Separation and Divorce

Back to Our Services

Attorneys

Anne W. Coventry

Oren Goldberg

Blaise S. Hill

Andryse P. Leukeu

Stephanie Perry

Linda J. Ravdin

Christina K. Scopin

Micah G. Snitzer

Adam P. Swaim

Vicki Viramontes-LaFree

Probate Paralegals

Sharon L. Coop

Latoya A. Sanderson

Marla V. Ingram

Bettina Ristau

Karen L. Williams

Family Law Paralegals

Lacinda J. Fields

Administrative Staff

Mary A. Nelson

Nicole A. Ryder

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, 2008-2022); Top 50 Women Attorneys (Maryland, 2015-22); Top 50 Women Attorneys (DC, 2016-17); Top 100 Lawyers (Maryland, 2016-17, 2020-22)
  • Super Lawyers – Divorce & Family Law (Maryland and DC, 2007-2024); 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)
  • Washingtonian – Washington’s Top Divorce Lawyers (2004, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2015, 2017, 2018, 2020, 2022)
  • Washingtonian – Washington’s Top Divorce Lawyers (2013, 2015, 2017, 2018, 2020, 2022)
  • Washingtonian – Metro Area’s Best Divorce Lawyers (2017, 2018, 2020, 2022)
  • Best Lawyers – Family Law (Maryland, 2006-2024)
  • Best Lawyers – Family Law (Maryland, 2009-2021)
  • Best Lawyers – Family Law (Maryland, 2010-2024)
  • Best Lawyers – Collaborative Law: Family Law (Maryland, 2012-2021)
  • Best Lawyers – Family Law Mediation (Maryland, 2013-2024)
  • Best Lawyers – Family Law Mediation (Maryland, 2016-2024)
  • Best Lawyers – Lawyer of the Year in Collaborative Law: Family Law (Washington, DC, 2016, 2018, 2020)
  • Super Lawyers – Divorce & Family Law (Maryland, 2008-2019)
  • 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, 2018-2019)
  • Super Lawyers – Divorce & Family Law (Washington, DC, 2018)
  • Super Lawyers – Top 100 Lawyers (Maryland, 2012-2014, 2017)
  • Best Lawyers – Family Law (Maryland, 2017)
  • Bethesda Magazine – Top 25 Divorce Lawyers in the Bethesda Area (2017)
  • Super Lawyers – Top 50 Women Lawyers (Washington, DC, 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)

Blog Posts

November 21, 2023

What Your Future Probate Paralegal Would Like You to Know

BY BETTINA RISTAU, PROBATE PARALEGAL

When someone dies, getting down to the business of administering the estate (or trust) can seem like a herculean task, especially while grieving. Below are observations made by the probate paralegal team here at Pasternak & Fidis in response to common client assumptions that we share in hopes of easing that burden for your loved ones when the time comes.

My estate documents are signed – I am all set!

Estate planning does not end when the will and trust instrument have been signed. Your estate planning attorney has created a customized plan for you and your family after considering your family structure, assets, values, and tax planning objectives. Your estate plan is, in effect, a roadmap to ensure that… MORE >

October 11, 2023

UPDATE: Maryland Divorce Law Reform

The Maryland Legislature has continued a process, begun several years ago, of modernizing Maryland divorce law. Amendments became effective October 1, 2023. The Code changes eliminated fault grounds of divorce, repealed limited divorce, and created another no-fault ground for absolute divorce.

Until the most recent Code revisions, a party filing for divorce could allege both fault grounds (adultery; desertion) and no-fault grounds (separation; mutual consent). One of the major changes is the elimination of fault grounds, bringing Maryland in line with the growing trend towards no-fault grounds as the exclusive basis for divorce. Parties can still allege fault as one of the factors in the determination of property division and spousal support.

With the recent Code amendments, Maryland now has three possible grounds for an… MORE >

September 8, 2023

Entities Face Looming Reporting Requirements—Preparing for the Knowns and Unknowns of the Corporate Transparency Act

The Corporate Transparency Act (“CTA”), which takes effect on January 1, 2024, requires certain small- and medium-sized US corporations, LPs, LLCs, and similar closely held entities to report certain company information and beneficial ownership information to the US Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (“FinCEN”).  The CTA is expected to apply to 32 million entities who, until now, have not been subject to any similar federal reporting requirements.

The CTA requires “reporting companies” to file a report listing:

  • Reporting company’s legal name, trade name, DBA, address for principal place of business, and tax identification number.
  • Each beneficial owner’s legal name, address, date of birth, and unique identification number from an “acceptable identification document” such as a driver’s license or passport and a copy of… MORE >
April 24, 2023

Death and the Automobile

Chances are, you own a motor vehicle. It is less likely that you have spent much time thinking about what happens to that motor vehicle when you die. There are many emotions that come with the death of a loved one, most of which cannot be avoided. Ensuring that your assets transfer easily at your death can ease the administrative part of the grieving process, which may be particularly important for motor vehicles because many households rely on them every day.

If your vehicle is titled in your name alone, then it will be transferred according to your will as part of probate. Probate is the process of administering a will when someone dies and involves the appointment of a personal representative or executor by… MORE >

April 21, 2023

Divorce, Pensions and Avoiding Pitfalls in Dividing Them

A divorcing party may have acquired employer-sponsored retirement benefits during marriage. In most states, retirement benefits earned during marriage are marital property and can be divided at divorce. A court order is required to transfer a share of an employee’s retirement assets to the non-employee spouse. This article focuses on private sector and civilian federal government defined benefit pension plans, those plans that pay a monthly annuity during retirement, the scenarios that can create problems for divorcing spouses, and what to do to avoid these problems.

Seven Scenarios to Watch out for:

  • Employee-Spouse Is Working at Divorce and Retirement Is Far Away. A spouse may be working at the time of divorce and will be eligible for a pension at retirement, but retirement is many… MORE >
  • April 20, 2023

    Jan White Retires

    Jan White retired at the end of 2022 after 50 years of practicing law, 32 of them at Pasternak & Fidis as a family lawyer. In her early years of law practice, she was a trial lawyer at Legal Aid in Durham, NC, and then at Hogan Lovells (then Hogan & Hartson) in DC. She and her husband had moved to DC because of the wealth of legal jobs for them both at a time when law schools had only recently begun to admit substantial numbers of women and there were still questions as to whether women lawyers would be encouraged in their careers.

    When the Carter Administration came into office, she joined the Commerce Department as Assistant to the General Counsel, then Assistant to… MORE >

    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 >

    February 16, 2022

    Custodial Accounts, 529 College Savings Plans and Divorce

    Common options for families to save for their children’s education are through custodial accounts and 529 savings plans. When a couple divorces, the treatment of these resources needs attention. A recent unreported case from the Maryland Court of Special Appeals points this up. This article highlights issues that should be addressed as part of a settlement agreement or, if necessary, in court.

    UGMA and UTMA Custodial Accounts

    There are two types of custodial accounts, UTMA (Uniform Transfers to Minors Act) and UGMA (Uniform Gifts to Minors Act). UTMA accounts have replaced UGMA accounts in most states and the District of Columbia. Each allows for creation of an account for a specific minor child. An UTMA can hold cash, securities, real estate, and other property. Often… MORE >

    February 15, 2022

    Premarital Agreements and Post-Execution Conduct

    Parties to a premarital agreement are free to make decisions during the marriage that alter their financial circumstances so long as they meet their contractual obligations. Post-execution actions can strengthen the validity of the agreement, result in a claim that the agreement has been revoked, or leave the agreement intact but change the economic outcome.

    Conduct that Strengthens Validity

    The low standards for validity create opportunity for a claim of duress, especially when a proposed agreement is presented close to the wedding or a weaker party does not get legal advice. (These claims rarely succeed.) Contract law acknowledges that a party may ratify a contract, thus waiving a duress claim. Acceptance of the benefits of a contract is generally considered ratification. When the agreement requires… MORE >