Compliance With Civil Protective Orders in the Social Media Age

In the District of Columbia Civil Protective Orders (CPO’s) are available to 35755505 - social engagement
individuals who have had a crime committed against them, or have had a crime threatened against them, by someone with whom they have had certain types of previous relationships. A standard CPO will include a provision that the person to whom the protective order is enforceable against cannot contact the protected person either directly or indirectly and can also restrict social media and electronic contact.

For the most part this seems straightforward enough, but social media accounts can create many pitfalls. For instance what about tagging someone who is protected by a CPO? The answer may surprise you. Another area of concern is how courts will treat protected parties who receive “notifications” from the social media company (e.g. Facebook, Instagram) about actions by the other party? To avoid any potential liability the best course of action may be to delete your accounts, or short of that block the other person so as to not risk any violations. Before blocking the other person you should check with the social media company that the person being blocked will not receive any sort of notification of being blocked. Contempt of a CPO can lead to civil and criminal penalties with fines up to $1,000 and possible jail time so its best to do everything to make sure compliance is assured.

Dividing Pension Plans and other Retirement Assets

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Pensions and retirement plans are frequently a source of dispute in contested divorce cases. A common solution in dividing pension plans or other retirement assets is that the non-vested spouse receives a pro rata share of the marital portion of the pension. For example, Wendy starts working in 1990, in 2000 she marries Harry, and in 2010 Wendy and Harry divorce. Wendy and Harry decide that Harry will receive half of the marital share of the pension. That means Harry will get half of whatever was earned/contributed in the pension for the time period the couple was married, in this case half of the pension from 2000-2010.

Whether the Court decides the issue, or the parties resolve the issue as part of a settlement agreement, an Order will be necessary directing the administrator of the pension/retirement plan to distribute funds to someone other than the account holder. These Orders are typical referred to as “Qualified Domestic Relations Orders”, or QDRO’s for short.

Each plan’s administrator may require different provisions so it is important to check with the plan administrator ahead of time to see what is necessary in the QDRO to avoid the time and expense of resubmitting the Order. For example, the Federal government’s Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has specific language it prefers for Order’s to use. Orders to OPM are also titled as Court Orders Acceptable for Processing (COAP) not QDRO’s because of exemptions to the Employee Retirement Security Act. The costs associated with QDRO’s should also be considered. Some administrators require a review fee to make sure the draft QDRO is compliant with their own in house regulations.

The level of complexity in determining how to divide retirement assets, and the correct procedure for doing so, requires proper planning and knowledge of both law and the administrator’s internal regulations.

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3 Ways To Come Across As A Credible Witness

20144915_m-300x199Credibility can play an important role in determine the outcome of your case. If testimony from either party comes across as improbable or unreasonable it can seriously harm your chances of getting what you want. Since opposing counsel is going to do everything in their power to demean your reliability it is essential for you to project credibility to the Judge in the case. Below are three easy ways to project credibility when taking the witness stand.

1. Dress the part

If possible, you should dress in business attire for your court appearance. Dressing in proper attire can create a “halo effect” meaning people will view you in a more positive light and will be more willing to look past any minor mistakes you make. The pioneering study on the halo effect was conducted by psychologist E.L. Thorndike who studied the effect in the early 1900’s and noticed that, “when an individual is found to possess one desirable trait, that individual is assumed to have many other desirable traits too.” If you think Judges do not care about appearance then think again. At least one Judge in the District of Columbia Superior Court keeps extra shirts and ties for parties to use if they do not own any.

2. Make eye contact with the Judge and Opposing Counsel

A recent study by Northwestern University confirms what many have been saying for a long time, that eye contact builds trust. When being questioned by opposing counsel maintaining eye contact can work for you in a couple ways. One, it can demonstrate to opposing counsel that you are not timid and that counsel will not be able to bully you on the stand and two by displaying your trustworthiness it can throw opposing counsel off of their game. If the Judge asks you a question directly making eye contact while answering can impact your credibility by coming across as trustworthy to the Judge.

3. Answer the questions directly

As bad as you may want to expand on a question asked by your attorney or rebut a question phrased by opposing counsel do not do it. Remember, it is your attorney’s job to rebut opposing counsel’s assertions and to make objections when necessary. Moreover, your attorney should be asking questions in a manner that enables all the necessary details to be divulged during trial. By answering questions firmly and directly you will come across as competent and credible to the fact finder.

Following the three tips above is a good starting point to strengthening your case by being a credible witness.

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3 Ways To Make Your Case More Successful

9519874_m-198x3001. Document everything.

Whether you suspect you will soon be involved in litigation or are currently involved in the litigation you can greatly help your case by documenting everything. That means telephone calls, emails, and documents you receive. Basically any and everything related to your case that could be important as evidence and documentation. You do not want to be stuck in a situation where you know something happened, but have no way to prove it other than your word.

2. Don’t discuss your case with anyone besides your attorney

It may be tempting to blow of steam or share what’s going on with your case with friends or family members, but be advised that you could lose attorney-client privilege if you do so. Any information that you want to be protected by attorney-client privilege needs to be treated as such. If you tell your attorney something in confidence, and then turn around and tell your neighbor then you may risk losing the confidentiality protection.

3. Listen to the Judge

When it is time to go before the Judge one basic rule should stick in your mind: listen to the judge. It may be tempting to try and speak your mind about everything that opposing counsel or the other party has said, but keep in mind that it is your attorney’s job to sort through and find what needs responded to and when. If you talk out of turn or interrupt the judge to get your point across it will only irritate the judge. Let the other party act up while you keep your cool. That will allow you to come across as credible.

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Third Party Custody

11244367_m-300x199The District of Columbia Safe and Stable Homes for Children and Youth Act allows third parties the opportunity to petition for custody of children. The Act also establishes the standards governing custody cases involving third parties.

In order for a third party to have standing to sue for custody the parent who has been the primary caregiver within the past three years must consent to the action, the third party has to have both lived in the same household with the child for at the least four of the previous six months, or the third party must be presently living with the child and circumstances are present to where third party custody is necessary to prevent harm to the child.

The Court can grant custody to the third party if a determination is made that the presumption in favor of the parent has been defeated and that custody with the third party is in the best interest of the child.

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Thinking Of Hiring An Attorney? Make Sure You Ask These 3 Questions.

11696462_m-300x233Years ago if you wanted to hire an attorney you either looked for a referral from someone you knew or looked in the local Yellow Pages. With the proliferation of attorneys in the market and attitudes towards attorney advertising changing the problems is not so much scarcity as it is who to trust among the thousands of attorneys that are at your fingertips. As you do your due diligence in selecting an attorney here are three questions you should make sure to ask your potential lawyer.

1. Have they handled a case like yours before?

Seems like a no brainer, but you would be surprised how many people are so overwhelmed with their issue that they neglect to ask this question. Its important to be as specific as possible when asking if the attorney has handled a case like yours before. For example, instead of asking have you handled a divorce case before you might ask “have you handled a high net worth divorce case” or “have you handled a custody case where the other party is out of state with the children.”

2. Have they had any disciplinary action taken before them?

It is imperative to make sure that the attorney you select has a good track record and what better way to find out what they are about then finding out if they have a clean record with the Bar. If you feel uncomfortable asking directly, then you may want to use an attorney directory to find out. Many directories such as Nolo will indicate if an attorney has had any disciplinary actions taken against them. You can also contact your local bar association and ask.

3. What will the attorney’s strategy be for your case?

This is a good question to determine whether your attorney’s proposed actions will follow your wishes. Perhaps you want to settle, but an attorney would rather drag the case out knowing he/she will benefit from the additional billable hours, or vice versa perhaps the attorney does not see the case as lucrative enough and wants to wrap it up as quickly as possible although that may not be the appropriate course of action.

If you need a family law or business law attorney contact the Barkat Law Firm for a free consultation where we are more than ready to answer the above questions and any other questions you may have about your case.

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Legal Separation In The District Of Columbia FAQs

11835636_m-300x199Below are some of the frequently asked questions clients have when considering a legal separation:

Q: What is legal separation?
A: Legal separation is the end of cohabitation between spouses.

Q: Does a legal separation end my marriage?
A: A separation does not legally end a marriage. Only a divorce, annulment, etc. will legally end or void your marriage.

Q: Are the requirements for legal separation the same as for divorce?
A: No, the timing requirements are different. In order obtain a divorce in the District of Columbia you will had to have mutually lived separate and apart for six months or have involuntarily lived separate and apart for one year. In order to be eligible for a legal separation you must currently be living separately and apart. It also important to note that the Court will consider you and your spouse living separate and apart even if you live in the same house if you can prove you are living separate lives.

Q: Aside from separation what issues will the Court adjudicate in a legal separation case?
A: The Court can determine custody, child support, spousal support, and equitable distribution of marital property.

Q: If I get a legal separation can I later turn it into a divorce?
A: Yes.

Contact the Barkat Law Firm to speak to a D.C. divorce attorney about obtaining a legal separation in the District of Columbia.

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How To File For An Uncontested Divorce In Washington, D.C.

17724065_ml-300x224Uncontested divorces offer the chance to obtain your divorce in an expedited fashion as opposed to a contested divorce where the process is significantly longer. In order to be eligible to file for an uncontested divorce you and your spouse must have come to an agreement on all property, debt, spousal support, and child custody issues prior to filing for the uncontested divorce. This leaves the Court with determining only the issue of whether the parties have proven grounds for an absolute divorce.

Once all of the above issues are resolved between you and your spouse a “joint praecipe” must be filed with the Court. The Court will then schedule a hearing at which time the parties must bring a copy of the marriage certificate and documentation of their agreement as to the above mentioned issues. The Barkat Law Firm offers representation for uncontested divorces at a flat rate. Contact us now to speak with an experienced divorce attorney about what options are available to you as you pursue a divorce.

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