Archives for Family Law

WASHINGTON DC DIVORCE & SEPARATION DURING THE PANDEMIC

It is undisputed that divorce and separation are hard in normal times but with COVID-19 and its prolonged societal effects, the process is even more complicated and difficult. The Courts now only hear and docket emergency family matters but in coming days they will become fully operational accepting divorce filings. During this period though much can be done to prepare for a divorce filing.  For those who are convinced that divorce is both unavoidable and inevitable, here are few logical and legal steps to follow to move closer to DC Divorce filing and finalization: As the DC Statute requires a
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CHILD CUSTODY ISSUES DURING THE PANDEMIC

District of Columbia along with majority of the States has a significant stay home order in place that limits all outdoor activities except those as defined as Essential Activities: Engaging in an activity or performing a task essential to an individual’s own health or safety, or to the health or safety of the individual’s family or household members, including pets.    Examples: Obtaining medical supplies or medication; visiting a health care professional; or obtaining supplies needed to work from home. Obtaining services or supplies for an individual’s own self or the individual’s family or household members; or delivering those services or supplies to others that are necessary to maintain the safety, sanitation, and operation of residences. Performing work providing essential products and services at an Essential Business or otherwise
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CHILD’S PREFERENCE IN CUSTODY LITIGATION: LEGAL ELEMENT

The Court of Appeals in DUGUMA v. AYALEW recently decided addressed the issue of preference of the children in a custody and divorce proceeding among parents. Appellant mother lost the custody trial with the court granting sole physical custody to the father and argued on appeal mainly:  That the trial court abused its discretion in refusing to grant her counsel’s request for a continuance,  That the court erred in failing to interview the children or appoint a guardian ad litem to determine the children’s wishes as to their custody and, That even aside from the absence of evidence as to
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DC PRENUPTIAL AGREEMENTS: FAQ

1) I have no assets or property now to protect or to designate, do I still need a prenuptial agreement? Yes, because not only prenuptial agreements protect assets and property before marriage, certain language can be drafted to protect future assets as potentially non-marital. 2) What are the common items prenuptial agreements protect? Assets and property, inheritance, retirement accounts, trust benefits and distributions,  business and partnership ownership to name a few. 3) How can one insure that the agreements drafted are enforceable? Premarital agreements are not enforceable if: Not voluntarily executed by both parties The agreement was unconscionable The unconscionability
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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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