Archives for Family Law

LEGAL CRITERIA FOR PENDENTE LITE ALIMONY

DC Code § 16–911, titled Pendente lite relief, allows for filing of a petition for support during the pendency of: A legal separation, Divorce; or The termination of a domestic partnership In such cases, the court may require one party after holding a hearing to make payment of: A pendente lite alimony, or Child support Health insurance coverage or Suit money, including counsel fees. The Court generally considers the same factors in awarding alimony to dispense Pendente lite alimony and support, that is: Ability of the party seeking alimony to be wholly or partly self-supporting; Time necessary for the party
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SAME SEX COMMON LAW MARRIAGE AND PERSONAL JURISDICTION

The DC Court of Appeals in Spellman v. Kelly, decided in July 2016, while addressing personal jurisdiction validated in essence validity of a common law marriage claim. Factually, Mr. Spellman and Mr. Kelly, who both lived in the District, met in 1988 and began dating.  On or about 1998, the two decided to live together and to hold themselves out as partners. Kelly also owned a home in Delaware, where he and Spellman stayed on the weekends and over the holidays.  After Kelly retired in 2006, he began spending more of his time at his Delaware home although continued consulting
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WAIVER OF RETIREMENT ACCOUNTS: ENFORCEMENT OF POST NUPTIAL AGREEMENT: DC DIVORCE

The Court of Appeals in Oshinaike v. Oshinaike, addressed spousal claim on a retirement account where there existed already a post martial agreement on that very subject. Specifically, on appeal Marcia Oshinaike sought review of the trial court’s ruling that her former husband (Solomon Oshinaike), did not expressly waive his rights with respect to her foreign service retirement benefits and thus was entitled to portions of that retirement benefit. Oshinaikes were married in 1989. After Ms. Oshinaike joined the State Department as a Foreign Service officer parties executed a post marital agreement expressly stating that: Mr. Oshinaike waives all rights
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CHILD CUSTODY ORDER CHANGE DURING CIVIL CONTEMPT HEARING: RECENT COURT OF APPEALS DECISION

The Court of Appeals in Cheek v. Edwards decided on September 5, 2019, reversed and remanded a change of custody order in the midst of a civil contempt hearing. After holding a custody hearing, the trial court had decided and ordered shared physical and legal custody among parents even after considering the allegation of domestic violence.  But before issuance of a final order, the mother-Edwards filed a civil contempt motion alleging that the father had violated the order against not assault, stalking and harassment in being arrested for domestic violence and assault against her. The trial court while addressing the
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RECOVERING ATTORNEY FEES IN FAMILY CASES: RECENT COURT OF APPEALS DECISION

The Court of Appeals in Khawam v. Wolfe decided on August 22, 2019, delineated all legal theories available to recover attorney’s fees in a child custody and by extension in relating family matters. Here, Wolfe moved to recover attorney’s fees ($700K) against Khawam for a rather protracted and vexatious litigation and under three theories: Common law theory of “necessaries” which permits an award of attorney’s fees in a child-custody case if the court finds that engaging an attorney was necessary to protect the interests of the child; The “bad faith” exception which permits recovering fees against a party who has
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ADMISSIBILITY OF AN OUT OF COURT STATEMENT IN TRIAL: HEARSAY EXCEPTIONS

In both criminal trials as well as the civil cases often the outcome hinges on a witness statement that is hearsay (out of court statement) but admissible under one of the exceptions. The Court of Appeals in Sims v. U.S., decided on August 15, 2019, expanded and explained in details the admissibility of the “present sense impression” exception to the hearsay rule. Sims was convicted of murder at trial and a significant corroborating evidence was introduced through the present sense impression statement/exception to the hearsay rule. One of witnesses at trial testified that he arrived to the scene shortly after
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LEGAL ELEMENTS FOR CHILD’S NAME CHANGE PETITION AFTER DC DIVORCE

The Court of Appeals in Melbourne v. Taylor[1], analyzed and opined on the legal standard for a parent to change the child’s name after separation and divorce. The general legal standard for a name change petition by either parents after separation or divorce is the best interests of the child criteria as listed in defined in the legal custody statute § 16-831: The child’s need for continuity of care and caretakers, and for timely integration into a stable and permanent home, taking into account the differences in the development and the concept of time of children of different ages; The
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APPELLATE PROCESS IN THE FAMILY CASES

In most family cases, the litigation does not and should not end by the Associate Judge or the Magistrate Judge’s final ruling. As these cases are not jury demandable, often times the assigned Judge may issue multiple rulings, including final decree of divorce, division of property, alimony and child support as well as the physical and legal custody of the children.  Significant and life altering decisions and all by a single Judge who may be subjectively objective. And although most family judges are experienced, fair and equitable in dispensing decisions well supported in fact and law – there are cases
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DC CHILD SUPPORT & STATUTE OF LIMITATION

The Court of Appeals in Massey v. Massey, decided on June 20, 2019, highlighted statute of limitation on child support payments. Massey who owed over several thousand dollars of arrears in child support had petitioned the court for his support payment to be erased relying on the “Debt Statute of Limitations”. The Court of Appeal affirming the lower court decision ruled that essentially the debt of child support in arrears would be erased after the twelve year statutory period from the last payments due. Specifically, support payments constitute judgment debts as each installment becomes due and payable.  As such, the
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ESTABLISHING PATERNITY: PRESUMPTIONS AND CHALLENGES TO PATERNITY

In order to either file or move to establish child custody or child support, first parentage has to be established. There are several ways in which the court can make a parentage determination as outlined below. Presumption of Paternity In the District, father-child paternity is presumptive under the following circumstances: If the putative father and the child’s mother are married, or in a domestic partnership either at the time of conception or birth, or between conception and birth, and the child is born during the marriage or domestic partnership. If prior to the birth of the child, the putative father
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