Posts Tagged ‘Family Law’

5 Tips for Navigating Holidays for Blended Families

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Sandra Guzman Nov 2017

The holidays are full of wonderful things – gifts, good food, carols, nights by the fire, and family time. But the desire to have that “perfect” holiday season can cause a great deal of stress for parents, especially those with blended families. Here are 5 things to remember when navigating a holiday season that’s full of step relatives, parenting time changes, and potential conflict:

Plan Ahead

You can’t possibly do everything you want to do in a holiday season, even under ideal household conditions. But planning becomes even more important when you have to navigate multiple households and changes of parenting time that may come smack-dab in the middle of a possible holiday celebration. Begin thinking about and discussing holiday plans with extended family members well in advance so you can make sure all important players will be present at planned celebrations. Communicate these plans to your children as early and often as possible, as knowing who they will be with when, and when and where holiday celebrations will take place, can help ease some of the stress and heightened emotions they may be feeling surrounding the split holiday. [1]

Leave Space for Emotions

The disappointment of having to let go of old family traditions can be upsetting for family members of any age. Take the time to listen to any worries that you children, spouse, parents, or other extended family members may have surrounding the holiday. Even if you can’t do anything about their concerns, simply being heard can help everyone have a more pleasant season. Your children may experience a great deal of conflicting emotions surrounding the holidays, even if they’re seasoned blended family veterans, as spending time with one parent means missing out on celebrations and time with the other parent. Allow your children the time to be sad or regretful. Reassure them that they will be missed when not around, and give them permission to enjoy any celebrations that may occur with their other parent. [2]

Develop New Traditions

It’s impossible to maintain every former holiday tradition as household circumstances change. Your family may have to give up attending that special holiday event that only happens on one day because everyone may not be together. Take a little time to grieve the events and traditions you can no longer uphold, then begin searching for new ones. When appropriate, get input from your children on things they would like to do during the holiday season. After a couple years attending the same event or taking part in the same activity as a family, it will become a new tradition which will be anticipated by everyone. [3]

Don’t Compete

Especially if your family is newly blended, the temptation to create the “perfect” holiday can be intense. Don’t get caught up in attempting to outdo the other parent with gifts, traditions, or anything else. Competing can only lead to more loyalty conflicts for your children, causing more emotional upheaval. If your co-parenting relationship with the other parent is settled enough, consider coordinating gift-giving between households, with each parent or family member choosing off a central wish list. When your children prepare to head to the other parent’s house for a holiday celebration, tell them to have fun and that you look forward to them returning. This will help them feel secure in their ability to enjoy time with the other parent and have a positive experience. [1]

Be Flexible

There’s no written law that says that families have to celebrate a holiday on a particular day. What’s most important during the holidays is everyone getting together to enjoy spending time together. If you are unable to get everyone together on Christmas Day, for example, due to schedules, celebrate on a different day. Your children will enjoy having the holiday season spread out a little longer, and not attempting to cram everything into a few days’ time will help relieve everyone’s stress. [2]

Though maneuvering through life as a blended family presents its own unique challenges at any time of the year, the holidays can be an especially difficult time for everyone involved. Keeping the most important things in mind – The ability to spend quality time together as a family and maintaining the well-being of your children – and avoiding some major possible pitfalls can help everyone have a happy, enjoyable holiday season.

[1] Sam Quick, “Celebrating the Holidays as a Blended Family.”
[2] Operation: PARENT, “Holidays as a Blended Family.”
[3] Today’s Parent, “5 tips for celebrating the holiday with a blended family.”

Co-Parenting: There’s an App for That?

Co-Parenting AppsCommunicating with your ex-spouse during or after a divorce can cause a lot of hostility and unneeded frustration for you and your children. You may be wondering how you are going to parent your children together when just seeing your ex-spouse causes your heart to race and blood to boil. Thankfully we live in the 21st century and technology is more sophisticated than ever before. With many online resources for separated parents, co-parenting with your ex-spouse has never been easier.

The increased demand for technology that makes parenting with an ex easier has led to a development in a number of apps that assist with effective scheduling and planning for both parents and in some cases, everyone in the family. Many of these apps allow you to post schedules, record upcoming events, negotiate a change in visitation, post important topics, and post about expense and payment tracking in a neutral environment.  Even in instances where you may be tempted to reply to a scheduling request change from your ex in a hostile tone, certain apps warn you before sending a message to give you a chance to rethink your reply.

8 Apps for Co-Parenting

Below is a list of the top eight most useful co-parenting apps for separated parents who prefer to avoid phone conversations and face-to-face visits.

  • Our Family Wizard- Created by a divorced couple, this app provides visitation and child custody schedules, parenting plans, calendars, and other tools. Resources and links for counseling and other legal services also included.
  • Kidganizer- Create profiles for each child and add information regarding schedules, finances, and send alerts to remind family members of important events including doctor visits, parent teacher conferences, and more.
  • 2Houses– This app offers a calendar to organize custody and events, post information about doctor’s visits and school documents, post to photo albums, and record notes about food allergies and other important information in a journal. An expense module section allows for managing child related expenses.
  • Skedi- Great for all family members. This cloud based app syncs with your calendar and allows easy management of drop offs, pick-ups, and assigning certain tasks to other family members. Ideal for busy families on the go.
  • Cozi- The “Must-have app for the modern family.” [1] This program allows parents to post and share calendars, add to-do lists, chores, shopping lists, recurring events, forward events to family members, and set up alerts via text and email.
  • About One- Need to access paperwork quickly while on-the-go? This app acts as on online file for keeping heath information, receipts, instructions for caregivers, school reports, upcoming events, paperwork, and emergency contact information.
  • Custody Junction- Still in the middle of getting a divorce? Schedule current and future visitations for up to two years in advance. Reports can be customized regarding visitation, support payments, hours spent with the child and more. These reports can be shared with lawyers and court monitors.
  • My School Bucks- Manage your child’s school payments for lunches, field trips, after school activities, and more. View account balances and recent purchases and set up notifications for upcoming payments. When one parent may be low on cash, the other can contribute without sending checks to the school. This app also allows parents to see a child’s menu selections and get low balance alerts.

“Peaceful, consistent, and purposeful communication with your ex is essential to the success of co-parenting—even though it may seem absolutely impossible.” [2] These helpful co-parenting apps are a great way to begin the process of peaceful co-parenting. By focusing on your children and refraining from acting on your anger and pent-up feelings, you can help your children adjust to the difficult changes that divorce brings.


[1] Youthletic, “8 Apps That Help Organize Co-Parenting Schedules.”

[2] Help Guide, “Co-Parenting Tips for Divorced Parents.” (October 2016).

We are pleased to communicate with you concerning your family matters. However, if you communicate with us through the web regarding a matter for which our firm does not already represent you, your communication may not be treated as privileged or confidential, and shall not be deemed to create an attorney/client relationship. Furthermore, you should not provide confidential information to anyone at our law firm in an e-mail inquiry or otherwise unless we have first entered into a representation agreement. By continuing to our website you are deemed to have agreed to these terms and conditions.

Custody Disputes Involving a Child with Autism

Custody Cases when child has autismWhen custody disputes involve an autistic child, additional factors and individual needs should be considered. It is important for all those involved to understand what autism is and what concerns may be important when litigating a case in court, discussing settlement, or representing a child with autism.

What is Autism?

Autism or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a serious developmental disability impairing one’s ability to communicate and interact. According to The Centers for Disease Control, “ASD is a developmental disability that causes substantial impairments in social interaction and communication and the presence of unusual behaviors and interests. The thinking and learning abilities of people with ASDs can vary—from gifted to severely challenged.” [1]

Not all autistic children have the same symptoms or individualities. Autistic children often have personality traits such as little to no speech, speak in monotone, are introverted, avoid social interaction, are unable to verbally express themselves and sometimes have behavior disorders such as obsessive-compulsiveness or explosive temper tantrums.

With this array of behaviors, the family must consider what is best for the child. There is one component of Autism that seems to be a common thread in all the studies and research. Autistic children require structure and routine in their lives. Divorce and custody disputes disrupt an autistic child’s normalcy. What was once our house become two separate places: Mom’s house and Dad’s house. So the question is “Who will be the best caregiver to support an autistic child’s special emotional needs and which type of custody is best for this child?”

Here Are A Few Questions to Consider:

  • What was each parent’s role during the diagnosis phase of autism and how did each parent accept it?
  • Was each parent proactive with early intervention and therapy?
  • Which parent actively participated in the daily recommended interventions and what was their level of interaction?

Giving consideration to these questions helps determine the type of custody arrangement that will be best for the child.

Helpful Information to Gather at the Commencement of the Action:

It is important to know a lot of detail concerning the autistic child. Sometimes it is helpful to hire a medical professional to explain the terminology and concepts.
Information that is important to gather includes:

  • Names, addresses, phone numbers and credentials of all professionals with whom the child receives treatment
  • Medications given to the child, including the frequency and dosage
  • Therapies in which the child participates. This includes information about where the therapy is received and the name of the provider
  • The cost of each therapy or service

It is important to fully understand the information that has been gathered. It may be necessary to consult an expert in the field in order to feel comfortable arguing the merits of the case, settle the case, and/or properly represent the minor child. If all the information is not fully understood, representation of the minor child ultimately suffers as a result.

The Court’s Role in Autistic Custody Determination

For the courts to make the determination in a custody case, they consider a host of factors such as character and reputation, the primary caregiver, child’s preference and prior abandonment (or surrender) of custody. In special needs cases, the type of disability, its severity and how the disability affects the best interest of the child is a key factor that adds another dimension to the case. [2]


[1] Autism Science Foundation, “What is Autism?” (2016)
[2] General Assembly of Maryland, “General Assembly.” GAM-Article. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Feb. 2016.§ion=9-107&ext=html&session=2015RS&tab=subject5
[3] Lawrence R. Jones and David L. Holmes, NJ Lawyer Magazine, “Autism and Divorce, Guidelines for Family Court Practice”, (February, 2009).
[4] Chantal Sicile-Kira, Psychology Today, “Divorce Cases Involving Children with Autism”, (May 31, 2015).
[5] C.A. Curie, Autism Key, Autism, “Divorce and Putting Children First” (March 13, 2011).
[6] The People’s Law Library of Maryland, “Child Custody in Maryland” (February 8, 2016).

We are pleased to communicate with you concerning your family matters. However, if you communicate with us through the web regarding a matter for which our firm does not already represent you, your communication may not be treated as privileged or confidential, and shall not be deemed to create an attorney/client relationship. Furthermore, you should not provide confidential information to anyone at our law firm in an e-mail inquiry or otherwise unless we have first entered into a representation agreement.  By continuing to our website you are deemed to have agreed to these terms and conditions.

Mistakes Witnesses Make (And How To Avoid Them)

Family Law - Be a Good WitnessA great witness can be the difference between losing and winning a case. So can a harmful witness. So how can you make sure you are on the correct side of this line? Here are a few pointers I have developed over my many years working with witnesses.

Mistake #1: Lack of Preparation

It is tempting to think that since all you are doing is telling your story, preparation is not really necessary. There are several problems with this line of reasoning – primarily that the other side is doing just the opposite. Although you are telling your story, there are many ways that differences in phrasing, non-verbals, and even hesitations may conversely effect the words you are speaking. In addition to this being a completely new, and often times intimidating experience, keep in mind that there will be another side who has spent countless hours and days preparing for your interview and looking for the areas they might find weak. Even if you have done nothing wrong and are just there to relay your story, their goal will be to find your weaknesses. Daniel Small puts it plainly in his 2013 article for Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly: “You’re walking into a strange environment with a great deal at stake, where everyone else is experienced, comfortable, and prepared. You can’t adequately prepare for this challenge without professional help, period.”[1]

The Solution: Prepare, prepare, prepare. This is what your legal team is here for. As veterans of the field, we know what to watch for and we can help you know how and when the important questions will come. With practice and repetition, your lawyer can help you clearly, confidently and accurately convey your meaning to the court.

Mistake #2 – Speaking Too Soon.

By the time your day in court arrives, you will have been over and over the matters of discussion to where they seem beaten to death or mundane. Keep in mind, this is usually going to be the courts first time hearing the details of the case. Answering hastily or anticipating a line of argument can greatly damage your credibility and/or the case. [2]

The Solution: Always wait a second or so before you answer. This gives you time to collect your thoughts and answer clearly. It also gives your attorney time to object if needed. Make sure you understand any question before you begin answering, and then answer the question fully but without going further into future potential questions.

Mistake #3 – Speaking Too Much or Volunteering Information.

As important as it is to answer your questions clearly and accurately, it is also important to stop when you are done. With all of the preparation you have done, you may know where a question is headed and volunteer too much information or information out of order.

The Solution: Answer each question as positively and definitely as possible, and then STOP. Your lawyer to take the questioning where it needs to go. Along this same topic, Stop speaking instantly when an attorney objects to a question or if the judge interrupts you. Wait for the judge to tell you to continue before answering any further.

Mistake #4 – Giving The Answer You Think The Questioner is Looking For Instead Of The Absolute Truth

This might seem like common sense, but sometime I can be tempting. For example, an attorney may ask you: “Have you talked to anybody about this case?” It might be tempting to say “no” but the judge will know that is probably not true as you have likely been approached by the prosecutor, police officers, federal law enforcement agents, etc. [3]

The Solution: Always tell the full and complete truth. Try not to guess at where a line of questioning is going to how to steer it in the right direct. That is the lawyer’s job. Your job is to clearly and accurately describe your own experience. In the case above, it would be better in this case to say clearly and precisely who you have spoken with (including friends or family members) There is nothing improper about this and it build your credibility as a witness.

Mistake #5 – Not Dressing The Part.

It may sound trivial, but the old concept that first impressions are everything is also true in the courtroom. Often witnesses are so worried, stressed, or busy that they neglect to pay attention to the impression they are making.

The Solution: Dress appropriately and professionally. Avoid clothing. Make-up or fragrance that could be distracting. You want to convey that you understand the importance of this proceeding and you take it seriously. [4]

We hope this primer on the common pitfalls with help you feel more prepared and confident about your upcoming day in court. Remember, we are here to help you navigate these strange waters. Please do not hesitate to reach out to your attorney or team as you prepare – that is part of what we are here for!



[1] Daniel I. Small, Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, “Three Big Mistakes Witnesses Make”, (October 17, 2013).

[2] Clark Head, “How To Testify Effectively In Court”

[3] The United States Attorney’s Office, Middle District of Pennsylvania, “Tips For Testifying In Court: Victim Witness”,, (April 22, 2015).

[4] Anthony Flores, “Taking the Terror out of Testifying: Tips for Nonattorneys who Testify in Child Welfare Proceedings”,, (April 2012).


We are pleased to communicate with you concerning your family matters. However, if you communicate with us through the web regarding a matter for which our firm does not already represent you, your communication may not be treated as privileged or confidential, and shall not be deemed to create an attorney/client relationship. Furthermore, you should not provide confidential information to anyone at our law firm in an e-mail inquiry or otherwise unless we have first entered into a representation agreement.  By continuing to our website you are deemed to have agreed to these terms and conditions.


New Mutual Consent Divorce in Maryland as of October 2015

Mutual Consent Divorce in MarylandOn October 1, 2015, Maryland enacted the “mutual consent” grounds for divorce. The new statute was signed by Governor Hogan on May 12, 2015 and stipulates several criteria for Maryland to grant an absolute divorce decree without the standard one year separation requirement that the parties to live separate and apart from each other. [1]

Criteria for “Mutual Consent” Divorce in Maryland

In order for the divorce to be granted on grounds of “mutual consent”, the following criteria must be met (as outlined in the statute):

  • The parties do not have any minor children in common.
  • The parties execute and submit to the court a written statement agreement signed by both parties that resolves all issues relating to alimony, and the distribution of property.
  • Neither party files a pleading to set aside the settlement agreement prior to the divorce hearing required under the laws of Maryland.
  • Both parties appear before the court at the absolute divorce hearing.

If the divorce falls within these criteria, the couple filing for the “mutual consent” divorce can continue living in the same household during the divorce settlement negotiations without delaying the actual date of divorce. This allows time for the couple to settle financial issues, property division and prepare for separate living arrangements.

“Mutual Consent” divorce should be helpful in assisting an amicable divorce.

What Prevents “Mutual Consent” Divorce in Maryland

“Mutual Consent” divorce is extremely helpful because it allows couples, seeking an amicable divorce, to obtain a divorce even if they are still living together. In our community there are many individuals that cannot afford to move out, and live separately for one year, in order to obtain an absolute divorce. For those couples who do not qualify for mutual consent divorce, you must meet the requirements of one other divorce grounds listed below:

  • One year separation without cohabitation
  • Adultery
  • Desertion
  • Conviction of a misdemeanor or felony charge (must comply with sentence duration limits)
  • Cruelty
  • Excessively vicious conduct
  • Insanity

Which Divorce is Right for Me

When considering a divorce, you should always consult a qualified attorney in your jurisdiction. The Law Offices of Sandra Guzman-Salvado, LLC practices primarily in the area of family law. We have offices in Frederick County, Montgomery County, Anne Arundel County and Prince George’s County. Contact us today at 301-340-1911 or schedule an appointment with a Maryland divorce attorney online to discuss your options.

[1] General Assembly of Maryland, Legislation by Session: Family Law-Grounds for Divorce-Mutual Consent, Chapter 353 (2015 Regular Session),, (May 2015).

We are pleased to communicate with you concerning your family matters. However, if you communicate with us through the web regarding a matter for which our firm does not already represent you, your communication may not be treated as privileged or confidential, and shall not be deemed to create an attorney/client relationship. Furthermore, you should not provide confidential information to anyone at our law firm in an e-mail inquiry or otherwise unless we have first entered into a representation agreement.
By continuing to our website you are deemed to have agreed to these terms and conditions.

The Effects of the Economic Downturn on Family Law

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In the past, it has been estimated that about half of every marriages end in divorce. In a United States Census Bureau Survey completed in 1996, 34% of all men, ages 40-49 and 37% of all women, ages 40-49 answered that they had been divorced at some point in their lives. However, during the recent recession and economic downturn, divorce rates have dropped significantly. According to a survey conducted by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, of the 16,000 lawyers polled, 40% said that divorce fillings had decreased 40% since the recession. [1] [2]

Recent estimates show that a divorce can cost an individual anywhere from $8,187 to $132,600, depending on the complexity of the divorce. Due to the high legal fees, as well as financial uncertainty, many couples have chosen to stay together simply because they are unable to afford getting divorced. [3] [4]

Some people, however, have chosen to take matters in their own hands and choosing to represent themselves in divorce cases, a practice known as “Pro Se” representation. A California survey found that 49% of petitioners and 81% of respondents are self-represented. Recently, the state of Texas controversially decided to provide forms to individuals that would assist in Pro Se divorces. While this assistance has helped individuals by eliminating the cost of lawyer fees, it has given rise to other problems. [5][6][7]

Complex divorces involving Pro Se representation, such as those involving property, children and income, has led to chaos at family courts. Family Court clerks have had an especially increased work load, as they often are called upon to help the Pro Se parties navigate through the divorce process. Pro Se litigants often times lack the legal knowledge to recognize the validity of their case, as well as what the best means of argument are. Additionally, judges are often found having to worry about basic procedural issues as opposed to the divorce itself. A poll of judges found that 88% believe that procedural errors were a problem in Pro Se cases. Procedural issues and paperwork that are standard practice to lawyers can easily be confused by Pro Se litigants, which lead to judges having to spend time explaining what would be basic information to a professional attorney. Another survey found that 62% of judges polled said that the outcomes in Pro Se cases were worse than those involving representation.  [8][9][10][11][12]

Although Pro Se litigants are representing themselves, they are still held to the same procedural standard that a traditional attorney would be held to. By law, Judges are unable to provide legal advice, no matter how confused the Pro Se party may be. Although other states may choose to follow Texas’s lead in providing DIY divorce forms, until there is adequate legal information available for individuals who wish to represent themselves, it can reasonably be inferred that the problems involved in Pro Se litigation will continue to be the norm. [13]