Archives for Family Law

WEIGHTY CONSIDERATION IN COMPETING ADOPTION CASES: RECENT COURT OF APPEALS DECISION

The Court of Appeals in IN RE PETITION OF J.B.S. & V.S.S.; IN RE PETITION OF R.H., decided on September 10, 2020, reversed the lower court giving “weighty consideration” to parental choice in a competing adoption litigation. Generally, the weighty consideration doctrine requires a court deciding between competing adoption petitions to grant the petition that the child’s biological parent favors unless the court finds “by clear and convincing evidence that the parent’s choice of custodian is clearly contrary to the child’s best interest. That is, the weighty consideration establishes a strong presumption that the parent’s preference is in the child’s
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DC CIVIL PROTECTION ORDER VIOLATION: HEARSAY EVIDENCE

In Holman v. D.C., the Court of Appeals determined whether missed calls on a cell phone violated a no contact provision of a Civil Protection Order (“CPO).” The trial court there had ruled that the appellant violated the CPO voluntarily and on purpose, and not by mistake or accident, in two respects: By coming within 100 feet of petitioner and her home, and By contacting the petitioner via telephone marked as missed calls. Appellant filed a timely appeal challenging only the conviction on the second count, the trial court’s admission of Officer Davis’s evidence of the missed calls over his hearsay
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ENFORCEABILITY OF THE DC DIVORCE SETTLEMENT AGREEMENTS

The Court of Appeals in Dufy v. Dufy, addressed and analyzed to certain extent the enforceability of a Divorce Settlement Agreement and in particular the child support provision. Appellant there had challenged the trial court’s enforcement of the parties’ separation agreement as part of its Judgment of Absolute Divorce, and both the trial court as well as the appellate review established that the agreement was complete and unambiguous on its face, and that the parties had demonstrated an intention to be bound by it. Thus, the trial court had found that the agreement was an enforceable contract. Generally, courts encourage
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DC PRENUPTIAL AGREEMENTS: RETIREMENT ACCOUNTS: ERISA

The Court of Appeals in Critchell v. Critchell addressed to what extent the federal law and regulation would impact the State contract law pertaining to prenuptial agreements. In a dispute over distribution of husband’s pension fund, the trial judge in the case had ruled that the ERISA pre-empted the District of Columbia’s marital property law and ordered an equal distribution of the husband’s pension fund. The Court of Appeals disagreed. The prenuptial agreement between the parties had a clause specifically addressing retirement accounts in a broad language, specifically the clause stated: Each party shall, during his or her lifetime, keep
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LEGAL STANDARD TO EXTEND A CIVIL PROTECTION ORDER: RECENT COURT OF APPEALS CASE

The Court of Appeals in RAMIREZ v. SALVATERRA, decided on July 23, 2020, assessed, analyzed and further provided legal guidelines for extending a Civil Protection Order (CPO) for more than a year. As a summary, the Intrafamily Offenses Act codified in D.C. Code §§ 16-1001–1006, created a civil mechanism for addressing violence within families, that is, an imaginative and progressive system that was designed to promote prevention and treatment over punishment.  As such, the DC Courts have a wider range of dispositional powers than criminal courts to issue CPOs that enjoin future actions and provide for counseling and mental health
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GRANT OF ATTORNEY’S FEES IN DC DIVORCE ACTION — DECONSTRUCTED

The DC Court of Appeals in McClintic v. McClintic, addressed and analyzed in details when it is appropriate for the trial court in divorce litigation to award attorney’s fees. Factually, parties unable to settle after more than a year and extensive mediation proceeded to trial with the trial court ultimately granting the divorce, dividing the marital property, and awarding the couple joint legal and physical custody of their three children. Subsequently, both parties sought to recover attorney’s fees, each arguing that the other had made the litigation burdensome and oppressive. Mrs. McClintic argued that Mr. McClintic’s systemically and throughout the
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DC DIVORCE RESIDENCY REQUIRMENTS

Before an action for divorce in the District can be filed, the residency requirements must be met.  Generally, the DC Court will have jurisdiction to hearing the matter if the following criteria are met: Specifically, no action for divorce or legal separation shall be maintainable unless one of the parties to the marriage has been a bona fide resident of the District of Columbia for at least 6 months next preceding the commencement of the action. However, an action for divorce or legal separation by persons of the same gender, even if neither party to the marriage is a bona
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DC DIVORCE NOTICE OF APPEAL & APPELLATE PROCEDURE

The Court of Appeals on June 18, 2020, denied and dismissed notice of appeal from a final decree and judgment of divorce in Deloatch v. Deloatch as filed untimely. Procedurally, the trial court had issued a judgment of absolute divorce settling various claims between Dwight G. Deloatch and his former wife, Robin Sessoms-Deloatch, in May 2015 and had denied motion to vacate the judgment on March 30, 2016. Subsequently in January 2020, Mr. Deloatch filed an appeal from the underlying judgment. The Court of Appeals issued an order directing him to show cause why the appeal should not be dismissed
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PRENUPTIAL AGREEMENTS, INHERITANCE & ESTATE PLANNING:

The premarital agreements if properly executed and carefully crafted and detailed, can essentially override the statutorily granted inheritance rights by the State.  A significant and an advantageous legal strategy rarely used. Generally, a surviving spouse is entitled to what the spouse’s will or last testament directs and provides. However, under the DC Statute, the surviving spouse may elect to forego the will and select Statutory rights.   That is, the surviving spouse may elect to renunciate the will by specifically stating and filing with probate that: I surviving spouse or surviving domestic partner of late of, deceased, renounce and quit all
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VOLUNTARY RELINQUISHMENT OF PARENTAL RIGHTS & DC CHILD SUPPORT OBLIGATIONS

Although the District provides statutory provisions as listed below for voluntary relinquishment of parental rights, in most cases, such does not subrogate child support obligations. There are generally two ways for parental rights to be terminated or relinquished, either by the application of the two listed provisions below, which together allow a natural parent to voluntary relinquish rights to the Child and Family Services (CFSA), or via a court order terminating parental rights. § 4–1451.05. Parental rights § 4–1406. Parental rights; termination or relinquishment; vesting in agencies or Mayor; exercise in adoption proceedings. Voluntary relinquishment generally applies to a newborn
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