Category: Divorce

As the ongoing pandemic rages across the world, people in every state in the United States are required, or have been required, to stay home as much as possible to slow the spread of the deadly Coronavirus. Being confined in the home has posed a litany of added stressors, including financial problems and mental health deterioration’s. 

The additional problems and sources of stress, as well as the nature of being home far more than people are used to, have contributed to a subsequent rise in domestic violence (DV). Police have seen varying degrees of increases in DV calls across the nation, some as high as 20%. This trend is no different in the DMV. DC law enforcement has spoken about the fear of a rise in DV during the lockdown since March, and national trends seem to affirm that concern. 

DC Domestic Violence Laws

The District of Columbia Criminal Code details what would constitute an arrest for DV as follows:Domestic violence - DC

“A law enforcement officer shall arrest a person if the law enforcement officer has probable cause to believe that the person: committed an intrafamily offense that resulted in physical injury, including physical pain or illness, regardless of whether or not the intrafamily offense was committed in the presence of the law enforcement officer”. 

The term “intrafamily” refers to a domestic partner, which can be defined as “a spouse, lover, sibling, parent, child, or roommate”. The aforementioned definition of DV in DC would constitute simple assault, which is defined as “a misdemeanor offense involving either the threat of force or the actual use of force”. 


Standard of Proof for DV Simple Assault

 As with any criminal case, the government must prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. In the case of a DV simple assault case, the government must prove the following three elements:

  1. Either that the defendant intended to use force or violence against the other person or that he/she intended to put that person in fear of immediate injury.
  2. That the defendant’s actions were intentional and not the result of a mistake or accident.
  3. That at the time of the alleged incident, the defendant had the “apparent ability” to injure the other person.

Potential Punishments if Convicted

The maximum penalties for sentences for DV cases are the same as other simple assault cases, 180 days in jail and/or $1000 fine. However, judges typically sentence DV cases harsher due to their proclivity to reoccur. As with other cases, the Court will view a variety of factors when determining sentencing. Notably, however, many diversion options typically available to first-time offenders are not available in DV cases. 

There may be an option of a Deferred Sentencing Agreement (DSA) which would entail the defendant entering a guilty plea, and then being given a particular amount of time to complete a set of requirements, which may include anger management training, mental health evaluations, or completion of a Domestic Violence Intervention Program. 

Contact our Attorneys Today

 If you have questions about DC’s domestic violence laws or require legal representation, reach out to Bruckheim & Patel to speak with attorney Sweta Patel or Kelsey Penna at 202-930-3464.  

During divorce, there are many things up in the air; property, child custody, new living arrangements, but one thing has become a contentious issue in divorce proceedings is pets. When looking at the role of pets during a divorce, DC and Maryland law both treat pets as property. Due to this characteristic, many courts and lawyers believe that it is best to settle the pet custody on your own or through your personal attorneys. It is normal for many to come to an agreement about their pet outside of court, since very rarely does a case pertaining to pet custody actually go up in front of a judge.

Pet custodySome factors to be considered are: will there be shared custody or some sort of visitation schedule, who will be paying bills pertaining to the pet, and who gets to make important health decisions for the pet. When answering these questions lawyers believe that it is the most important to consider what is in the best interest of your pet, rather than solely focusing on your spouse. It has been proven that the stress of separation can also be felt by your pet, so it is best to maintain a similar daily routine to what your cat or dog has currently. It is also vital to consider who can take best care of your pet by looking at things like who has a better schedule to take care of the dog and take them on walks. Looking at who your pet is better bonded with is worth considering. Oftentimes, one spouse had full ownership of the pet before marriage, the animal is kept with them after divorce.

Lawyers often encourage clients to keep their pets with their children. During a  divorce in D.C., the pet can be of comfort for your children during these trying times. Some also believe that it is best for the pet to stay with whoever gets the home.

Avoiding Future Difficulties

There are many ways to avoid pet custody issues in the future. Lawyers recommend starting a paper trail, by putting everything in relation to your pet in your name from the bills to the pet’s registration papers. You can avoid any questions of who will get the pet in the future since according to the law you are the owner of the animal. It is also recommended to include a pet in a prenuptial agreement if possible to avoid any arguments in the future.

Divorce proceedings are often very emotionally charged as many consider pets to be part of the family, which makes proceedings even more difficult. It is understandable as we view our pets as our children. The best way to settle a dispute over pet custody is by having a candid conversation with your divorce attorney.

Contact Our Attorneys Today

If you have questions about your options during this time, reach out to Bruckheim & Patel to speak with attorney Sweta Patel or Kelsey Penna regarding a consultation about your DC or Maryland divorce or custody issues at 202-930-3464.

If you’ve felt yourself going a little stir-crazy these past few weeks, rest assured you’re not the only one. Adjusting to new routines, handling the stress of familial proximity, and potentially coping with job loss are things many of us face on a daily basis. Unfortunately, these feelings are enhanced for married men and women who no longer want to be together through sickness and health.

Domestic Ramifications of Forced Close Quarters

Since the Coronavirus has forced countless families indoors under stay-at-home orders across the country, divorce lawyers have seen a considerable increase in petitions for divorce. This is in no small part due to the immense stress many are under today, causing pre-existing fracture lines to deepen and, for many, destroy relationships. 

Often in relations, both members of the couple are out working and reunite for evenings and weekends. Now, with non-stop contact, some relationships are being put through the gauntlet. Small annoyances or irritating personality flaws can be magnified to seem much more prominent than perhaps they actually are.

To make matters worse, the children of divorced parents now have another layer of stress as well. In shared custody arrangements, sometimes, seeing both parents isn’t an option anymore. Now some children have to be without physical contact with a parent for potentially months. 

Custody Problems Are Just The Beginning

For a divorced husband or wife who only gets custody on the weekends, this has the potential to be a devastating blow for both parties. However, there are also plenty of parents who neglect children’s wellbeing during this time. While it’s doubtful that any significant number of parents intentionally place their offspring in harm’s way, some parents take the Coronavirus less seriously than others, and may unintentionally bring the disease to their child.

It doesn’t stop there. There has also been an increasing number of calls to the police for domestic abuse. In already deteriorating marriages or relationships, the option to move out on short notice is no longer available for some unfortunate spouses. For those whose safe space is work, trips on the train, or otherwise getting out of the house, escape may be cut off due to distancing regulations. 

On top of their already back-breaking workloads, police officers have the duty of enforcing stay-in-place orders, as well as additional domestic violence calls. While some police departments make jokes on social media, asking criminals to halt criminal activity until the Coronavirus epidemic clears, it would take an act of similar magnitude for the police to catch up with the frenetic pace our country is going.

A Closed Court System Cause Unknown Delays

The long and short of the bad news is that couples seeking a divorce, a spouse seeking legal separation from an abuser, and the single parent seeking to amend a custody agreement is that none of these things are going to happen anytime soon. The courts are still closed, only available for emergencies. For many of these situations, the consequences aren’t life or death. Only months on end of severe emotional distress, fracturing families, and potential for continuous abuse. The Coronavirus pandemic seems to have an inexhaustible list of negative side effects, aside from the actual symptoms.

A light, in the middle of this gloomy situation, is the knowledge that many couples are enjoying a long-awaited reunion. Too often, working folks in happy relationships are apart due to work or travel. Now that many work from home and travel is discouraged, it’s an opportunity for people to spend time with their significant others.

Parents working from home get to be around their children, husbands, and wives can be present for each other for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Not all relationships are failing, not all children have to watch their home get torn apart, and not all normalcy is destroyed. There is still good news, and while we should help those in need, it’s healthy to find a silver lining even in the darkest situations.

If you have questions about your options during this trying time, reach out to Bruckheim & Patel to speak with attorney Sweta Patel regarding a consultation about your divorce or family custody issues at 202-930-3464. 



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