Bergstrom Attorneys PLLC is an experienced law firm that brings a wealth of knowledge, experience and zeal to advising and representing its clients. Call or email the firm to schedule a consultation with a Virginia, Maryland, or District of Columbia attorney regarding any of the following legal issues:
We take an optimistic approach to premarital agreements by using them to build a successful marrage. Too often people assume prenups are a pre-divorce agreement instead of a premarital agreement. In our view a premarital agreement should be a combination of your wedding ceremony vows and an operating agreement every successful organization would require to function. Your premarital agreement should address how you plan to succeed where other marriages fail. It is well documented that marriages fail due to lack of communication and lack of agreement regarding household duties, finances, child development, religion, and dispute resolution. Our attorneys can guide you and your partner in a discussion of these issues and more. In fact, our clients often find these conversations to be meaningful and inspiring. Of course a premarital agreement should have contingency plans in the event of divorce; however, we would recommend this sort of preparation for the same reason we recommend estate planning for all clients. It's always important to prepare for the unexpected, particularly if you need to protect assets for the future. For example, if you have children from previous marriage, or you have investments or a business from long before your marriage, you might have special concerns for handling those issues in the event of a divorce. The best strategy, of course, is proative by addressing your concerns in a premarital agreement, otherwise they could be lost in a divorce proceeding. Contact Bergstrom Attorneys PLLC to schedule a premarital agreement consultation for yourselves, or recommend these services to a newly engaged couple you want to support in their happy married life.
Bergstrom Attorneys can advise and guide you through a Maryland, Virginia or District of Columbia divorce as smoothly as possible, with as favorable an outcome possible for all affected parties, particularly the client and his or her children.
We know how important it is to protect the short-term and long-term interests of the client in areas such as the following:
- Child custody
- Child visitation
- Child support both during and after the divorce
- Review of any existing prenuptial agreement to determine how it will affect the outcome of a divorce
- Application of any existing separation agreement that preceded divorce proceedings
- Equitable property division
- Real estate
- Household goods
- Stocks and bonds
- Debt division
- Retirement accounts (401K, pensions)
- QDROs (qualified domestic relation orders)
Divorce can be a difficult and complicated procedure and each jurisdiction has unique requirements to qualify for a divorce or separation. It’s always best to contact an experienced divorce attorney who can explain all the nuances to you and which one you qualify for.
Alimony is a monetary award payable by one spouse to the other when that spouse shows financial need. The Court evaluates several factor in making an alimony award. The two most important factors are the payor’s ability to pay and the payee’s need, in some cases, need may be the lifestyle to which the parties have become accustomed.
An award of alimony may be:
- short-term and long-term, or
Alimony will end when the recipient spouse remarries, either spouse dies, or the court finds changes in circumstances.
Custody and Access
Custody cases are for the court to determine where the child will live and who will make major life decisions affecting the child. Custody decisions are guided by a number of factors to determine what is in the best interests of the child. Courts can award joint custody, sole legal custody, sole physical custody, joint legal custody, joint physical custody or whatever other forms the Court determines to be in the child’s best interest.
Sometimes, the court needs assistance in making a custody determination. Either parent or the court may request a custody evaluation. If you want a custody evaluation, it is best to request this service at the first court hearing.
Evaluations are conducted by a neutral and objective fact finder and is not an advocate for either party or the child(ren). The professionals that make these findings are referred to as custody evaluators, guardians ad-litem or best interest attorneys.
Whatever the name, the evaluator investigates the circumstances of the parties and children. Typically, a full evaluation involves a meeting or interview with both parents with and/or without the children, possibly a visit to each parent’s home, and interview(s) with those who frequently interact with the parents and children; most common, counselors, school staff, and family members.
The purpose of child support payments is to help pay for the costs associated with raising the child. The child support obligation of each parent is determined by the gross income of the parties, any other legally obligated child support orders, medical costs including insurance and costs for work-related child care.
Adoption is the creation of a parent-child relationship by judicial order between people who are not a natural parent and a child. When the court orders an adoption it also ends the parental rights and responsibilities of the natural parents. Under the law, the new parent-child relationship is no different than the relationship between a natural parent and child. Maryland and the District of Columbia do not bar adults from being adopted.
Any adult who is not the child’s natural parent may petition the court for adoption. It is not required that the petitioner be married. However, the spouse of the petitioner will be joined in the petition unless the couple is separated, the spouse is not legally competent, or the spouse is already the legal parent of the child. Petitioners who pursue an adoption through a public agency will be required to complete a 27-hour home study course.
3rd Party Custody
A de facto parent is someone the court treats like a parent due to the person’s relationship with the child. Such a relationship is created when the legal parent consented to and fostered the relationship between the defacto parent and the child; the child lives with the defacto parent and performs parental functions for the child to a significant degree.
Each jurisdiction handles third party custody uniquely. It is best to consult with an attorney to discuss your case.
We can prepare or review pre-nuptial agreements, post-nuptial agreements and separation agreements. Agreements are generally upheld and enforced by the court where there has been full disclosure by the parties and no evidence of coercion or undue influence.
Peace Orders and Protective Orders
Peace and protective orders are designed to provide relief against various forms of malicious and abusive behavior inflicted by others. The difference between them is dependent on who is eligible. Protective orders are for domestic violence cases (e.g. current and former spouses, cohabitants, person who have a child in common). Peace orders are for strangers or persons not closely related.
Assault, rape, false imprisonment, mental injury to a minor child, stalking or any act that places a person in fear of imminent serious bodily harm is considered abuse.
If you are a victim of abuse, you may apply for a peace or protective order where a judge or a court commissioner will enter a temporary order if there are reasonable grounds for the protective or peace order.
There are three types of peace orders. The first is an interim peace order which goes into effect once the respondent is served by a law enforcement officer and lasts until a judge holds a temporary peace order hearing. A temporary peace order is in effect until a final peace order is issued.
Typically, the orders will order the abuser to refrain from harming or threatening to harm the petitioner; refrain from contacting the petitioner by any means whether it’s face to face, phone calls or messages; and stay away from places the petitioner frequents such as a home or place of work.
As adults get older, many of them are not able to make decisions for themselves due to Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, a stroke, an accident or some other serious medical condition. If someone is no longer able to make important decisions for themselves, a judge can appoint a “guardian” to make those decisions.
If the court finds by clear and convincing evidence that an individual is incapable of making or communicating decisions regarding his or her life, the court will appoint a guardian who will have the same rights and duties as a parent does over a minor child. The guardian has a duty to provide care and comfort for the individual, including looking after medical, social, recreational and friendship needs.
A potential guardian need not go through this process if a legally valid power of attorney was executed prior to the incapacity.
If you have a loved one who is unable to make decisions for themselves or care for themselves, it is advisable to speak to an experienced attorney who can help guide you through the process.