed attorney in this case.  I wrote a prior blog post about court appointed attorneys and there is more information here.  I know some people don’t like the idea of a court appointed attorney, but usually the court appointed attorneys are well prepared and do an excellent job.  Also, if you are assigned a public defender, you should rest easy knowing that defending criminal clients is that person’s full time job!

Of course, you need to do your part and make sure that you meet with your court appointed attorney with enough lead time for them to become prepared for your case.  Remember, that it is YOUR case and you should take the lead role and contact the attorney to make the initial appointment.

If you don’t qualify for a court-appointed attorney, you can ask for time to hire an attorney on your own.  You should try to get an attorney as soon as you can because sometimes a specific attorney may not be available for the date of your next hearing.  If you have enough lead-time sometimes some rescheduling can be accomplished.  Personally, I hate it when a potential client comes in after doing noting for 30 days and tells me he needs an attorney for a hearing tomorrow!  That just isn’t enough time to get ready.

The last option is to waive your right to an attorney and handle the case on your own.  I never recommend this to anyone, even another attorney!

Sometimes you can help yourself by having a consultation with an attorney even if you can’t afford to hire the attorney to represent you at the trial.  Even knowing the process and identifying the players will help you when the time comes for you to go in front of the judge.

Bottom line?  If you have the opportunity, ask for an attorney to represent you.  The worse that can happen is the court tells you ‘no’.

If you have any questions about this or any other legal subject, please feel free to give us a call at 757-234-4650 or visit our website at

Do I need to pay the hospital bill?

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

I was in court yesterday and had the opportunity to listen to a number of cases where the hospital was bringing legal action against people for non-payment of hospital bills.

One was a very sad case where a woman had died and the hospital had filed suit against her son for payment of her bill.  As I’ve discussed before, children are not normally responsible for the payment of their parent’s bills.  However, in this case, the son had signed the hospital admittance form agreeing that he would be personally responsible for the bill.

There were also a number of cases where people said that they were still in discussions with the insurance company about how much the insurance company would pay.  Again, the people had signed the admittance forms saying that they would be responsible for payment.

You can pay a hospital bill yourself, even if you have insurance and a claim has been submitted.  If  you have already paid a bill and the insurance company then sends money to the hospital, you can talk to the hospital about getting a refund.  I’ve never personally seen a case where the hospital has refused to send a refund when a bill was overpaid.

Hiding from the bill and hoping it will go away isn’t really going to help you much.  Most hospitals that I have seen will work with you on a payment plan if you can’t afford to make the entire payment all at once.  This will help eliminate the legal fees that the hospital will pass on to you if they have to go to court to get payment.

Generally, by the time the hospital brings you to court for non-payment, your account is what is commonly called ‘seriously past due’ and the normal insurance payment process has not covered the costs and it is very likely that the costs will not be covered.  If you really think that the insurance company should have paid the bill and they did not, then your fight is with the insurance company, not the hospital that provided the care.

Bottom line?  If you sign the paperwork saying that you will be responsible for the bill, then it is your obligation to pay.

If you are not able to make any sort of payment arrangements, perhaps it is time for you to talk to an attorney about bankruptcy.

If you have any questions about this or any other legal subject, please feel free to give us a call at 757-234-4650 or visit our website at

Do you need a registered agent?

Sunday, December 2nd, 2012

Each organization authorized to do business in Virginia is required to have a registered agent and a registered address.

The registered address of the company must be a physical address where someone may actually come in person to serve legal process if necessary.  An address that is a PO Box will not be sufficient.

The registered address may be the physical location of the company, or it may be a different physical address.  Many people run small businesses out of their home and they may not want to have their home address listed on the public websites that are required to display the registered address and the name of the registered agent of companies.

The registered agent can be an officer or other member of the management of a company.  You may also have an attorney as the registered agent, and many law firms provide this service.

The registered agent’s responsibility is to accept service on behalf of the business and forward any notice, process or demand to the actual management of the company to the last known address of the company.

Most of the time, the notices that are sent will be the notice of annual renewal, and most company owners know when their company ‘birthday’ will arrive.  However, if someone has filed a legal action against the company, there is a relatively short time-frame in which to respond.  That’s why it’s important for the registered agent to know how to contact the owners/managers of the company at all times.

It’s also important for the company to have a registered agent that they can trust to forward any and all notices as soon as they arrive.

For more information, you might look at the Virginia State Corporation Commission website discussion of registered agents here.

If you have any questions about this or any other legal subject, please feel free to give us a call at 757-234-4650 or visit our website at