Separation and Divorce

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Anne W. Coventry

Nancy G. Fax

Marcia C. Fidis

Brooke I. Hettig

Morriah H. Horani

N. Alfred (Al) Pasternak

Stephanie T. Perry

Linda J. Ravdin

James D. Saintvil

Christina K. Scopin

Micah G. Snitzer

Adam P. Swaim

Alex S. Tanouye

Vicki Viramontes-LaFree

Anne (Jan) W. White

Probate Paralegals

Sharon L. Coop

Anbar A. Hassan

Ann M. Potts

Karen L. Williams


Kadie M. Marks

Marla V. Wolff

Administrative Staff

Mary A. Nelson

Nicole M. Ricketts

Nicole A. Ryder

Michelle G. Singleton

Our family law attorneys are well versed in the division of pensions, retirement plans, and other forms of deferred compensation, including the plans of private sector employers requiring a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO), government plans, military retirement, and the plans of international treaty organizations. We are also experienced in the valuation and division of businesses and professional services practices. Our senior family law attorneys are experienced in the division of executive compensation, such as stock options, restricted stock, executive deferred compensation plans, and other forms of nonqualified retirement benefits. We are knowledgeable about the tax consequences of divorce and separation and can use our tax expertise to craft effective settlements.

We are experienced in resolving disputes about spousal support through negotiated settlements and, when necessary, in trial. In 2010, we won a unanimous result in a landmark alimony case before the highest court of Maryland.

Our family law attorneys are able to draw on the expertise of our estate planning lawyers, several of whom have specialized degrees in taxation, to provide advice on the tax consequences of property settlement agreements and spousal support, as well as on the division of retirement benefits and nonqualified deferred compensation.  They can also assist with structuring marital settlement agreements that include post-death obligations, such as an obligation to maintain life insurance or to create a life insurance trust for a former spouse or a child.



  • Super Lawyers – Top 100 Lawyers (Maryland, 2016-2017)
  • Super Lawyers – Top 50 Women Lawyers; Family Law (Maryland, 2012-2017)
  • Super Lawyers – Top 100 Lawyers (Maryland, 2012-2014, 2017)
  • Best Lawyers – Family Law (Maryland, 2017)
  • Best Lawyers – Collaborative Law: Family Law (Maryland, 2012-2018)
  • Washingtonian – Washington’s Top Divorce Lawyers (2016)
  • Best Lawyers – Lawyer of the Year in Collaborative Law: Family Law (Washington, DC 2016)
  • Super Lawyers – Top 50 Women Lawyers (Maryland, 2016)
  • Super Lawyers – Top 50 Women Lawyers (Washington, DC, 2016)
  • Super Lawyers – Rising Stars – Divorce & Family Law (Maryland, 2013-2016)
  • Washingtonian – Metro Area’s Best Divorce Lawyers (2015)
  • Best Lawyers – Family Law and Family Law & Mediation (Maryland 2015)
  • Bethesda Magazine – Top 25 Divorce Lawyers in Montgomery County (2015)
  • Collaborative Dispute Resolution Professionals, Member of the Year, 2010
  • Awarded best Co-Chair of the Family Law Section of the Bar Association of Montgomery County (2008)
  • Maryland Bar Foundation (Fellow)
  • American Bar Foundation (Fellow)
  • American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (Fellow)
  • Washingtonian – Best Lawyers for Divorce and Family Law
  • Super Lawyers – Top 50 Women Lawyers (Washington, DC, 2017)
  • Best Lawyers – Lawyer of the Year in Collaborative Law: Family Law (Washington, DC, 2016, 2018)
  • Best Lawyers – Family Law (Maryland, 2010-2018)
  • Best Lawyers – Family Law Mediation (Maryland, 2013-2018)
  • Best Lawyers – Family Law Mediation (Maryland, 2016-2018)
  • Best Lawyers – Family Law (Maryland, 2009-2018)
  • Best Lawyers – Family Law (Maryland, 2006-2018)
  • Super Lawyers – Divorce & Family Law (Maryland, 2018)
  • Super Lawyers – Top 50 Women Lawyers; Family Law (Maryland, 2015-2018)
  • Super Lawyers – Divorce & Family Law (Maryland, 2007-2018)
  • Super Lawyers – Top 50 Women Lawyers; Family Law (Washington, DC, 2008-2012)
  • Super Lawyers – Top 50 Women Lawyers; Family Law (Washington, DC, 2016-2017)
  • Super Lawyers – Divorce & Family Law (Maryland, 2008-2018)
  • Super Lawyers – Divorce & Family Law (Maryland, 2008-2017)
  • Super Lawyers – Divorce & Family Law (Washington, DC, 2018)

Blog Posts

January 30, 2018

State Estate and Inheritance Taxes after the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act

The doubling of the federal estate tax exemption under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act has moved many wealthy Americans away from the impact of the federal estate tax.  However, state estate taxes and inheritance taxes remain a factor in estate planning for residents of a number of states, including Maryland and the District of Columbia.  Moreover, a state level estate or inheritance tax may be imposed on real estate located in a state with a tax even when the decedent resides elsewhere.

Currently, only a handful of jurisdictions have an estate tax.  These include the District of Columbia and Maryland as well as Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.  The District of Columbia’s estate tax exemption… MORE >

January 29, 2018

The District of Columbia Death with Dignity Act

The District of Columbia Death with Dignity Act allows an adult D.C. resident who is terminally ill (i.e., medically confirmed to have less than six months to live) to request medication to voluntarily end his or her life.

In order for a patient to participate in the Death with Dignity program, the following requirements must be met:

  • The patient must be capable of communicating health care decisions to health care providers on his or her own; an agent may not make the request on behalf of a patient.
  • The patient must make two oral requests (separated by at least 15 days) and one written request to an attending physician.
  • The written request requires two witnesses, one of whom cannot be a relative, someone entitled… MORE >
October 18, 2017

Changes to Maryland Law Increase Ease, Efficiency, and Consistency in Family Law

The Maryland General Assembly recently took several actions impacting domestic relations that will increase ease, efficiency, and consistency for those navigating the family court system.

Domestic Violence Orders Admissible in Maryland Divorce Suits

Protective orders (a form of domestic violence order) are designed to end and prevent abuse between family or household members.  Current or former spouses, people who have lived together in an intimate relationship for at least 90 days during the past year, people who have been in a sexual relationship within the past year, people who share children together, people who are in a caretaker-vulnerable adult relationship, and family members can file for a protective order 24 hours a day in Maryland.  In a protective order, a judge can order the abuser… MORE >

October 17, 2017

“To my descendants, per stirpes…” (or… How do we pass the Packers’ tickets to our grandkids?)

Years ago, I described to a close friend (let’s call her Cathy) the difference between a division among descendants per stirpes and a division among the same descendants per capita at each generation.  In the midst of my explanation, Cathy suddenly exclaimed, “Oh!  You mean like the Packers’ tickets?”  This was a Eureka! moment; yes, it’s exactly like the Packers’ tickets.

One very important lesson I learned attending college in Wisconsin is that Packers’ tickets are a sacred thing.  The population of Green Bay is 105,000.  After recent expansions, Lambeau Field now seats 81,435, but season tickets are still very hard to come by.  For many, the surest way to get them is to inherit them.

Back in the days of Bart Starr and Vince… MORE >

October 10, 2017

Life Insurance and Divorce – Virginia Legislature Extends Authority of Divorce Courts Over Life Insurance Policies of Spousal Support Obligors

Spousal support is an important element of many divorces.  When couples have been married for a long time, have supported each other’s careers, and have made sacrifices in their own lives in order to provide that support, alimony is often essential to afford former spouses financial security as they rebuild their lives as individuals outside of marriage.

A major concern those receiving support may have is: “what happens if my former spouse dies?” In Maryland, D.C., and Virginia, spousal support obligations terminate upon the death of either party.  When married, life insurance helps to protect people from the financial devastation that can result from losing a spouse.  Divorce can affect life insurance beneficiary designations.  In Virginia, divorce automatically divests a former spouse of any interest… MORE >

June 20, 2017

Premarital Agreements and the Migratory Couple

A premarital agreement is a contract between persons intending to marry.  It determines spousal rights when the marriage ends by death or dissolution.  All states enforce properly made premarital agreements.  However, laws governing validity vary among the states.  What if a couple signs a premarital agreement in Virginia and later moves to Maryland?  Will a Maryland court enforce the agreement even though Maryland law of validity imposes a higher standard than Virginia law?

Contract law permits the premarital agreement to choose the law that will govern a dispute about validity of the agreement or enforceability of a specific provision even when the dispute must be resolved in another state’s courts.  Can the couple rest easy, knowing the law chosen in the contract—Virginia law in the… MORE >

May 26, 2017

On your way to the altar . . ., don’t forget to get married!

The trend in recent years has been toward greater creativity in marriage ceremonies, including locations, vows, and officiants. In personalizing the ceremony, it is important to keep in mind that the legal requirements for marriage are set forth in the laws of each jurisdiction, both as to the qualifications for a person to marry and the legal steps necessary to ensure that the marriage is valid.

Historically, marriage has been subject to the control of state legislatures (in the District of Columbia, the City Council). Statutes set forth the requirements for who is allowed to marry, the required procedure to marry, and the legal effects of marriage.  Spouses who marry in religious or other ceremonies that do not comply with the statutory requirements may be… MORE >

May 25, 2017

Form I-864, the Sponsored-Immigrant Spouse and Death and Divorce

In the modern world it is increasingly common for an American citizen to marry a foreign national. In some situations, the United States citizen spouse or permanent resident may sponsor the other for permanent resident status (often referred to as a “green card” for the color that the physical document was at one time).  The decision to do so can have lasting consequences in the event the marriage ends.

A sponsoring spouse must fill out an Affidavit of Support under Section 213A of the Immigration and Naturalization Act – commonly referred to as a Form I-864. A Form I-864 is a contract between the sponsor and the United States government that requires the sponsor to support the immigrant if the need arises.  Spouses commonly sign… MORE >

May 24, 2017

How Divorce Affects Your Estate Planning Documents

After a divorce, the last thing on most people’s minds is contacting their estate planning attorney. However, if you fail to revise your estate planning documents after your divorce, your former spouse might still be a beneficiary of your estate and may continue to be a fiduciary under your will, revocable trust, power of attorney, or advance health care directive. Below is a table that summarizes how divorce affects these documents under D.C., Maryland, and Virginia law.

D.C. Maryland Virginia Wills Divorce and final property settlement revokes the entire will. If the testator does not execute a new will, or republish his or her old will, he or she will die intestate. Divorce revokes all provisions of a will relating to the former spouse, unless… MORE >

May 10, 2017

P&F Community Service Day at Red Wiggler Farm

The word “service” has special meaning at Pasternak & Fidis – and it applies to community involvement as well as to our clients and to our profession.  In recognition of the firm’s commitment to community service, we closed our offices on May 9th for a day of volunteer work at Red Wiggler Community Farm.  We (gladly) exchanged our briefcases, law books, and business attire for hoes, shovels, and workwear to spend a day outdoors working alongside – and at the direction of – the wonderful, hardworking staff and growers of Red Wiggler, many of whom are disabled members of our community.

Red Wiggler is a working farm located in Germantown, Maryland, which supports youths and adults with and without disabilities with employment and vocational training… MORE >