Need a Divorce lawyer? Call Ralph Nichols



Your lawyer’s experience matters when handling complex issues like divorce and child custody.  Attorney Ralph E. Nichols will put his over 25 years legal experience into helping you.


He will provide honest, skillful, aggressive, and dedicated attorney counsel; protecting your rights during divorce or child custody, or planning your estate, wills and trusts

There are several military bases in this area, including NAS Oceana, the Naval Amphibious Base at Little Creek, and Norfolk Naval Shipyard. I have been attorney for many members of the military and their spouses seeking to obtain a military divorce.

Call (757) 548-0232 or use the form below, for a free initial consultation.






1.  Documents.   Gather and copy key documents, verify assets and liabilities, income and expenses, and property deeds.  These will help in divorce / custody settlements

2.  Build Cash Reserves.  If money is co-mingled, open a new separate bank account.  Apply for a credit card with a low introductory interest rate, if  possible.  If one spouse earns much more, the court may award some attorney’s fees in reimbursement, but if not you will be responsible for paying the attorney’s fees, so be prepared.

3.  Sever Credit Ties.  Try your to separate shared credit cards.  If your spouse is an authorized user, then ask the issuer to remove them since you may be held liable for any debt that has run up.  If you are a joint user, you may need to freeze the card. Once you do this, your spouse will be aware of the intent to separate or divorce when the credit card is declined.

4.  Checklist - Separation Under Same Roof.  People often must live together until divorce for economic reasons.  This can be done, but you must maintain a separation under the same roof.  This is harder if there are children, especially while waiting for custody decisions. The following checklist will help you maintain that separation:

  • Establish and maintain an intent to separate - permanently or indefinitely.
  • Separate bedrooms.
  • No romantic or sexual intimacy.
  • Stop wearing wedding rings.
  • Each spouse shops for themselves, prepares own meals; neither shops for the other.
  • If awaiting custody, both can shop for children
  • Do not use other spouse’s food or other purchases.
  • Do not eat meals together (exceptions:  holidays or children’s birthdays).
  • Each spouse is responsible for caring for his or her own space within the home, such as bedroom.
  • Each does own laundry.
  • Establish separate checking accounts.
  • Cease socializing (do not attend parties, movies, etc. together)
  • Do not attend church together.
  • Where there are minor children, even if awaiting custody, interact as parents only where strictly necessary for the children’s well-being; e.g. parents may go together to a meeting with a school official regarding problems of a particular child, but not ride together and sit together at a child’s school play or soccer game.
  • Cease spouse gift-giving for birthdays, Christmas, anniversary, Valentine’s Day, etc.
  • Tell close associates, relatives, etc., that though under the same roof, you are separate within the residence while awaiting divorce / custody hearings.
  • Have a third party come to the home occasionally to observe the two spouses’ separate and distinct living quarters (bedroom, bathrooms, etc.)
  • Utilize separate entrances to residence if feasible.
  • Be prepared to explain reason(s) for effecting separation under same roof (e.g. financial considerations; to ease children’s transition to parental separation, etc.).

5.  Emotions.  Emotions often run very high during divorce / separation.  Hurting people often hurt themselves and others.  Do not tweet, Facebook, e-mail, etc.; this can embarrass you, and also be used in court against you.  Act as if the judge is watching your behavior in relation to your spouse and children.  Try to stay positive.  The process if often tough, but it is the beginning of a new life.



If you are contemplating either marriage or just moving in together, put romance aside long enough to consider the following:

1.  Sharing Costs and Assets.  Make a Cohabitation Agreement.  For example, older partners may own homes and have Investments and other assets; they may also have adult children who are not thrilled about their parents’ living arrangement.  Without an agreement, if the relationship fails, an uncomplicated partnership can turn into a messy legal nightmare.

If one member of the couple owns the house, the Agreement could spell out whether the non-owner will contribute to the mortgage (if there is one) and other home-related costs.  If the non-owner doesn’t contribute, the couple might include language that states that he or she is not obligated to reimburse the heirs for those costs after the owner dies.  This Agreement can also state that if the owner moves into a nursing home, the partner can remain in the home for a designated length of time.

Also, if you and your partner decide to buy a home together, a Cohabitation Agreement could spell out the amount each will contribute to the cost of buying and owning a home.

2.  Preserving Your Benefits.  Divorced spouses are eligible for social security benefits based on their ex-spouses’ earning’s record as long as the marriage lasted for at least ten years.  Many older couples decide they do not want to get married because they don’t want to lose their spouses’ social security benefits.

If you claim a spousal benefit at full retirement age - 66 until the year 2020 - it can be equal to as much as half of what your spouse (or ex-spouse) can collect at his or her full retirement age.  Married or divorced, you should wait until full retirement age to claim the spousal benefit.  While you can start collecting at age 62, you would get only 70% of what you would receive if you held out until age 66.  But, unlike your own benefits, which grow until age 70, spousal ones max out at age 66.

Try to remain on good terms with your ex.  The reason is that it is very hard to calculate when and whether to apply for spousal benefits without having your spouse’s earnings record in hand.  You cannot always get that from Social Security ahead of time.  Make an in-person appointment to try and get these.  The surest way to get the numbers you need is for your ex-spouse to hand them over.

3.  Estate  Planning.  In Virginia, you will need to be very specific as to your intent.  For unmarried couples, making a Will is paramount, especially if they are sharing a home owned by just one member of the couple.  If the homeowner dies without an estate plan, the other member of the couple could be out on the street.

The above considerations, plus others, need to be considered in cohabiting or merging your lives with an unmarried partner.  Call my office if you desire to have a Cohabitation Agreement prepared, or other estate documents.






  • Over 25 years of Legal Experience Serving the Hampton Roads Community
  • 10 Best Family Law Attorneys for Client Satisfaction in Virginia - American Institute of Family Law Attorneys
  • Top 100 Matrimonial and Family Lawyers - The National Advocate
  • Elite Lawyer - The American Registry
  • Martindale-Hubbell 25th Anniversary Bar Member Honoree
  • Former Member of Judiciary (Magistrate)
  • Evaluator - Virginia Judicial Performance Evaluation Program
  • Formerly Practiced with Current Member of Congress
  • Virginia State Bar Member
  • Virginia State Bar Family Law Section Member
  • Virginia Bar Association Member
  • Joint Alternative Dispute Resolution Section Member
  • American Bar Association Member
  • Admitted to Practice Before the Supreme Court of Virginia, United States Court of Appeals of the Fourth Circuit, and all Courts and Administrative Agencies of the Commonwealth.
  • B.A., Virginia Wesleyan College (magna cum laude)
  • M.A., Legal History, University of Virginia
  • Juris Doctor, Mercer University
  • Numerous Academic Awards
  • University of Virginia Faculty Club - The Colonnade Club
  • Corporate Director and Services for Various Corporations
  • Better Business Bureau Accredited Business A+ Rating




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I welcome any comments or requests you may have, please use the form below to contact me.

However, please understand that to avoid possible conflicts of interest, I cannot answer e-mail legal questions.  

For example, conflicting parties could contact me asking for advice in the same dispute.   This would be regarded as a conflict of interest.

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The Law Offices of Ralph E. Nichols are conveniently located at 

638 Independence Parkway, Suite 240

Chesapeake, VA  23320

(In the Greenbrier section of Chesapeake)

 Call or e-mail today for a free initial phone consultation.  

 Call (757) 548-0232

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Disclaimer:  The answers to any questions on this site do not constitute legal advice, nor do they constitute the formation of a client-lawyer relationship, but are provided for general information purposes only and should not be understood as a substitute for personal legal advice. Therefore, until an attorney-client relationship is formed through a Retainer Agreement, visitors’ information may not be kept confidential, or prevent representation of an adverse party.


Practice Areas
Corporate & Business Law
Divorce, Custody & Family Law
Wills, Trusts & Estates

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