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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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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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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Factors In Spousal Support Awards In The District Of Columbia

8572958_m-300x120If you are getting a divorce in the District of Columbia you can request, and may be eligible to receive spousal support. Section 16-913 of the District of Columbia Code states that, “In determining an award for spousal support the Court looks at all relevant factors including, but not limited to, the:

(1) ability of the party seeking alimony to be wholly or partly self-supporting;

(2) time necessary for the party seeking alimony to gain sufficient education or
training to enable that party to secure suitable employment;

(3) standard of living that the parties established during their marriage or domestic
partnership, but giving consideration to the fact that there will be 2 households
to maintain;

(4) duration of the marriage or domestic partnership;

(5) circumstances which contributed to the estrangement of the parties;

(6) age of each party;

(7) physical and mental condition of each party;

(8) ability of the party from whom alimony is sought to meet his or her needs while
meeting the needs of the other party; and

(9) financial needs and financial resources of each party, including:
(A) income;
(B) income from assets, both those that are the property of the marriage or
domestic partnership and those that are not;
(C) potential income which may be imputed to non-income producing assets of a
(D) any previous award of child support in this case;
(E) the financial obligations of each party;
(F) the right of a party to receive retirement benefits; and
(G) the taxability or non-taxability of income.”

Contact the Barkat Law Firm today to speak with a D.C. divorce attorney about how to pursue or fight against a request for spousal support.

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Jurisdiction And Child Custody Disputes

22160564_m-300x200In the D.C. metro area child custody disputes often arise that involve multiple states. For example, the children may reside in the District of Columbia, but one of the parents reside in Virginia or Maryland or vice versa. When a situation such as this arises the Uniform Child-Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) sets the rules for jurisdiction over the child custody dispute.

Specifically the UCCJEA sets the rules as to what state’s courts have jurisdiction to enter and enforce custody orders. The UCCJEA is incorporated into the District of Columbia Code in §16-4601.01, and governs custody disputes in every state except Massachusetts.

The UCCJEA allows for four options for a state to claim jurisdiction over a child custody dispute. Those options are:

• Home state – the state has been the home state of the children for at least 6 months prior to the filing of a custody action

• Significant connection – the children have a significant connection to the state

• More appropriate forum – this option can only be used if other states have declined jurisdiction under the home state or significant connection options

• Last chance – if none of the 3 options above are available this fourth option may be used.

Should you become involved in a child custody dispute contact the Barkat Law Firm to speak with a D.C. child custody attorney about what options are available to you.

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On What Grounds Can I Get A Divorce In The District Of Columbia?

20142116_m-300x199In order to obtain a divorce in the District of Columbia you must meet the District’s residency requirements and also qualify under one of the District’s two grounds for divorce. Those items are addressed in greater detail below.

What are the residency requirements for divorce in the District of Columbia?
The residency requirement states that either you or your spouse must have been a resident in the District of Columbia for the six months preceding the filing for divorce.

What are the grounds for divorce in the District of Columbia?
The District of Columbia allows for two grounds to base your divorce on. The first ground requires that you and your spouse have voluntarily been living “separate and apart” without cohabitation for at least six months prior to the divorce. The second ground requires that you and your spouse have been involuntarily living “separate and apart” without cohabitation for at least one year.

For more information on whether you are eligible to obtain a divorce in the District of Columbia contact the Barkat Law Firm today and speak to a D.C. divorce attorney.

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What Is Multi-Door Dispute Resolution?

Multi-Door Dispute Resolution is a voluntary program offered through the District of Columbia Superior Court. The program is meant to assist those individuals who may be better served by resolving their differences through mediation rather than through trial.

Family law mediation is available through the Multi-Door Dispute Resolution Division of the District of Columbia Superior Court. The mediation process is initiated when the parties contact the Multi-Door Dispute Resolution Division to set up an intake interview. Following the interview mediation sessions are conducted during 2 hour sessions with the Multi-Door Dispute Resolution Division.

Contact the Barkat Law Firm today to speak with a District of Columbia Family Law attorney about the mediation process and what options for resolution of divorce and custody disputes are available to you.

*this post is not associated with or endorsed by the District of Columbia Multi-Door Dispute Resolution Division. It is meant only to convey basic information of the program. For official information please visit their website at

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