Restoring Your Rights After a Felony Conviction: A Reward for Staying on the Straight-and-Narrow

A felony conviction, to many people, means more than just a loss of physical freedom through incarceration; it is also a loss of many of the privileges that they have enjoyed, and perhaps taken for granted, since they turned 18 years old. A felony conviction results in the forfeiture of many rights including: the right to vote; hold political office; be a notary public; sit on a jury; and purchase, possess, and transport a firearm. However, these rights can be restored, if a convicted felon turns their life around and “stays on the straight and narrow.”

Virginia Code §53.1-231.2 recognizes that many convicted felons can turn their life around, and thus provides a means for a convicted felon to have their political rights restored. Political rights include the right to vote, hold political office, be a notary public, and sit on a jury. There are several pre-requisites that a person must meet before they may request to have their political rights restored. First, they must not be convicted of a violent felony as it is defined in §19.2-297.1 or §17.1-805(C). Second, they cannot have been convicted of a felony under the following Code sections 18.2-248, 18.2-248.01, 18.2-248.1, 18.2-255, 18.2-255.2 or § 18.2-258.02, or 24.2-1016. Third, five years must have passed since the person completed any sentence he/she had to serve pursuant to the conviction; including all probation parole, and suspended sentence. Fourth, the person must have remained free from any other criminal convictions during the five-year period. And finally, the person must demonstrate civic responsibility through community service.

If a person has met all the pre-requisites as laid out above, then the person can petition the Circuit Court in the jurisdiction where they reside, or the Circuit Court where they were convicted of a felony for restoration of their political rights. If the Petition is approved by the Circuit Court, then the Court transmits the Order to the Secretary of the Commonwealth for the Petition to be approved by the Governor of Virginia. If the Governor approves the Petition, then the political rights have been restored. However, if the Governor denies the Petition, then there is no way to appeal the decision and the political rights will not be restored. The person is permitted to re-file a Petition one year after any denial to try to obtain their political rights.

It is important to note that the restoration of political rights is not a pardon for a felony, nor is it an expungement. Those are both separate proceedings that require separate Petitions apart from Restoration of Political Rights. Having your political rights restored also does not restore your right to possess, carry, or transport a firearm. That also requires a separate Petition.

A person can Petition to have their Firearm Rights restored if their Political Rights have been restored by the Governor of Virginia (as discussed above). If the political rights have been restored, then a person can Petition the Circuit Court in the City or County in which they reside to have their firearm rights restored. The Judge in his/her discretion may then grant or deny the Petition to restore the person’s right to possess, carry, and transport a firearm.

An attorney can help you determine if you are eligible to have your rights restored, provide you with a comprehensive plan to get yourself eligible for restoration in the future, and when the time comes; advocate on your behalf to have your rights restored. Call our office to get the process started.

Ben Rathsam Esqure

Gun Rights Felony Criminal Defense Criminal Law

How GOP Tax Reform Effects Your Divorce

How the GOP’s Sweeping Tax Reform Bill Effects Your Divorce:
Much has been made of the recent tax reform bill that was passed by Congress. No matter which side of the political spectrum you fall on, everyone must adapt and adjust to the new tax bill. One major change to the Tax Code is the removal of the deduction for alimony/spousal support payments.
For 75 years the Tax Code has allowed a deduction for the person making alimony/spousal support payments. This deduction was codified in Section 215 of the Tax Code, which stated that there shall be allowed as a deduction an amount equal to the alimony or separate maintenance or support payments made during an individuals taxable year. Thus, if a person was paying $2,000.00 per month in spousal support, then that person would be able to deduct $24,000.00 from their gross income at the end of the tax year. Obviously, this deduction made giving money to an ex-spouse a little easier to stomach.
That has all changed with the GOP’s recent tax bill. Section 11051 of the new Tax Bill repeals Section 215 of the Tax Code, which allowed for alimony or spousal support payments to be deduction from gross income. Alimony is defined in the Tax Bill as money that is received by a spouse under a decree of divorce or other separation instrument-provided that-the payor spouse and payee spouse are not members of the same household, and there is no obligation of the payor spouse to continue to making payments after the payee spouse dies. Therefore, with the passing of the bill, people who are paying alimony or spousal support will no longer be allowed to deduct the amount that they paid in support during the tax year.
So how does this effect your divorce? Well, the answer put simply is it doesn’t . . . right now. Section 11051 does not take effect until January 1, 2019. Thus, if you are currently paying spousal support to an ex-spouse pursuant to a divorce decree, then you are grandfathered into Section 215 of the Tax Code, and can continue to deduct your spousal support payments in perpetuity. Furthermore, any spousal support that is paid pursuant to a divorce decree entered in 2018 is also grandfathered into Section 215 of the Tax Code. However, that all changes in January of 2019. Any spousal support that is ordered to be paid from a divorce decree that is entered in 2019 will not be deducted from the payor’s income. Thus, if you are currently separated from your spouse, then getting your divorce finalized in 2018 could allow you to deduct thousands of dollars from your gross income if you end up paying monthly spousal support.

By Benjamin Rathsam Esq.

Family Law Taxes Trial law

2017 Year End Review

2017 Review

It has been a long and productive year at the firm. We started last year just settling in to a new building on Forest Road and with a new staff. Wanda also began her part time attorney life; which she seems to enjoy.

Once again we had significant growth. We are humbled and excited that the community is continuing to trust us with life’s major moments. The building seems to have been a good move. Many clients commented on it being easier to find and they like the sign.

Our team this year begins at the front with Bernadette Bracci. She is a legal assistant who handles scheduling and real estate closings along with a thousand small things that keep us rolling.

Next we have Marie Bailey, who has worked  hard as our real estate closer. We added some great new realtors to our client list this year and it is due to Marie and Bernadette’s hard work. She also loves her career and it shows in how she cares for our clients.

Then we have Ben Rathsam, an Associate who focuses on Criminal Defense and Family Law. He had many successful outcomes last year and its is exciting to see his practice develop.

This year we are adding Melissa Ogden to our team of attorneys. She has been working on projects for years but has decided to make it official in January 2018.

As mentioned, Wanda Yoder is part time now. She enjoys the freedom of retirement but has not been able to stop advocating for clients. She is blessed to love what she does.

I had a great year working on some larger cases. I have been blessed with the opportunity to become counsel for several companies. This has allowed me to really dive deep into business law and it has been exciting to see businesses move forward with my help.

We can not go forward in 2018 without recognizing that all our growth and opportunity came directly from relationships. People like you trusting us and referring us to others. Although we are not perfect, we strive for excellence at every turn. We are committed to doing serving ever better in 2018.

Thank you for allowing a trusted spot in this great community.

2016 Review



This post comes at the end of January 2017. I have taken some time this month to review and replay the many events that transpired in the growth of the firm. I spoke with my Partner and my staff and 2016 was an amazing and blessed year. It was a year where many of my annual goals were set aside when we took the opportunity to purchase our first building.

In July 2016 we closed on our new office located at 18264 Forest Road Forest, Virginia 24551. It was a building in a great location that has a terrace level office which we rented out. We had to renovate the entire building inside out. I was able to get it turned around in less than one month, and we moved in September 1 2016. We have received a lot of great feedback on the building and it has been great to know people now see our sign out front.

2016 was bitter sweet in that our staff members saw a lot of personal and professional growth. We had a turnover of half the staff, but finished the year strong and have found our new team; which we feel are going to do great job handling the continued growth we will see in 2017.

2016 was a year of significant growth in cases and clients. We saw an increase in our ability to serve the community and added many new clients. We were extremely fortunate to be voted by our community as Lynchburg’s Best Law Firm in Lynchburg Living Magazine. For that we are very grateful.

In conclusion, from our firm to your families and businesses: Thank You! We are looking forward to serving you in 2017.

JD Fairchild

Great Changes and Great Expectations

This evening I am excited to finally write this post. It has been a long and very hard summer for myself and the staff at the office. We were blessed with the opportunity to purchase a great space on Forest Road, just around the corner from where I spent the last 5 years.

We have only been able to make this investment in the community because of the trust that you have put into our office. We appreciate that you have trusted us and helped us grow to the point where we needed more space.

It was not without its challenges, as we had to remodel the whole building before moving in. It kept us very busy practicing law by day and doing construction by night. I was so proud of how friends, clients and the staff were not afraid to get their hands dirty and help us get the job done. And our awesome clients were patient and encouraging during the process.  For me, it was incredibly humbling to see so many people put in the extra time and talent to make this change.

I also want to say a very public and sincere Thanks to my wife Cyndi and the other spouses who were patient as we worked hard to accomplish the task. We did the purchase and remodel in 30 days.

We still have some small things to wrap up, but all in all, we are getting great feedback on making the move.

We look forward to continuing our service to this great community!




Who Bears Risk of Loss in a Natural Disaster

The answer is it depends. The doctrine of equitable conversion has been well established in Virginia case law and applies the maxim that “equity treats that as done which ought to be done.” In other words, when a buyer and seller of real estate have executed and signed the sales contract, the buyer’s interest is called equitable title. The seller holds the property in trust for the buyer until final closing and the deed has been recorded.
This means that the risk of loss of damage to the property before closing and before recording, falls on the purchaser unless otherwise agreed to in a written agreement. Most sales contracts in Virginia provide that the seller bears the risk of loss with an option to cancel the contract if destruction to the property occurs.
So what happens in the event a natural disaster strikes? Like the tornado that devastated Appomattox, Virginia on February 24, 2016. Under the doctrine of equitable conversion as explained above, the buyer will bear any loss on the property due to destruction or damage until the deed has been recorded and title has been passed to the buyer unless a purchase agreement states otherwise. This is why it is extremely important for purchase agreements to include a risk of loss provision and an option to walk away from the contract should the property be damaged or completely destroyed.
Should a party seek specific performance of the contract even in the event of damage or complete destruction, the courts have decided that specific performance will not be granted where circumstances and conditions of things have been so changed as to work loss and hardship on the party of whom specific performance is sought to be enforced.
The bottom line: make sure a real estate attorney has reviewed the purchase agreement before buyer and seller sign, so as to ensure all necessary provisions are included to protect both parties from unforeseen disaster.
Our office is committed to providing excellent client service as we uphold high professional standards and we seek long term relationships over occasional transactions. Our team strives to meet any challenges presented in the complex navigation of real estate transactions from beginning to end. We look forward to earning your business.

Editors Note: The office of Fairchild & Yoder, PLLC offers its sincere condolences to the families and the community of Appomattox for their loss.

Divorce and Accounting for a Child’s Best Interests

Divorce and Accounting for a Child’s Best Interests

Lindsay R. Horne, Esq.

John was getting ready to go to school. He had just finished his breakfast when his phone buzzed with a text message from his best friend. The text relayed a message to remind John not to forget about the later-than-usual basketball practice that evening-a practice that was very important for John not to miss. John grabbed his backpack from the counter and ran to meet his mother in the car for the ride to school. John told his mother about the practice and that he needed a ride because of the time, however, John’s mother had a business meeting that was scheduled and she would not be able to take him. John’s mother told John that she would contact his father, her soon-to-be ex-husband, to see if he could drop John off at the practice. John’s mother did not attempt the call to John’s father without first making the comments that John’s father probably would not be available, as he is never available to help them when they needed it. John sat in the car silently as his mother made the call to his father. He heard the conversation-that it began somewhat cordially, but ended with an argument between both of his parents. John’s mother finished the conversation with John’s father just as she pulled into the school to drop John off. John, without speaking to his mother and with no resolution regarding his ride to practice, got out of the car and left for his day at school.

Divorce can be hard. Divorce can be especially difficult for those couples who have a child, or children, in common. As the above fictional story illustrates, when divorce tends to be stressful for the adults involved, it may undoubtedly bring stress to their children as well. Some of the last things that divorcing, or divorced, couples should want is for a divorce to negatively impact their children, or for a Court to have to evaluate how a parent’s actions have negatively affected their children.

Clearly, the stress that accompanies some couples involved in the divorce process can manifest itself in many ways: an overall inability of couples to communicate, a tendency for couples to constantly disagree, or even couples getting caught up in heated arguments. These manifestations of course create challenges for the adults involved, but they also can be detrimental to the child(ren) who sometimes, even inadvertently, get caught in the middle. Situations involving these manifestations not only can have negative implications for a child’s development, but Courts may be faced with the task of evaluating these situations in order to make important determinations regarding the children of divorcing couples.

Many times, Courts may be faced with making important determinations regarding children because when couples with children divorce, child custody and child visitation arrangements must be addressed. It is true that sometimes these arrangements may be based on a mutually agreed upon plan, but many other times, these arrangements will be based on a Court’s determination. When Virginia Courts are faced with child custody and child visitation determinations, Courts are bound to consider a set of factors found within the Virginia Code; the Court’s determination hinges largely on what is in a child’s best interests.

The Virginia Code provides a number of factors for a Court to consider in their evaluation of what is in a child’s best interests (while there are in fact multiple factors for a Court’s consideration, for the sake of this article only portions of a few will be highlighted in order to present an illustration to readers). There are several areas within these factors that should be of particular concern for divorcing parents who may not be getting along well with one another. Consider the following:

It is in a child’s best interests for parents to be able to cooperate in and to resolve disputes in matters which affect their child. Is there a soccer practice scheduled during one parent’s time with the child that the parent can’t get the child to due to their work schedule? Is there an important parent conference at the child’s school? Is there a problem with a bill at the pediatrician’s office that needs to be addressed? There are a whole host of issues pertaining to a child that come up. Many times these issues may need the involvement of both parents. Although the parents may be going through a divorce, their child benefits when the parents are able to put their personal differences aside in order to handle the issues involving their child. A child will benefit from seeing their parents working together on issues involving the child. If divorcing parents are getting along very poorly with one another, however, the child is unaware of this, even better yet. Even if at times it may be challenging, divorcing parents should strive to keep their personal issues with one another separate from raising and co-parenting their child.

It is in a child’s best interests for parents to be able to support the child’s contact and relationship with the child’s other parent. Sometimes when parents come to the point of divorce, it may seem challenging for one parent to refrain from using harsh words when discussing the other parent. Even so, it is extremely important that neither parent speak negatively about the other in the presence of their child. Divorcing parents should work to not take actions that would harm the relationship that the child has with either parent. Additionally, with the exception of certain circumstances, a parent should be sure to not unreasonably deny the other parent access to the child.

It is in a child’s best interests for parents to be able to accurately assess and meet emotional, intellectual, and physical needs of their child. Of course, parents always need to be attuned to all of their child’s needs. Divorcing parents should be careful that any personal issues that they may have with one another, that these issues don’t interfere with how alert the parents are to the child’s needs. It can be easy to fall into a slump while going through a difficult divorce, however, it is important to make sure this slump does not blur the parents’ vision when it comes to being able to see what the child needs.

Again, divorce can certainly be a trying time for some. Couples with children may even face additional challenges when it comes to divorcing. However, divorcing parents could certainly do their children, and themselves, some good by working to put personal problems aside when they are dealing with matters of their children in common. Although at times it may seem difficult, a willingness of divorcing couples to cooperate with one another regarding their children, a willingness to co-parent, and a willingness to do nothing to jeopardize the child’s relationship with the other parent, greatly benefits children of divorce; these actions are in a child’s best interests. Not only are these actions beneficial for the children, they also help to give Courts a glimpse into how divorcing parents are able to work together in matters involving their children. In closing, consider how parental decisions accounting for a child’s best interests change the story presented at the beginning of this article.

John was getting ready to go to school. He had just finished his breakfast when his phone buzzed with a text message from his best friend. The text relayed a message to remind John not to forget about the later-than-usual basketball practice that evening-a practice that was very important for John not to miss. John grabbed his backpack from the counter and ran to meet his mother in the car for the ride to school. John told his mother about the practice and that he needed a ride to because of the time, however, John’s mother had a business meeting that was scheduled and she would not be able to take him. John’s mother told John that she would contact his father, her soon-to-be ex-husband, to see if he could drop John off at the practice. John’s father was very busy at work when the call came in, but he assumed the call may involve an important issue with John, so he stepped outside and answered his phone. John’s parents talked calmly and politely for a few minutes. John’s father stated that he was very busy at work that day, but he thought he could finish up things that were necessary and that he should be available to take John to practice, and if not, he would let John’s mother know well before practice time. John’s parents agreed that this arrangement would work out, and they both hung up their phones. John’s mother explained to John what the plan was, John took this plan as acceptable, and told his mother that he would be in touch with her and his father after school to finalize the details. John got out of the car, told his mother goodbye, and left for his day at school.

* Lindsay R. Horne, Esq. is an Associate with the Law Office of Fairchild & Yoder, PLLC, located in Lynchburg, Virginia.

*This article is for informational purposes only and it is not a substitute for legal advice.



We at the firm want to thank you for entrusting us with the opportunity to form your trust in 2015. The most common follow up question of our trust clients, is always how to fund the trust. I am submitting this article to you as a thank you and a reminder about the importance of funding your trust.

We often receive our clients through referrals from financial advisors and bankers. After the trust is completed our office advises the client to return to the advisor to change the beneficiaries to the Trustee of the named trust signed on the date the trust was endorsed. Often the financial advisor will be able to change beneficiaries through their software.

Another key player is the client’s accountant or tax advisor. The accountant should advise on the particular tax consequences of certain assets being transferred to the trust. They should be aware of what is in the trust because they will need to file a tax return for the trust as it earns income over the years.

We encourage our clients to check with their tax advisor to gain an understanding of the tax consequences of a transfer to the trust. IRA’s and 401K’s have issues with what to do with the income from those investments and how to handle the mandatory payouts when trustees reach certain ages. Some of the payouts are affected by the age of other beneficiaries in the trust.


Funding the trust involves changing the beneficiaries of certain accounts to ensure the trust is the beneficiary. Funding the trust often requires attorneys to re-title real property through a deed so that it is owned by the trust. The trust also has an exhibit that should list all the accounts, real property, and any untitled property that is to be owned by the trust.

For younger clients relying on life insurance as a bulk of their trust assets, it is imperative to ensure that the beneficiary of the life insurance is the trust.

Be sure to also check your pay on death accounts and transfer on death accounts to ensure that the trust is beneficiary. If you have checking accounts that are jointly held, that money will go to the person who is the joint owner by operation of law.

Our firm often re-deeds property that the grantors want the trust to hold. If you desire to hold property in the trust it should be deeded to the trust.

Our firm creates a will that corresponds to the trust. In that will we provide that a document can be hand written and signed by the testator to distribute tangible personal property that is not titled. However, if there is an item or multiple items that are expensive and will subject the estate to probate, we encourage the owner to write that the item is to be put in trust. We also encourage the trustee to list said properties in the appropriate trust exhibit. This will ensure that it passes to beneficiaries outside probate and will be distributed according to your wishes described in the trust document.

In conclusion, it takes time, forethought, and strategy to ensure you have properly titled and designated your assets to ensure they are in fact held in trust. Your attorney, financial advisor, and accountant are willing and able to get the assets titled correctly. You are not taking full advantage of the trust until it is funded. Make it your goal in 2016 to update and fully fund your trust.

God speed,

JD Fairchild Esq.

“My Daughter’s Sorry Husband”


How many times do you hear parents wax poetic about their children’s spouses. It goes both ways, of course. No one is good enough for MY little girl. However, our children grow and marry and have children and have to manage their own affairs.

We watch and counsel and bear with our children as they learn and grow. We observe how they run their family and their finances. In the back of our minds, though, we are hoping to see that they will be fiscally responsible and not need to rely on us. We loan money to them and we try and show them how to budget. All the while, our nest egg grows.

What are we to do when our children or their spouses prove over time that a large inheritance will not only be wasted but may actually harm our children’s relationships and financial well being? How do we leave them wealth with confidence that it will be put to good use?

Estate planning Attorneys hold the tool to enable you to use your wealth for the well being of your children and grandchildren long after your passing. This tool, when used properly protects the earning potential of your wealth and remains separate property in the event of divorce. With proper planning, this tool allows your children access when needed, or for life’s special occasions, but limits abuse and mismanagement by your children.

By know, the reader is probably thinking that I am describing a trust. And the reader is correct. The opening of this article had the purpose of reminding us that our children, even as adults, need us. Some of our children can not be left to themselves when it comes to money. This truth transcends how much wealth we have. Some of us have great children who are simply not great with money. Even smaller amounts of money can be protected and grown to be used for the benefit of our children.

For example, let’s assume that after you have exhausted most of your nest egg and reduced your life insurance you will leave only $50,000.00 to your children. You know that your children make less than this per year, and they struggle every month to pay the car payment and light bill. A trust that invested this amount and earned just 5% year would equate to a little over $208.00 per month. This would pay the light bill of most homes for most of the year forever.

This same $50,000.00 trust could also have provisions to pay deductibles for insurance and co-pays for Doctor visits. Although $200.00 a month plus co pays do not seem like much, they are exactly what young struggling families deal with on a regular basis. But, do our children think of the light bill or the co-pays when the executor hands them a $50,000.00 check?