When it comes to family matters, it usually feels better to work things out together. However, there are certain times when involving the law in your family’s situation is unavoidable. If you wish to obtain a divorce, you must have your marriage legally dissolved by the court. When you share custody of a child with a person who is not your spouse, you both benefit from legally establishing custody and support. Even the exciting moments, such as expanding your family through adoption, necessitate working with a family attorney. At Copenhaver, Ellett & Derrico, our lawyers in Roanoke, VA are here to help you through all types of family law matters. We understand how challenging these times are for you and your family. We offer you our knowledge, experience, and resources so that you can get through this period as smoothly as possible.

To learn more about how a family attorney can help you, contact us at (540) 655-1854 or through our online form.

Virginia Family Law

Many of the statutes related to family matters are found in the Code of Virginia Title 20: Domestic Relations. This title includes chapters on:

  • Chapter 3.1: Proceedings to Determine Parentage
  • Chapter 4.1: Support
  • Chapter 6: Divorce, Affirmation and Annulment
  • Chapter 6.1: Custody and Visitation Arrangements for Minor Children
  • Chapter 8: Premarital Agreement Act
  • Chapter 9: Status of Children of Assisted Conception

Virginia law regarding adoptions can be found in Title 63.2, Subtitle III, Chapters 12 through 14.

The family lawyers with Copenhaver, Ellett & Derrico are extremely knowledgeable regarding Virginia family law, including the nuances and complexities that may arise. We are here to ensure you are well informed regarding the law and your rights when you participate in any type of family legal matter, whether you are seeking to adopt a child or dissolve your marriage. If you have any questions about a current or upcoming family case, do not hesitate to contact us.

We Handle All Types of Family Law Matters

Our family attorneys have seen and handled it all. We are here to help you address whatever issue comes up, whether it is contentious or you and the other parties are on good terms.


It is difficult to decide to end your marriage. However, it is often the right choice for you and your family, particularly if there are children involved. If you wish to file for divorce, or your spouse has or intends to file, call our family law attorneys today.

Virginia divorce law (§20-91) requires you to have grounds for a divorce. The law allows for multiple grounds for divorce, such as adultery. However, you may also seek a divorce based on you and your spouse living separate and apart for one year, or for six months if you two have no children and enter into a property settlement agreement. Such an agreement is a contract between the parties that can be enforced in court, but there is no such thing as court approved legal separation in Virginia. This is the only non-fault basis for a divorce in Virginia.

For a contentious divorce, our family lawyers will prepare you to fight for what you deserve calmly and confidently. We will also work with you to carefully choose your battles. If you and your spouse are on the same page, we can guide you through this legal process smoothly, working with the other side to stay out of court as much as possible.

Additionally, we receive questions regarding annulment, which is different than a divorce. This is only available if your marriage is void or voidable from the very beginning. Essentially, this means a marriage is valid until proven otherwise. There must be grounds for you to have your marriage declared void and annulled, such as if you were a minor at the time you entered into the marriage and you did not have parental consent, or if you found out your spouse was already married. If you can have your marriage annulled, it is as if the marriage never existed.

Child Custody

If you are unmarried and have a child, or you are pursuing a divorce from your child’s other parent, then you need to address the issue of child custody and visitation for your minor children. Virginia Code §20-124.1 – 124.6 pertain to child custody and visitation, which is also called parenting time. You and your child’s other parent have every right to determine a co-parenting arrangement that works best for your family. You may negotiate a plan outside of court or utilize mediation. A judge may also require you to try mediation first, before the judge has to make a decision. If you both cannot agree about appropriate custody and visitation, then it is up to judge to decide. When a judge decides a child custody and visitation schedule, they will do so based on the best interest of the child (§20-124.3).

A family attorney from Copenhaver, Ellett & Derrico is here to help you through any child custody matter, whether you and the other parent agree or disagree on the best course of action. We can guide you through negotiating a plan during mediation or fight for what you believe is right before a judge.

Child Support

When you are not married to your child’s other parent, there is still the matter of child support. All states require both parents to financially support their children. Virginia law gives judges the power to order that support be paid for a child, from one parent to another (§20-124.2(C)). Child support can be required up to a child’s 18th birthday, or in various circumstances, beyond their 18th birthday.

You and your child’s other parent have the right to agree to an amount of child support. However, it must be approved by a judge, because, in the end, it is actually your child’s right. If the judge does not believe the amount is appropriate or you cannot come to an agreement, then the judge will follow Virginia’s child support guidelines to establish an appropriate amount. The guidelines take into account each parent’s income, their support to children from other relationships, daycare expenses, and health care costs.


You may already have a child custody and support order in place, yet circumstances change. Children grow up, and their needs evolve. After having the same parenting plan in place for years, it may be time to revisit the best schedule for your child. If there has been a major change in circumstances for you, your child, or the other parent, you may wish for a significant change to custody. For instance, you may be the non-custodial parent, yet wish to seek full custody. Our family lawyers can help you ask for an adjustment to your child custody order.

Also, there are many reasons why you may need to change your child support order. You may make less than before, or you may know that your child’s other parent’s income has risen significantly. It could also be that your child’s expenses have changed, such as if your child now has more medical expenses than when they were younger. If you wish to ask for more child support, or you would like to see your obligation decrease, call our family law attorneys today.


Adoption involves some specific legal principles, including parental rights, parental or agency consent, and legal approval. To adopt a child, you must be eligible to do so, and the child must be eligible for adoption. This typically means the parents have placed the child up for adoption or their parental rights have been revoked by the state.

Adoption is not a quick endeavor. If you utilize an agency, you may be required to go through an orientation and training program. You must apply and go through a home study during which the adoptive child’s custodial agency assesses your family. Then, it can take weeks or months to be matched with a child that is right for your family, and placement still does not occur quickly. Once your prospective adoptive child has come to live with you, you must go through a post-placement supervision period. Finally, after months of waiting and carry for your child, you file a petition for adoption, asking the court to finalize the relationship.

Certain types of adoptions can move more quickly though, such as private adoptions, which do not involve an agency and step-parent or other familial adoptions.

We Represent Individuals Participating in Family Mediation

Mediation for a family matter such as divorce or child custody is often recommended. You and your spouse or child’s other parent always have the right to pursue an agreement through mediation. During this process, you work together under the guidance of an objective third party to work out a solution to your situation. You can still have your attorneys involved and receive advice when necessary, but you do the talking, not your family lawyer.

However, mediation can also be court ordered in Virginia. Some counties require parents or spouses to try mediation first to spare the court’s time and resources. You may be required to attend at least one session to try and work things out yourselves.

Whether you wish to try mediation or are ordered to do so, we can prepare you for this process. Do not hesitate to contact us with questions regarding mediation and how you can negotiate for a fair outcome.

Our Family Law Attorneys Are Here to Help

Preparing for family court is challenging. You probably have a million questions. What do you do? Where do you go? What does the law say? We are here to address all your concerns regarding your family’s legal matter. We will explain how Virginia law impacts your situation and the potential outcome. We will guide you through initiating a legal case or responding to one filed by your spouse or child’s other parent.

During the case, one of our family lawyers will aggressively pursue your preferred outcome. We will always discuss your options with you, as well as the best and worst case scenarios. While we cannot guarantee a particular result, we have a track record of obtaining fair and advantageous outcomes on behalf of our various family law clients. We work hard to obtain the best possible situation for you and your family.

Contact Copenhaver, Ellet & Derrico Today

Whether you are clearly in the midst of a family legal matter or you believe you are approaching a dilemma that will require a family lawyer, please contact us at Copenhaver, Ellett & Derrico. We want to use our more than 50 years of service and experience to help you and your family.

You can reach us through our online contact form or by calling (540) 655-1854 to schedule a consultation at our Roanoke, Virginia office.