Archives for Family Law

DISSIPATED AND SPENT MARTIAL PROPERTY STILL SUBJECT TO EQUITABLE DISTRIBUTION OF ASSETS

The Court of Appeals in Herron v. Johnson, expounded on the equitable distribution of marital property that has been dissipated. Dissipation of martial property is generally defined as where one spouse uses marital property for his own benefit and for a purpose unrelated to the marriage at a time when the marriage is undergoing an irreconcilable breakdown. Here, the trial court had determined that the pension funds accumulated during the marriage and used by one spouse and spent and dissipated during the marriage is no longer a property for the court to factor in with regards to the equitable distribution
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EQUITABLE DISTRIBUTION OF PROPERTY AFTER SEPARATION: WASHINGTON DC DIVORCE

The DC Court of Appeals in Gail v. Sherman, specifically addressed division of property created after separation and the formula used by the court to equitably distribute such property. Sherman had appealed the trial court decision granting her a sum of $40,000 for her equitable portion of the value of AutoBody that her husband Sherman had created after the couple had separated. Factually, parties had a business jointly owned and operated during their marriage called FuelLine and after separation both had agreed and via an agreement to bring that business to closure.   Sherman thereafter started a new similar business referred
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DIVISION OF PROPERTY AND RESIDENCY REQUIREMENT: DC DIVORCE

The DC Court of Appeals in ABULQASIM v. MAHMOUD, reviewed the lower court decision pertaining to appellant’s claim that the trial court: Lacked subject-matter jurisdiction over the matter because neither party had been a bona fide resident of the District of Columbia for at least six months prior to appellant’s filing of the divorce action; Abused discretion in admitting hearsay testimony regarding an email, not introduced into evidence, that alleged appellant was having an extramarital affair; and Erred in including a number of items appellant asserts were his separate property in the distribution of marital property. Factually, appellant Abulqsim sought
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WASHINGTON DC DIVORCE-CUSTODY-NEGLECT STATUTES; DC COURT OF APPEALS

The Court of Appeals in T.S. v. M.C.S., provided a unique interplay between the Washington DC Divorce, Custody and the Neglect Statutes. The mother T.S., appealed an order entered in a divorce proceeding permanently removing her two children from her custody and awarding permanent custody to the children’s maternal grandmother. The mother essentially claimed that the trial judge exceeded her authority under the District’s divorce statute by overlooking the biological parents and placing the children’s custody in a third-party grandmother. Procedurally, the father had filed for separation and eventually divorce while also alleging failure to protect by the mother and
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VALIDITY OF THE PRENUPTIAL AGREEMENTS

The Court of Appeals in Burtoff v. Burtoff, still remains instructional as to how the Court would scrutinize validity of a prenuptial agreement in litigation. There, Mrs. Burtoff challenged the validity of the prenuptial agreement particularity provisions pertaining to spousal support in an event of separation and divorce. The Court again iterated that prenuptial agreements are generally considered contracts with their enforcement taking on the same criteria as other contracts but with a higher degree of scrutiny to ensure fairness, and balance. Specifically, the Court expounded in holding such contracts valid that with divorce such a commonplace fact of life,
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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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