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Betty Thompson: The Divorce Lawyer that Shaped Virginia

Betty Thompson: The Divorce Lawyer that Shaped VirginiaIn the world of divorce mediation, lawyers traditionally get no love. Often labeled with the stigma of being “liars” and “manipulators,” divorce lawyers often have to play the tough role whenever there is a divorce battle. Having official representatives in the breaking of human relations, which in essences is what divorce lawyers do, can often become convoluted and hotly contested. But recently a prominent and influential divorce lawyer from Virginia past away. Betty Thompson, 88, died on Monday Sept. 24 after suffering an apparent stroke. Ms. Thompson was a well known and successful divorce lawyer who was at the forefront of influencing some of the modern laws in Virginia Divorce courts.

After graduating from George Washington law school in 1948, Ms. Thompson became one of the first women to practice law in the state of Virginia. In 1957, she made a run at a General Assembly position, taking a  staunch stance against segregation. She became highly influential and well known among political leader, which allowed her to gain considerable prominence among those high up in the legal circle.

Specializing in Separation

Where Ms. Thompson really made her name though was in the divorce process. Once dubbed “the queen of divorce,” Thompson started off as a trial lawyer in litigation of both civil and criminal cases. She continued to develop a specialty in domestic relations law. Throughout the 1960’s divorces become more socially acceptable and in higher demand, which proved immensely profitable for Ms. Thompson.

She rose to prominence in a time where divorce and divorce law was in a transition. Cases and litigation about divorce was becoming increasingly more complex. Laws and amendments were quickly changing in Virginia, and Ms. Thompson was at the forefront of helping to “update” the old laws. Up until 1982, Virginia was one of the only remaining states to be classified as a “Title” state, defined as when a spouse had his/her name on the title of a property , they retained the property after a divorce. Virginia courts had no authority to perform equitable distribution (in law this is not necessary what’s “equal,” but what’s fair). Ms. Thompson was instrumental in creating the state legislature.

A Leader and Influencer

From 1995 to 2009, Ms. Thompson chaired the Virginia Bar Association’s family law coalition that advised the General Assembly on legislation related to divorce law. She was outspokenly critical about ephemeral matrimony (“Marriages today are not for keeps — everything’s throwaway”). Ms. Thomson became the first woman to lead the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association and the Arlington County Bar Association, and she helped open such networking groups to women.

Ms. Thompson was truly a pioneer in her profession. Her dedication to her craft, as well as blazing trails among influential women, has left a lasting legacy of success. In a time where divorce has risen to such a common state and the definition of marriage is continuously being defined in courts, Ms. Thompson had some forward-thinking insight on the legal side of marriage.

“When you marry somebody, you mortgage yourself for life,” she said in an interview in 1981. “It’s not like buying a car, where you have to fill out all sorts of forms. Marriage is a totally unwritten contract based solely on ‘I love you’ and there are no warranties. That’s the big myth about marriage. People think they’ve bought a lifetime of security.”

The divorce process can often be an emotionally stressful time for anyone. State specific laws can vary and Virginia  divorce law is no different., Knowing the rules in your specific state can be immensely beneficial to figuring out the facets of your particular divorce. At MyDivorcePapers, our website has complete state-by-state information pertaining to divorce laws. With videos helping you with an overview of your state specific divorce process and easy to understand questionnaire process MyDivorcePapers can help you begin the process immediately. Visit to get started today.

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