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Separation and Divorce

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Attorneys

Roxy Araghi

Anne W. Coventry

Oren Goldberg

Stephanie Perry

Linda J. Ravdin

Christina K. Scopin

Micah G. Snitzer

Adam P. Swaim

Vicki Viramontes-LaFree

Anne (Jan) W. White

Probate Paralegals

Sharon L. Coop

Anbar A. Hassan

Bettina Ristau

Karen L. Williams

Marla V. Wolff

Family Law Paralegals

Cassandra E. Murphy

Administrative Staff

Mary A. Nelson

Nicole A. Ryder

Kimberly Young

The Divorce and Family Law lawyers at Pasternak & Fidis, P.C. have two goals:  to represent our clients effectively at the negotiating table, and, if necessary, in court, while bringing calm, order, and sensitivity to an emotionally charged situation.  We combine zealous representation with a dignified, systematic approach.  That’s what makes our family law attorneys so effective.

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 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 and child support, including determination of income and evaluation of resources available for post-divorce family support.

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 help our clients minimize the financial, tax, and business repercussions of separation and divorce or dissolution of a domestic partnership.  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 trust for a former spouse or a child.

Our services include:

  • Counseling and planning before marriage, cohabitation, separation, or divorce;
  • Preparing and reviewing premarital agreements as well as postmarital agreements, working with our estates and trusts professionals to ensure that both divorce and estate planning issues are properly addressed;
  • Preparing and reviewing domestic partnership agreements and joint real estate ownership agreements;
  • Negotiating property, custody, and support settlement agreements using collaborative law as well as traditional negotiation;
  • Resolving disputes over the validity and interpretation of premarital agreements, postmarital agreements and marital settlement agreements;
  • Resolving disputes over family businesses and professional practices;
  • Dividing retirement benefits and deferred compensation plans at divorce, including private sector, governmental, and international organization plans, for our clients and for other attorneys, including preparation of qualified domestic relations orders (QDROs);
  • Tax advice and tax planning for separated and divorced clients as well as clients who are dissolving a domestic partnership;
  • Working with parents and mental health professionals to develop workable parenting and child access plans;
  • Representing clients involved in the dissolution of registered as well as contractual domestic partnerships, custody, and support matters, and division of property;
  • Enforcing court orders and marital contracts;
  • Representing third parties subpoenaed to provide evidence in a divorce or other family law case.

Publications

Recognition

  • Super Lawyers – Divorce & Family Law (Maryland and DC, 2008-2021); Top 50 Women Attorneys (Maryland, 2015-21); Top 50 Women Attorneys (DC, 2016-17); Top 100 Lawyers (Maryland, 2016-17, 2020-21)
  • Super Lawyers – Top 50 Women Lawyers; Family Law (Maryland, 2012-2019)
  • Super Lawyers – Top 100 Lawyers (Maryland, 2012-2014, 2017)
  • Best Lawyers – Family Law (Maryland, 2017)
  • Best Lawyers – Collaborative Law: Family Law (Maryland, 2012-2021)
  • Washingtonian – Washington’s Top Divorce Lawyers (2004, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2015, 2017, 2018, 2020)
  • 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 and DC, 2013-2016)
  • Washingtonian – Metro Area’s Best Divorce Lawyers (2017, 2018)
  • Best Lawyers – Family Law and Family Law & Mediation (Maryland 2015)
  • Bethesda Magazine – Top 25 Divorce Lawyers in the Bethesda Area (2017)
  • 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 – Washington’s Top Divorce Lawyers (2013, 2015, 2017, 2018, 2020)
  • Super Lawyers – Top 50 Women Lawyers (Washington, DC, 2017)
  • Best Lawyers – Lawyer of the Year in Collaborative Law: Family Law (Washington, DC, 2016, 2018, 2020)
  • Best Lawyers – Family Law (Maryland, 2010-2021)
  • Best Lawyers – Family Law Mediation (Maryland, 2013-2021)
  • Best Lawyers – Family Law Mediation (Maryland, 2016-2021)
  • Best Lawyers – Family Law (Maryland, 2009-2021)
  • Best Lawyers – Family Law (Maryland, 2006-2021)
  • Super Lawyers – Divorce & Family Law (Maryland, 2018-2019)
  • Super Lawyers – Top 50 Women Lawyers; Family Law (Maryland, 2015-2019)
  • Super Lawyers – Divorce & Family Law (Maryland and DC, 2007-2021); Top 100 Attorneys in Maryland (2019-20); Top 25 Women Attorneys in Maryland (2010-12); Top 50 Women Attorneys in Maryland (2012-20); Top 50 Women Attorneys in DC (2008-12)
  • 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, 2008-2019)
  • Super Lawyers – Divorce & Family Law (Washington, DC, 2018)

Blog Posts

October 7, 2021

The Uniform Cohabitants’ Economic Remedies Act and Cohabitation Agreements

In July 2021, at its annual meeting, the Uniform Law Commission adopted the Uniform Cohabitants’ Economic Remedies Act (UCERA). Cohabitants already have the right to enter into a written or oral contract under general contract law principles. If enacted, UCERA would create statutory recognition of these rights and would expand the bases for cohabitant property claims.

UCERA has not been adopted, or even considered, by the legislatures of Maryland, Virginia, or the District of Columbia. It seems unlikely that it ever will. However, it addresses a problem that will continue to exist when two people live together, acquire property, make promises to each other about sharing assets upon death or dissolution, or when one party believes they have done so.  Whether UCERA is ever adopted,… MORE >

October 7, 2021

COVID-19 and the Rise of Electronic Signatures

Since early 2020, fewer face-to-face transactions have been possible because of mandatory social distancing. These restrictions changed the way lawyers and clients handled contracts and other business and personal transactions. The remote work environment reduced ink-to-paper signatures and increased the use of electronic signatures for contracts. Parties to a contract use the click of a button, sign on an electronic notepad, add their signature to the end of an email, or upload a picture of their signature to software. This development has led to questions about authenticity, validity, and enforcement of contracts.

Although an oral contract can be valid, with some exceptions, most contracting parties prefer a written agreement with signatures. In the family law area, a premarital agreement must be in writing and signed… MORE >

October 7, 2021

Avoiding Probate with the Right Plan

Often, when meeting with a client to discuss their estate planning, one of the first questions is, “How can I avoid probate?” Probate can be a source of anxiety for clients who want to avoid imposing on their loved ones what they envision as a long list of cumbersome tasks after their death.

Probate is the process by which a decedent’s will is carried out and, depending on the nature of the assets involved, requires varying levels of court involvement. Typically, probate assets are those assets a decedent owned in his or her sole name that do not go to a designated beneficiary. The probate court appoints the personal representative of the decedent’s estate, and monitors payment of the decedent’s debts, compliance with mandatory notification… MORE >

July 6, 2021

Virginia Adopts the Uniform Collaborative Law Act

Virginia has joined Maryland and D.C. in passing the Uniform Collaborative Law Act (the UCLA).  The Virginia UCLA will apply to all Virginia family law Collaborative cases starting July 1, 2021.  Begun in 1990 as a newcomer to the array of Alternative Dispute Resolution options, Collaborative Law was introduced in the DMV area in 2005 and has become a popular choice for couples who prefer an out-of-court process to settle their divorce and family law issues.  Collaboratively trained family law attorneys, including those in our firm, welcome the adoption of this Act.

May 26, 2021

Lifestyle Analysis in Divorce

In some divorces, the family law attorney may have concerns about an opposing spouse who is not forthcoming about income or the existence and value of assets.  In some cases, the attorney may need to use cash flow to establish the couple’s marital standard of living.  This article addresses these issues, highlighting a book by Tracy Coenen, Lifestyle Analysis in Divorce Cases: Investigating Spending and Finding Hidden Income and Assets, Second Edition (American Bar Association 2020).

What is a Lifestyle Analysis?

Coenen defines lifestyle analysis as the “process of tabulating and analyzing the income and expenses of the parties.”  This analysis includes tracking missing documents, identifying regular and one-time family expenses, tracing cash flow, calculating gross and after-tax income and projecting future income and expenses…. MORE >

May 20, 2021

Is Your Estate Plan Consistent with the Terms of Your Premarital Agreement?

A premarital agreement addresses a couple’s rights and obligations to one another when their marriage ends by divorce or death.  A recent Virginia Circuit Court case, In re: Algabi v. Dagvadorj, et al., highlights the importance of ensuring that a decedent’s estate plan is consistent with the terms of his or her premarital agreement; or, in the case where a decedent intends to depart from the terms of his or her premarital agreement, the importance of making this intent clear in the testamentary document.  In Algabi v. Dagvadorj, the parties executed a premarital agreement in which they each waived all claims to the other’s estate at death.  After the parties were married, husband executed a will under which he arguably intended to leave a share… MORE >

May 18, 2021

The Secure Act: Elimination of the Stretch Option for Certain Beneficiaries of Inherited Retirement Assets

The Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act (the “SECURE Act”) took effect January 1, 2020, revising federal rules that govern the administration of qualified retirement plans (e.g., 401(k) and 403(b) plans) and IRAs.  Among the changes effected by the new law is the shrinking of the class of beneficiaries who can stretch out their required minimum distributions (RMDs) from such accounts over their expected lifetime.  This stretch of RMDs was a tax benefit, because it allowed the beneficiary to defer income tax, keeping assets in the tax-favored vehicle as long as possible, where they could grow without diminishment; it is only upon distribution that the assets would be subject to income tax.

The SECURE Act imposes a maximum 10-year payout rule for retirement accounts… MORE >

November 12, 2020

Premarital Agreements and the Gray Divorce

With boomers living longer and marrying multiple times, the argument for premarital agreements for these couples is compelling. A premarital agreement defines the property rights of the parties when the marriage ends at death or divorce. Not all marriages between mature people will last until death.

Property Rights at Dissolution. A premarital agreement will typically provide for each party to retain exclusive rights to existing assets and assets acquired during the marriage by gift or inheritance. Parties must decide whether they want a title-controls type of agreement, so that each retains exclusive rights to all property he or she owns, or whether they want to share the fruits of their labor. When both parties have substantial assets and both are still working, with the ability… MORE >

November 10, 2020

Raising the Bar for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Having served for 10 years on the Council for the Estate and Trust Law Section of the Maryland State Bar Association, I became Chair at the end of June. It is both an honor and a privilege to serve, and it is not lost on me that my term takes place during a worldwide health crisis that has disrupted how we work, and at a time of public and private reckoning with what a history of unjust choices has wrought in our communities.

As to the latter, my goal is to focus this year on concerted efforts to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion in the Section and on the Council. Our first step, unanimously adopted at our June meeting, was to expand by 10 the… MORE >

November 9, 2020

Maintaining the Effectiveness of Your Estate Plan: Is Your Plan Up to Date?

One question that clients frequently ask is “How often should we review our estate planning?” Although a comprehensive estate plan should not require frequent, extensive review, we recommend regular, periodic reviews of your core estate planning documents (will, revocable trust, financial power of attorney, advance health care directive) to ensure the documents accomplish your current objectives, especially if your circumstances or wishes have changed.

You should also consider the potential impact of changes in tax laws on your estate plan. Under a 2017 law, the federal estate, gift and generation-skipping transfer (GST) tax exemption amounts were temporarily doubled (see “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act: Impact on Estate and Gift Planning,” Pasternak & Fidis Reporter (Spring 2018)). For 2020, the exemption amount is $11.58 million and… MORE >