In Virginia, there are two types of courts that handle family law cases, the circuit court and the juvenile and domestic relations district court (JDR). Circuit courts can handle all types of family cases but primarily hear divorce cases. JDR courts hear custody and support cases but usually only for people who are unmarried.
Family Court Explained
In both courts, a case is started by a party filing a lawsuit, usually called a complaint (circuit court) or a petition (JDR). This lawsuit can be countered by a counterclaim or cross-petition by the other party. Once the suit is filed, the parties then conduct discovery which is where they ask each other questions called interrogatories which are answered under oath, and request the other side provide documents relevant to the case. In circuit court, there is an additional type of discovery called a deposition where one party asks the other party questions in a live setting, recorded by a stenographer or court reporter.
Throughout the process, each party can file for court hearings using filings called motions. Motions are requests for a hearing on a particular issue while a case is waiting for trial. In family cases, the types of motions we usually see are motions for temporary custody and visitation, motions for temporary spousal support and child support, and motions related to the discovery mentioned above.
Finally, a case proceeds to trial. A trial is conducted like any other court case in that there are witnesses who testify, opening and closing statements, rules related to evidence and procedure, and a decision handed down by a judge. In Virginia, there are no jury trials in family cases.
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It’s important to have an experienced litigator in your family case, who has knowledge of both courts and can help you navigate the difficult and stressful experience of litigation. Contact us today and speak to one of our experienced attorneys about how we can help you.