Patterson Law Office

Family, Bankruptcy & Immigration Law in Washington D.C

Family Law — Custody, Child Support & Divorce

How long do you have to be separated to get a divorce?

To get a divorce based on voluntary separation in D.C., you must be separated for at least six months from the day you file for divorce. In Maryland, to get a divorce based on voluntary separation, you must be separated for at least one year to get a divorce.

How much does it cost to file for divorce?

The filing fee changes regularly. As of March 2017, Maryland charges $165 for a divorce petition, $175 if the party has an attorney; D.C. charges $80 for a divorce petition, $96.45 if the party has an attorney. Service of Process fees are extra regardless of whether you represent yourself or have an attorney.

What happens once I file for divorce?

Once a party files for divorce, the opposing party must be served. Correct service is mandatory for your case to move forward. Once the other party is properly served, a hearing date will be set, unless the other party does not respond.

What does division of marital assets entail?

Maryland and the District of Columbia are equitable distribution jurisdictions, not community property states. In both Maryland and D.C., to decide the disposition of marital property, the courts use the same procedure. Marital assets are identified, valued, and then distributed.

child holding white family cut outs

What is the difference between physical custody and legal custody?

Physical custody determines where the child lives and when each parent has access to the child. Sole custody or joint custody is determined by the number of overnight stays the child has with each parent.

Legal custody determines which parent has the right to make major decisions, such as choosing a school, accessing medical records, and choosing a religion, to name a few.

One parent plans to move, what will happen?

If the custody order addresses it, follow the order. If it does not or there is no order, the parents should try to resolve it amicably. If that is not possible, you may file a complaint for a new custody order or file a motion to modify for an existing one.

How long does child support last?

In D.C., until the child reaches 21. In Maryland, until the child reaches 18.

Am I entitled to spousal support?

Divorcing spouses may receive spousal support. The first inquiry the court makes is, does the requesting spouse need the support and does the paying spouse have the income to provide spousal support?

Bankruptcy Help — Chapter 7 & Chapter 13

Are you afraid to open your mail because you are delinquent on several payments for several bills? Are you in danger of having your paycheck garnished, or is it being garnished right now? Do you cringe when the phone rings because you know it is a harassing creditor?

ENP Law Office can provide you with workable options to stop creditor harassment, eliminate most debts and give you a fresh start.

What is a Chapter 7 bankruptcy?

When you file Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you receive an “automatic stay” that prevents creditors from taking any further collection activity. The “automatic stay” also stops any current or imminent garnishment. You will then work with your bankruptcy attorney to differentiate between your dischargeable debts and your non-dischargeable debts.

Although non-dischargeable debts cannot be eliminated, eliminating the dischargeable debt reduces your financial burden, allowing you to pay for the non-dischargeable debts.

What is a Chapter 13 bankruptcy?

Under a chapter 13 bankruptcy, a debtor proposes a 3-5 year repayment plan to the creditors offering to pay off all or part of the debts from the debtor’s future income.

You can use Chapter 13 to prevent a house foreclosure; make up missed car or mortgage payments; pay back taxes, or stop interest from accruing on your tax debt keep valuable non-exempt property.

To file Chapter 13 bankruptcy you must have a “regular source of income” and have some disposable income to apply towards your Chapter 13 payment plan. Chapter 13 bankruptcy is generally used by debtors who want to keep secured assets, such as a home or car, when they have significant equity in the secured assets. Chapter 13 bankruptcy is a reorganization whereas Chapter 7 bankruptcy is a liquidation.

More than 10 years of successful legal experience

Immigration Matters — Visas, Green Cards, & Citizenship

Navigating immigration law is tricky if you don’t have someone to guide you. Let Patterson Law Office help you with family-based visas, green cards, citizenship matters, student visas, and work authorizations. We understand that there is so much at stake when it comes to immigration — let us help you get the best outcome possible. Call us today.

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Family-Based Immigration

Many family members qualify to enter the United States and apply for a green card through their relative who is legally residing the United States.

What is a visa?

A visa allows the holder to travel to and enter the United States.

Who may green card holders sponsor?

Green card holders may sponsor immediate relatives only. A permanent resident may petition for his/her spouse and unmarried child(ren) of any age to immigrate to the United States. They are placed in the family preference category. There are a limited number of available visas for immediate relatives of green card holders.

How are certain family members treated differently?

There are unlimited visas available for immediate family members. Also, they will officially become a permanent resident when admitted at a U.S. port of entry.  Non-immediate family members and family members of green card holders have to wait for a visa to become available. Each year there is usually a waiting period before an immigrant visa number becomes available. Non-immediate family members may apply for a green card if the priority date in the visa category is current.

How long does it take to get a visa?

Visas for immediate family members are immediately available. The waiting time for non-immediate family members to receive an immigrant visa or adjust status depends on: the demand for and supply of immigrant visas, the per-country visa limitations and the number of visas allocated for your preference category. The exact time varies.

Are there other ways to get a green card?

Yes, there are special categories that allow persons to get a green card.
The following people may qualify for a green card: battered spouses or children, fiancées, persons born to foreign diplomat, and widows and widowers of US Citizens, are some examples.

Who may US Citizens Sponsor?

Citizens may sponsor immediate and non-immediate relatives.
“Immediate relatives” of a U.S. citizen are defined as a spouse, unmarried children under the age of 21, and parents. Immediate relatives always have a visa number immediately available.
Note: U.S. citizens must be at least 21 years old to apply for their parents.

Non-immediate family members who may still be sponsored are: unmarried sons or daughters over the age of 21, married child(ren) of any age, and brothers and sisters (if the U.S. citizen petitioner is over the age of 21). Such relatives are placed in a “family preference category.”.

How will my non-immediate family member get a visa?

To distribute the visas among all preference categories, Visas are distributed according to a prospective immigrant’s preference category, country of chargeability, and priority date.

What is a priority date?

A priority date is used to determine an immigrant’s place in the visa queue.

My spouse & I were recently married, does this affect their immigration status?

Yes. Permanent residence status is conditional if it is based on a marriage that is less than 2 years old on the day permanent residence was granted. You are given conditional resident status on the day you are lawfully admitted to the United States. To remove these conditions you must show that you are in a bona fide marriage to the same U.S. citizen or permanent resident after 2 years. Certain exceptions apply.

Who is ineligible for a visa?

Applicants may be ineligible for a visa for health-based reasons, criminal backgrounds, national security concerns, past immigration violations and immigrants who are likely to need public benefits.


Am I Eligible for citizenship?

For most people, to become a citizen, the applicant must:
1. Be at least 18 years old;
2. Be a legal permanent resident for 5 years or more (unless the applicant meets the marriage exception);
3. Meet residency requirements;
4. Pass the language test (with some exceptions);
5. Pass the history test (with some exceptions);
6. Be a person of good mora character;
7. Pledge allegiance to the Constitution and US; and
8. In compliance with any military requirements, if applicable.

What do I need to do to become a citizen?

Applicants for citizenship must submit a N-400 application and all supporting documentation relevant to their case. Each application is unique. It is best to seek the advice of an immigration attorney before submitting an application for citizenship.

Can I lose my citizenship?

Both naturalized and natural-born citizens may lose their citizenship for several reasons, two of which are pledging allegiance to a foreign state or committing treason. Naturalized citizens can have their citizenship revoked for fraud.