Newport News, VA Law Center

Newport News has the fifth-largest population in Virginia, so it should come as no surprise that some of its citizens occasionally run afoul of the law or require the help of a lawyer to resolve civil suits. For those facing criminal charges, hiring a lawyer is an obvious first step toward establishing a successful defense or reducing their charges. 

While there’s no technical requirement to hire a lawyer for things like bankruptcy, divorce, or child custody, a personal injury suit, adopt a child, or establish a will or trust, it’s still a good idea for them to seek legal help and representation. Thankfully, the same law office can handle all of these issues.

Dealing with Criminal Charges

Being accused of a crime, no matter how serious or seemingly minor, can be extremely stressful. Criminal & Traffic charges range substantially in severity, but it’s always best for defendants to seek legal help as soon as they have been charged. A criminal defense lawyer will protect his or her client’s rights, evaluate evidence, come up with a defense strategy, and negotiate with other lawyers in the event that the client wants to plead guilty instead of going to court.

Misdemeanor Criminal Defense

Misdemeanors are less serious than felony charges. However, they can still have a dramatic negative impact on defendants’ lives if they are convicted. A conviction can lead to jail time, heavy fines, and a lasting criminal record that can make it more difficult to find employment and housing.

Common misdemeanor charges include disorderly conduct, petty larceny, drunk in public, stalking or threatening behavior, violation of traffic laws, and low-value shoplifting. Penalties range significantly, but defendants facing any misdemeanor may be forced to spend up to a year in jail and pay up to $2,500 in fines. Hiring a lawyer can help defendants avoid a conviction or get reduced sentences that have less of an impact on their lives.

Felony Criminal Defense

Felony charges are much more serious than misdemeanor charges. Depending on what kind of crime the defendant has been accused of committing, he or she may face significant prison terms, more substantial fines, or even the death penalty. Common felony charges include rape, murder, robbery, drug charges, serious assaults, conspiracy, and money laundering.

Any person charged with a felony offense should take the charges very seriously. Hiring a lawyer is the best way to fight the charges in court and avoid potentially devastating penalties.

Handling Financial Insolvency

Financial insolvency is just as common in Newport News, VA as it is elsewhere in the country. The decision to file for bankruptcy can have long-lasting effects, though, so it shouldn’t be considered a debtor’s first line of defense against financial insolvency. Instead, debtors should first discuss their options with their creditors and attend consumer credit counseling.

Responsible lawyers will always take the time to explain these and other options to clients prior to suggesting that they file for either Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 Bankruptcy. If the debtor will be unable to survive while paying off his or her creditors, a lawyer can help the client come up with relevant documentation and file paperwork, then provide legal counsel during the bankruptcy hearings. It costs money to hire a lawyer, but debtors who are serious about getting back on their feet financially will find it’s worth the investment.

Family Law

Divorces can be complicated, especially if the couple has children together or shares substantial financial or physical assets. Couples who want to file for a no-fault, uncontested divorce may be able to go through this process successfully without the help of a lawyer. For everyone else, legal help should be considered essential.

Different Types of Divorces

There are several ways to distinguish between different types of divorces in Newport News, VA. The first distinction is between fault and no-fault divorce. This refers to whether the couple has decided voluntarily to separate for at least six months to one year or one member of the couple has grounds for separating from his or her partner such as adultery, desertion, cruelty, or felony conviction.

The difference between contested and uncontested divorces is also quite simple. In an uncontested divorce, both members of the couple agree to end the marriage without litigation via a Property Settlement Agreement or a Separation Agreement. A contested divorce occurs when the two parties are unable to come to an agreement on property division, child custody or support, division of debts, alimony, or attorney’s fees, leading to the need for attorney intervention.

Finally, the state of Virginia also distinguishes between divorce a mensa et thoro and divorce a vinculo matrimonii. The former is often referred to as a legal separation in other states, meaning that the divorce will not be finalized. The latter is a full and final divorce that allows both parties to re-marry once it has been finalized and it is often preceded by a divorce a mensa et thoro.

Role of an Attorney

The role an attorney will play in a divorce proceeding depends on his or her client’s needs. Couples who are both on the same page about getting a divorce may wish to undergo an alternative form of conflict resolution like mediation to avoid unnecessary court and legal fees. More often than not, divorces are less amicable, though.

When children or substantial shared assets are involved, an attorney will represent his or her client’s interests during negotiations and, if necessary, go to court to defend them. Divorces can be heated affairs. While it may be tempting for a client to try to get everything possible out of a soon-to-be-ex-spouse, it’s rarely worth the time and money to fight over every possession. Take the lawyer’s advice if he or she makes recommendations regarding negotiations or court proceedings.

Custody Disputes

When couples have children, divorces often involve custody disputes. It’s important for both parents to act in the best interests of their children and avoid using them as pawns in the divorce proceedings. For most parents, joint custody is the best way to go.

In cases where staying with one parent instead of the other would undeniably be in the best interests of the child, a judge may award custody to either the mother or the father. Mothers often have the edge in custody litigation, but there are many cases in which extenuating circumstances lead judges to assign sole custody to fathers, as well. If child custody will be litigated, it’s imperative for the client to show that his or her child will be better off under the client’s sole custody.

Child Support

When a judge assigns sole custody to one parent, the non-custodial parent will usually be required to pay child support. The issues of Child Support & Custody are often intertwined. Again, it’s important to keep the child’s best interests in mind even if he or she will be living with the other parent.

There are several factors that influence judges’ decisions regarding child support payments. They include the child’s needs, the parents’ financial earnings and assets, and the state of Virginia’s presumptive guidelines for child support. Keep in mind that failure to pay child support can lead to wage or tax refund garnishments and even jail time.

Legal Adoptions

The decision to adopt a child is generally a cause for celebration, but the legalities surrounding adoption can pose certain challenges. There are several types of adoptions that may bring about surprising legal complications. They include step-parent adoptions, agency adoptions, and parental placement adoptions depending on the unique circumstances surrounding each case.

Step-Parent Adoptions

If absent parents are willing to surrender parental rights, the process is usually fairly smooth. If, however, the absent parent is unwilling to give up his or her rights, numerous complications can occur that may require the help of a lawyer to be sorted out successfully.

Agency Adoptions

Traditional, agency adoptions can also be complicated. Whether the agency is placing a child who has been orphaned following his or her parents’ death or a child who has been taken away from the birth parents by the court due to neglect or abuse, hiring a lawyer is usually a good idea. An adoption lawyer can help clients navigate the complexities of agency adoptions to complete the process as efficiently as possible.

Parental Placement Adoptions

Parents who are confident they will not be able to provide a stable home for their children may voluntarily give them up for adoption to a couple of their choosing. This form of private adoption is strictly controlled to ensure child safety. Since the initial stages of these adoptions take place in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court, it’s a good idea to hire a lawyer to offer legal representation.

Wills and Estates

Wills & Probate laws aren’t only relevant to the extremely wealthy. In fact, it’s a good idea for every Virginia resident to have a last will and testament in place that defines how his or her assets should be distributed following death. Without a will, the estate will be subject to Intestate Succession Law, which typically assigns assets to the closest relatives.

Any person who is married, has children, or has accumulated sufficient financial assets to feel that it is worth dividing them appropriately upon death should consult a lawyer to draw up a will. The same goes for those who wish to leave their money or earthly possessions to a charity organization. It doesn’t make sense for residents to wait until they are facing a serious illness or injury to draw up a will, as this adds an extra level of stress and urgency to the process.

Personal Injury Claims

One final reason the average Newport News resident may want to consult a lawyer is to seek legal help and representation following a personal injury. When most people think about personal injury cases, they immediately think of car and truck accidents. In reality, any injury that occurs due to another person’s negligence or willful behavior can lead to an insurance claim or a lawsuit.

Other common personal injury cases involve premises liability issues like slips and falls, dog bites, or lead poisoning, medical, dental, or nursing home malpractice, childcare injuries, and public transit accidents. In order to win a public injury case, the plaintiff must prove that his or her injury occurred as a direct result of another person’s behavior or negligence and that material damages occurred as a result of the injury.

Recovering from an accident is always stressful. When the injured party is left to pay for hospital bills, make up for lost wages, and recover from pain and suffering alone, their results can be devastating. 

If the liable party has insurance, it may be possible to file a claim to receive adequate compensation to pay for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering but insurance companies are typically more concerned about making money than ensuring that injured parties get the help they need. As a result, they typically offer settlements that won’t come close to paying for all the accident victim’s bills. A lawyer can negotiate with insurance companies to get a better settlement.

If the liable party does not have an insurance policy that covers medical care, the person or organization may still be held accountable in a court of law. When this is the case, the injured party must file a civil tort against the defendant. A lawyer can help his or her client file paperwork, obtain evidence, and line up expert witnesses then provide representation in court.

Few Virginia residents feel excited about the prospect of hiring a lawyer, but these professionals provide a wide range of essential services. Whether clients are looking for help with filing a personal injury lawsuit or they need to defend themselves against potentially devastating charges in criminal court, it’s always best to hire a lawyer as soon as it becomes apparent that a legal dispute is brewing. Contact the Denbigh Law Center at (757) 877-2244 today to discuss options or schedule a consultation.