Saturday, October 22, 2011

Holiday support for troops

Holiday support for troops:

Troops deploy to war zones on an ongoing basis. Patriotic Baltimoreans generously support these brave men and women who serve in dangerous situations.

Fort Meade: Defense officials open $67 million media center

Defense officials open $67 million media center at Fort Meade:

Defense officials cut the ribbon Thursday on a $67 million facility to house the military's news and information operations at Fort Meade .

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Maryland Military Divorce Lawyers - Service Programs Strive to Strengthen Military Marriages, Curb Divorce

Servicemembers and their spouses are flocking to a broad array of programs to help them strengthen their family relationships as the services step up efforts to curb divorce rates.
Military divorce rates rose by .1 percent -- to 3.4 percent -- during fiscal 2008, with 492 more divorces than the previous year, Army Lt. Col Les’ Melnyk, a Pentagon spokesman, reported. Military-wide, 25,750 marriages ended in divorce last year.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Military Divorce Rates Up

The number of active-duty soldiers getting divorced has been rising sharply with deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq.

The trend is severest among officers. Last year, 3,325 Army officers' marriages ended in divorce -- up 78% from 2003, the year of the Iraq invasion, and more than 31/2 times the number in 2000, before the Afghan operation, Army figures show. For enlisted personnel, the 7,152 divorces last year were 28% more than in 2003 and up 53% from 2000. During that time, the number of soldiers has changed little.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Fort Meade gets new commander

FORT MEADE — Fort Meade’s new installation commander is no stranger to the Army post near Baltimore.
Col. Edward Rothstein did two stints there before assuming command Tuesday.
He was assigned to the 743rd Military Intelligence Battalion at Fort Meade from 1993 to 1996. And he served at the National Security Agency there from [...]
"Fort Meade gets new commander: "

Walter Reed closing after 102 years helping troops

Walter Reed closing after 102 years helping troops: "

WASHINGTON — Walter Reed Army Medical Center, the Army’s flagship hospital where privates to presidents have gone for care, is closing its doors after more than a century.
Hundreds of thousands of the nation’s war wounded from World War I to today have received treatment at Walter Reed, including 18,000 troops who served in Iraq and [...]

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Does Deployment Cause Military Families to Divorce?

There have been numerous reports that the marriages of military couples are under threat due to the stress of the recent wars and the long and dangerous deployments. Lizette Alvarez writing in the New York Times in 2006 states, "Military deployments have a way of chewing up marriages, turning daily life upside down and making strangers out of husbands and wives."

Yet is this really what the data show us?
Read more at The Huffington Post

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Happy 4th of July from DONWEST LEGAL, LLC

What does Kanye West, Jay Z, and Independence Day Have in common? More on that later.... keep reading

I would like to wish everyone a Happy 4th of July. I am looking forward to spending some time in Sweet Home Alabama with my family and friends. After literally a two year sprint, this will be my first real vacation. BTW, NEVER skip a vacation.

In addition, in line with being one of the coolest attorneys you will ever meet, I want you to hear from me that Jay-Z and Kanye West's collaborative album Watch the Throne may be coming out this weekend. The record, which was originally promised as a January release, is heavily rumored to be coming out on July 4th based on a report published by The Source earlier this month. If this is indeed the case, the rappers clearly intend for the album to be a surprise. According to, the initial release of the set is likely to be digital-only in order to avoid leaks.

I hope this news jumpstarts your holiday weekend! Be safe!


Friday, June 3, 2011


I want you to join me and TEAM DONWEST on Sunday, October 23rd so you can be among the anticipated 30,000 people who will participate in the 2011 Komen Maryland Race for the Cure® held in Hunt Valley, Maryland. Your help will support the Komen promise of saving lives and ending breast cancer forever by empowering people, ensuring quality care for all and energizing science to find the cures.

Because early detection is the best protection for breast cancer, Komen Maryland sponsors grants that aim to increase the number of women who have annual mammograms and clinical breast exam screenings. Komen grants also target the entire range of breast health services from transportation to appointments, providing meals to women, men and families affected by the disease and financial support for clinical trials.

All you need to do is follow the link to my personal webpage to make a donation or to register as a Race participant!

For more information visit

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Attorney Dondi West Answers a Custody Question on Avvo

Question:  if my daughters father has not been in her life for over 8 years and she doesnt want to see him will she be forced too see him: my daughter doesnt really know her father and i say that because after 7 years I SEARCHED HIM OUT and tried to let her meet him that didnt go to well she feels nervous and doesnt really like him although i try and keep the line open for her to call she just doesnt want to is it right for him to demand to see her if she doesnt want to see him??? I want the best for her but I dont not want a child forced into doing something that makes them uncomfortable and all he talks about is his rights and not hers??

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Dondi West Explains the Military Leave and Earning Statement or "LES"

Members of the armed forces are certainly very familiar with the acronym "LES." LES stands for Leave and Earnings Statement, which breaks down the amount of compensation that a service member received that particular month. The information is broken down into three categories: entitlement, deductions and allotments. For those militaries families who are considering a divorce, the LES will play a crucial role in the division of property and determination of child or spousal support obligations.

The LES is distributed to service members on a biweekly basis. The information, including pay grades, the basic rate of pay as well as any allowances listed in the report will determine exactly what the income is for a service member. If the couple has children, this is the information that will be used to calculate support payments.

Military retirement pay will also be a major issue when a service member is going through a divorce. The Uniformed Services Former Spouses' Protection Act is the federal statute that deals with military retirement pay. If the spouse has been married for at least ten years, and this overlaps with ten years of service time, the retirement payment can be distributed under the act. If the marriage has not lasted ten years, there may be additional options available for the divorcing non-service member spouse, depending upon the agreement of the parties.

Each state is allowed to determine whether or not this asset is to be considered marital property. Currently, all states consider the retirement pay to be property of the marriage, and subject to division.

Retirement benefits will generally start only after a service member retires after 20 years. While retirement pay is considered marital property, there are other benefits that may not be subject to equitable division. If the service member applies for and receives Veterans Administration disability benefits, portions of these benefits will be considered personal property, and excluded from any divorce proceeding.

With all of the various laws and jurisdictional issues that may apply, it is easy to get overwhelmed. If you are in the armed forces, or married to someone who is currently serving, contact Dondi West, founder of DONWEST Legal, LLC, and an experienced military family law attorney, to understand the options that are available to you.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Support for Shared Parenting in Maryland?!?!

Judiciary committee member, Delegate Jill Carter, has been a great friend of Shared Parenting and last year introduced House Bill 925 calling for a presumption of equal physical placement and joint legal custody.  She is reintroducing the bill this year (it will have a different bill number but the language will be substantively the same).  It should be filed sometime next week. 

Shared parenting or joint custody, which would include joint legal custody and joint physical custody, is the common term used to describe a family arrangement after separation or divorce, in which the care of the children is substantially shared between the father and mother, leading to a situation where the child knows that both of his/her parent's are involved in his/her upbringing.

Research and studies that are over a quarter century old show the significant benefits for children of shared parenting or joint physical custody (see Shared Parenting - Fact and Fiction).

Monday, January 3, 2011

Dondi West on Military Divorce in Maryland

A Maryland military divorce creates several unique issues as compared to a typical civilian divorce, which is why specific state and federal laws and rules will apply.

Military Protection From Maryland Divorce Proceedings
There are laws set up to protect active duty military members against being held in "default" from failing to respond to a divorce action. These laws were enacted to protect active military from being divorced without knowing it.

Under the Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act, 50 UCS section 521 and in the discretion of the local Maryland court, the divorce proceeding may be postponed for the entire time the active service member is on duty and for up to 60 days thereafter (This is typically the case when the active member is serving in a war). Also, this right to have the divorce proceedings postponed can be waived by any active duty member should he or she wish to get the divorce.

Serving an Active Military Spouse
The active duty spouse must be personally served with a summons and a copy of the divorce action in order for a Maryland court to have jurisdiction over the active military member. In an uncontested case, the active duty spouse may not have to be served as long as he or she signs and files a waiver affidavit acknowledging the divorce action.

Residency and Filing Requirements
The typical military divorce filing requirements are as follows:
- You or your spouse must reside in Maryland
- You or your spouse must be stationed in Maryland

Grounds for Maryland Military Divorce
The grounds for a military divorce in Maryland are the same as a civilian divorce.

Dividing the Property
Along with the normal Maryland property division laws, the federal government has enacted the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA) that governs how military retirement benefits are calculated and divided upon divorce. The USFSPA is the governing body that authorizes a direct payment of a portion of a military retirees pay to the former spouse.

The federal laws will not divide and distribute any of the military members retirement to the spouse unless they have been married 10 years or longer while the member has been active duty military.

Child Support and Spousal Support
In Maryland, both child support and spousal support/alimony awards may not exceed 60% of a military member’s pay and allowances. The normal Maryland child support guidelines, worksheets and schedules are used to determine the proper amount of child support to be paid.

Dondi West
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