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Wednesday, January 7, 2015

An Introduction to the Virginia Court System

     The Virginia Court System is a scary place. Especially when you are dealing with some of the busier areas like Fairfax, Arlington, or Alexandria. It is often hard to tell where you are supposed to be going or who you should be speaking with at the court house for your particular case. Fairfax Court is almost like the New York subway at some hours of the day in terms of the number of people moving around. That is why you need to know the basics of which court handles what, and where you should be focusing when you are handling divorce related issues.

     To begin, it is important to understand who the people are in the court house. Some of the titles you will hear include Judge, Clerk, Sheriff, Bailiff, Guardian ad Litem, and The Commonwealth. The Judge is the person that will be sitting at the bench during your case. The judge, in a divorce case, is primarily there to maintain order and make sure attorneys are following the rules. The clerk is probably your best friend in a divorce case. This is the person you will be speaking to if you need to file anything. Clerk's can offer fantastic guidance on where you should be going and who you should be talking to. Each type of court has their own clerk, and this should be your first stop at the court house.

     Divorce issues are primarily dealt with in two of the three courts in Virginia; Circuit Court and the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court. Each court has their own judges and clerks. The Circuit Court handles the actual divorce itself; whether that is uncontested or contested. You generally file your divorce with the Circuit Court Clerk. Make sure you either have an attorney for this process, or are extremely familiar with the process beforehand.

     The Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court handles all issues related to minor children. Some issues that will appear before the JDR court include custody, visitation, support, and abuse and neglect. This is the court you will want to go to if you wish to change custody or visitation arrangements. The JDR court is what is called a court not of record. Everything the JDR court does is sealed. This is primarily to protect the interests of the child.

    Good luck navigating your local court, and always keep in mind your purpose for being there, and which of these two courts' clerks you should be speaking with.

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