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Divorce and Family Law

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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

Marla V. Ingram

Bettina Ristau

Karen L. Williams

Family Law Paralegals

Cassandra E. Murphy

Administrative Staff

Mary A. Nelson

Nicole A. Ryder

Family law with a calming influence and a broad perspective.

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.

Our attorneys are licensed in Maryland, the District of Columbia, and Virginia. We are experienced trial lawyers who have tried cases in courts all over the metropolitan area. We work with both married and unmarried couples, including those in domestic partnerships, who are seeking a dignified resolution of their family law matters.

Within the firm, we work across departmental lines, to help our clients minimize the financial, tax, and business repercussions of separation and divorce or dissolution of a domestic partnership.

Our attorneys are trained in collaborative law and are able to offer our clients this innovative and humane approach to the resolution of family law issues.

We are particularly sensitive to the needs of children and take pride in our ability to craft practical, creative custody solutions that best meet the needs of all parties. We are experienced in handling custody disputes resulting from the dissolution of nonmarital relationships.

We provide sophisticated analyses of such issues as complex property holdings, deferred compensation and retirement benefits, taxes, trusts, and business issues, consulting our in-house tax and business specialists when necessary. And we work to prevent disruption to business operations and income sources.

Most importantly, we understand, offer, and explain alternatives. Our experience includes negotiation, litigation, binding arbitration, mediation, and collaborative law.

We combine zealous representation with a dignified, systematic approach. That’s what makes our family law attorneys so effective.

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;
  • Helping other attorneys and their clients resolve their cases by acting as experts, mediators and dispute resolution professionals;
  • Litigating all types of domestic relations cases and issues in Maryland, the District of Columbia, and Virginia, including complex property cases, and support issues;
  • Resolving disputes over the validity and interpretation of premarital agreements, postmarital agreements and marital settlement agreements;
  • Resolving disputes over family businesses and professional practices, including issues of valuation and disputes over executive compensation;
  • 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;
  • Resolution of disputes over modification of court orders for custody, child access, child support, and alimony;
  • Representing business owners and other third parties subpoenaed to provide evidence in a divorce or other family law case.

Publications

Recognition

  • Super Lawyers – Divorce & Family Law (Maryland and DC, 2008-2022); Top 50 Women Attorneys (Maryland, 2015-22); Top 50 Women Attorneys (DC, 2016-17); Top 100 Lawyers (Maryland, 2016-17, 2020-22)
  • Washingtonian – Washington’s Top Divorce Lawyers (2013, 2015, 2017, 2018, 2020, 2022)
  • Washingtonian – Metro Area’s Best Divorce Lawyers (2017, 2018, 2020, 2022)
  • Washingtonian – Washington’s Top Divorce Lawyers (2004, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2015, 2017, 2018, 2020, 2022)
  • Best Lawyers – Family Law (Maryland, 2006-2021)
  • Best Lawyers – Family Law (Maryland, 2010-2021)
  • Best Lawyers – Collaborative Law: Family Law (Maryland, 2012-2021)
  • Best Lawyers – Family Law (Maryland, 2009-2021)
  • Best Lawyers – Family Law Mediation (Maryland, 2013-2021)
  • Best Lawyers – Family Law Mediation (Maryland, 2016-2021)
  • Best Lawyers – Lawyer of the Year in Collaborative Law: Family Law (Washington, DC, 2016, 2018, 2020)
  • Super Lawyers – Top 50 Women Lawyers; Family Law (Maryland, 2012-2019)
  • Super Lawyers – Top 50 Women Lawyers; Family Law (Maryland, 2015-2019)
  • Super Lawyers – Divorce & Family Law (Maryland, 2008-2019)
  • Super Lawyers – Divorce & Family Law (Maryland, 2018-2019)
  • Super Lawyers – Divorce & Family Law (Washington, DC, 2018)
  • Best Lawyers – Family Law (Maryland, 2017)
  • Bethesda Magazine – Top 25 Divorce Lawyers in the Bethesda Area (2017)
  • Super Lawyers – Top 50 Women Lawyers; Family Law (Washington, DC, 2016-2017)
  • Super Lawyers – Top 50 Women Lawyers (Washington, DC, 2017)
  • Super Lawyers – Top 50 Women Lawyers (Washington, DC, 2016)
  • Super Lawyers – Rising Stars – Divorce & Family Law (Maryland and DC, 2013-2016)
  • Super Lawyers – Top 50 Women Lawyers (Maryland, 2016)
  • Best Lawyers – Family Law and Family Law & Mediation (Maryland 2015)
  • Super Lawyers – Top 50 Women Lawyers; Family Law (Washington, DC, 2008-2012)
  • Super Lawyers – Divorce & Family Law (Maryland and DC, 2007-2022); 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)
  • 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)
  • ACTEC Observer, Uniform Law Commission, Premarital and Marital Agreements

Blog Posts

July 5, 2022

Postmarital Agreements in the DMV— Lessons from Recent Cases

A postmarital agreement is a contract governing property and support rights between spouses who have no immediate intent to divorce; by contrast a separation agreement settles economic issues between spouses who expect to divorce. Some spouses may want to use a postmarital agreement to address property issues during an ongoing marriage. A postmarital agreement may be appropriate when estranged spouses want to attempt a reconciliation but want to know in advance what their economic rights and obligations will be if the reconciliation does not come to pass. A variety of other circumstances may also cause a spouse to seek a postmarital agreement, such as when parties intended to sign a premarital agreement but ran out of time before the wedding.

Recent cases from the District,… MORE >

February 17, 2022

Treatment of Vermont Civil Union as a Marriage for Purposes of Divorce in Maryland

In 2020, in a case called Sherman v. Rouse, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals had to decide whether a 2003 Vermont civil union, which pre-dated marriage equality, should be treated the same as a marriage for purposes of granting a divorce and related rights, including spousal support and equitable division of property. One aspect of the problem presented to the trial court was that, unless the parties’ legal status could be treated the same as a marriage, the Maryland court would have no authority to dissolve it; and, because the parties were not residents of Vermont, a Vermont court would have no authority to dissolve it either, leaving them in a rather awkward spot. The other aspect of the problem is that, unless the… 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 >

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 >

December 17, 2019

What Divorcing Parents Should Know About International Travel with Children

Many parents like to vacation with their children, to the beach, to a national park, to visit a big city. Some families travel abroad. Parents who are separated, or planning to separate, should include rules about traveling with minor children in their settlement negotiations. Parents can avoid disputes by agreeing to travel protocols in their parenting plan.

What is required to apply for a U.S. passport for a child under age 16?

A child under the age of 16 must apply for a passport in person. The child must be accompanied by both parents, as required by the federal Two- Parent Consent Law, and provide proof of the child’s citizenship (U.S. birth certificate; a valid, undamaged U.S. passport (may be expired); a foreign birth certificate).

MORE >

July 18, 2019

Trusts and Divorce

Trusts are an important tool that families can use to protect assets and pass wealth to future generations. When the beneficiary of a trust is facing divorce, he or she will be concerned that the trust assets and income may be vulnerable to a spousal claim. Such a claim can include equitable division of property, spousal or child support, and an award of legal fees and costs.

Whether and to what extent a beneficiary’s interest in a trust can be subject to a spousal claim at divorce depends on:

  • Whether the trust is revocable or irrevocable;
  • Whether the divorcing spouse is the settlor (i.e., the creator) of the trust, or whether a third party established the trust;
  • Whether the spouse-settlor funded the trust with marital or nonmarital property, or some of each;
  • Whether the… MORE >
July 17, 2019

Section 529 College Savings Accounts and Divorce

Many couples establish savings for the college education of their children. A Section 529 account is an attractive vehicle for these savings, as discussed in Adam Swaim’s article. What happens to a 529 account if the parents divorce? The appeals courts of D.C., Maryland, and Virginia do not yet appear to have wrestled with a parental dispute about a 529 account in a divorce. Only a few cases from courts around the country have done so. They offer some guidance to parties and their lawyers as to how our courts may handle a dispute over a 529 account that arises between divorcing parents. More importantly, they point out issues that parties should address when negotiating a marital settlement agreement where they have a Section 529 account for a child.

Some key legal aspects of Section 529 accounts:

February 4, 2019

Marital Agreements and Beneficiary Designations—Sometimes Friends and Sometimes Foes

A marital agreement can take the form of a premarital agreement, a postmarital agreement, or a separation agreement, i.e., an agreement that settles property rights (and other issues) between parties who intend to divorce. A marital agreement may provide for the disposition of assets at death; it may require one or both parties to provide for the other or a child at death after divorce; or it may waive rights at death. When the terms of a marital agreement and a beneficiary designation conflict with each other, the law will either validate or annul the designation, depending on the jurisdiction, the type of asset, and the language of the marital agreement.

The District of Columbia, Virginia, and Maryland all have laws that revoke at divorce either the entire will or the portions benefitting a… MORE >

July 19, 2018

Alimony Ends When Payor Spouse Retires . . . Or Does It?

Family lawyers are increasingly hearing from divorced clients who are getting ready to retire or have retired and who have a spousal support obligation or a right to receive support under a court order.  A court order may result from a trial or as part of a settlement agreement adopted by a court in the judgment of divorce.  Some payors think alimony payments automatically end at retirement, or that a court will decide to terminate payments at retirement as a matter of course, but this is not necessarily so.

Court-ordered spousal support terminates automatically only on the death of either party or—in Maryland and Virginia, but not the District—upon remarriage of the recipient.  When a court orders indefinite spousal support, i.e., support without a predetermined… MORE >

April 9, 2018

Premarital Agreements, Alimony, and the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act has eliminated the tax treatment of alimony that has been in place for more than 75 years.  Under the old law, alimony is deductible from the income of the payor and includible in the income of the recipient, provided the parties comply with the specific requirements of the Internal Revenue Code (I.R.C.).  Effective January 1, 2019, under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, parties will no longer have the option to enter into an agreement for taxable alimony nor will court-ordered alimony be deductible from the payor’s income and includible in the recipient’s income.  Some alimony obligations created prior to January 1, 2019, may receive alimony tax treatment under the old law; others may not.

An existing premarital agreement… MORE >