Kellyanne Conway’s 15-year-old daughter says she is seeking emancipation. Here’s what that process might look like. (Morgan Foster Quoted)

• Mon Aug 24th, 2020 3:30pm
By Lauren Leazenby
Chicago Tribune

Kellyanne Conway’s daughter, Claudia Conway, 15, announced she is seeking emancipation from her parents. “I’m officially pushing for emancipation,” she tweeted Saturday.

Claudia’s tweet came just 24 hours before Kellyanne Conway announced, also via Twitter, that she will be leaving her post as senior counselor to President Donald Trump at the end of August to focus more on her children. Claudia’s father, George Conway, also said Sunday he is stepping away from his role as founder of the Lincoln Project to “devote more time to family matters.”

Claudia is citing “years of childhood trauma and abuse” as her reason for seeking emancipation, according to a follow-up tweet.
Megan Foster, a family law attorney in the Washington, D.C., metro area, said the courts know that many teens don’t get along with their parents.

“The court is aware of the nature of the dynamics between teenagers and parents,” said Foster, an attorney at the firm McAllister, DeTar, Showalter & Walker. “So, they’re looking for something beyond just normal teenager-parent butting heads in order to rise to the level of something that would make emancipation an option.”

Emancipation “severs the parents’ legal and financial responsibilities and obligations for the child,” Foster said, adding that the process is “like a child divorcing from their parent.” To be emancipated, first, a child —likely with the help of counsel —would file a petition with the court for emancipation. The court would then issue a summons, and the opposing parties (the parents) would be served.

“That would open the gate,” Foster said. “Then there would be a full case in court in the family law division — similar to a divorce or custody case — dealing with the issue of emancipation and evaluating whether the facts merit granting of emancipation.”

Foster said the child has the burden of proving to the court that emancipation is in her best interest and that she is able to financially support herself.

Typically, minors seek emancipation for one of three reasons, Foster said: Sometimes, the teenage child is already living independently of her parents and already has a sort of practical emancipation that the legal process would make official. Emancipation can also be financially driven, as seen in cases where child actors or influencers have their own income streams. Foster said emancipation sometimes occurs in a contentious divorce, where parents don’t agree about what should happen to a child, but the court has already come down with a custody order. In this case, an emancipated child can make the decision about which parent to live with.

If a child is at least 16 years old, generally speaking, the court is more likely to grant emancipation. “Just because you’re 16 and you file for emancipation, you’re not automatically going to get it,” Foster said. “But if you’re 16 or older, you’re more likely, you have a stronger case.” She also said that because court cases can sometimes take over a year from start to finish, children might be in an even stronger position for emancipation at the end because they have aged up throughout the process.

Foster said minors seeking emancipation should know that it’s a “somber and serious process.” Children who are successfully emancipated often can afford to be represented by effective counsel, she said. If they can afford a lawyer, they probably have enough income to be self-sufficient, Foster said. But emancipation is cost-prohibitive for many who can’t afford counsel.

“But it is a resource,” she said. “If any minor child … seems to find themselves in an unhealthy or untenable circumstance, it should certainly be something they consider.”

In Claudia’s case, Foster said the Trump aide’s daughter will likely have to show that hers is an unhealthy environment to grow up in. She said Claudia may have income from her work on social media, which would help the process. However, her parents would likely oppose the emancipation, which would turn it into a “full-blown court case,” Foster said.

For parents of teens who are seeking emancipation, Foster said: “It’s definitely not an automatic thing.” If a parent doesn’t want their child to be emancipated, a parent should sit down with their child, figure out the reasoning for the complaints and work together to fix the situation, she said.

“If the parents are making substantial efforts to make the situation better, to listen to the child, to make sure she has the attention she needs, to make sure she has the resources she needs … they’re going to improve the chances of getting what they want in the court case,” Foster said.

Think about where your phone is most of the time. Your pocket? Think about how frequently you use your phone to text your partner or your friends, or your childcare provider. Constantly? Think about the pictures you share on Facebook or Instagram of your children and your outings. All of them? Privacy rights advocates have been telling us for years that we should be more careful about the information we post about ourselves online, and at the same time technology companies tempt us with secure and encrypted devices and programs, suggesting that we can keep our digital lives private.

By: Susan M. Wyckoff, Esquire

You are meeting with your divorce attorney who has answered your questions about adultery.  You have discussed the legal definition of adultery, that adultery is one of the grounds for divorce in Maryland and whether you and/or your spouse have committed/condoned the same. You also discussed the fact that adultery is a misdemeanor in Maryland, which leads to a discussion of the grounds rules of asserting your privilege not to incriminate yourself.  Armed with the law, at the end of the conversation, you sheepishly ask that awkward question.  “When can I date?”  Your attorney may want to say “when you are divorced.”  Not satisfied with your attorney’s answer, you rephrase your question.  “What I really want to know is, if my soon-to-be ex finds out that I’m dating during the separation/divorce process, will it negatively impact my case?”

As to how having sexual relations with someone other than your spouse will affect your divorce is fact driven. It should be evaluated by your attorney after they have had the opportunity to ask you detailed questions. Some issues that it might affect are alimony, custody, monetary award, and counsel fees.  However, there are several other issues that arise when dating while married that merit discussion.

Know that if your case goes to litigation, you more than likely will be asked the following question either in the form of what is called an Interrogatory, during a deposition or at trial:

State whether you have had sexual relations with anyone other than your spouse at any time during your marriage and, if your answer is in the affirmative, identify each person with whom you have had sexual relations,[1] and the date and place of each such act of sexual relations.

You can see where a reasonable person would consider this question to be highly invasive and to answer it, particularly knowing other people may read/hear your answer, is embarrassing, harassing, and humiliating.  However, the above question is standard in a family law case involving divorce.  Very little, if anything can be done about past behavior, but when you are going through divorce and your life is under the proverbial microscope, it does give you pause to stop and think about how your actions will be viewed in the public eye of the litigation process.

You may be asked to produce your calendar, e-mails, texts, diary, photographs, social media sites, bank statements, cancelled checks, credit card statements, and numerous financial documents, as well as contracts or receipts reflecting trips that may provide details of your spending marital funds on a romantic partner.  Members of your family, friends, and/or co-workers with knowledge of your dating and romantic relationship may be deposed and/or be called to testify at trial.

Your spouse may hire a private investigator to conduct surveillance on you and/or your paramour.  Private investigators have been known to photograph and/or film parties having sexual relations with someone other than their spouse in public area, cars, etc.  Private Investigators may then be called into Court to testify as to what they witnessed first-hand, along with presenting any photographs or videos to the Court.

One final thought when considering whether to begin dating while going through a divorce, is that the individual with whom you may have a very innocent dinner date may end up being dragged into your divorce litigation.  That is not exactly the best beginning to a new romance, in my opinion.

[1] For purposes of this Interrogatory, “sexual relations” includes sexual intercourse, “sexual act” or “sexual contact” as defined in Maryland Criminal Law article §3-301.

By: Susan M. Wyckoff, Esquire

Imagine being out with your girlfriends…an innocent night of girl talk while enjoying a few tapas and some wine.  One of your friends who has recently re-entered the single scene shows you the dating website she has been trying out.  You have been happily married for several years, so you have been out of the dating scene, but of course, are naturally curious.  What harm could possibly come from watching your single friend search for the new love of her life?

Your friend opens up her Tinder page, shows you her profile and explains how it works – various pictures of men will appear, most of which will have the man’s name and age in the lower left hand corner, some of which may have a brief profile, including his profession and workplace… swipe left if you are not interested or swipe right if you are interested.  If she “swipes right,” and the man in the photo “swipes right” on her photo, there will be a match, and potentially an online conversation that will hopefully lead to a meetup.  Riveting!  While swiping through the photos, you see various pictures of men, some attractive, some not.  You and your friends have an innocent laugh or two, until one photo suddenly makes your heart sink …the man in the photo IS YOUR HUSBAND!  It takes your girlfriends a minute longer to recognize him, but suddenly everyone is silent in disbelief.  What do you do?

  1. Ask your friend to take a screen shot of every picture and every word of the profile.
  2. Then ask your friend to text or e-mail the photos to another friend. Do not text or e-mail the photos to yourself yet, in the event that your spouse, or worse, your children, have access to your e-mail or text messages.
  3. If your husband has never met your friend, ask her to swipe right to see if there is a match.
  4. If there is a match let him initiate the conversation, and if, and when he does, have your girlfriend takes screen shots of all of the direct messaging.

At this point, you may be tempted to take matters into your own hands such as having your girlfriend set up a meeting with him where you appear with your other friends – very, very bad idea.  It is highly unlikely that you will have any productive conversation with your spouse about his or her on-line dating presence.  In addition, if you confront your spouse, you are not only putting yourself at a disadvantage as to discovering all of the facts, but you are also putting your spouse on notice to try to cover-up his or her behavior.

The next step is to contact an attorney who is experienced in the area of family law as it is now time for you understand what rights you have and do not have.  In addition, the attorney may refer you to a private investigator for further investigation of your spouse’s conduct.  Your attorney should also be familiar with companies that are able to legally and defensibly capture, preserve and analyze web content.  Consulting with a family law attorney, does not always lead to a separation or divorce, but it should lead you to being educated on the law and access to the appropriate professional resources.

There are a number of internet search sites, such as Spokeo, that will assist you in finding out if your spouse has an internet dating profile by running a search of your spouse’s e-mail address.  These sites costs money and may be a good start provided that your spouse is not very clever.  If your spouse is clever, he or she may have taken the precaution of buying with cash a disposable smart phone with prepaid minutes and creating a new e-mail account with that unknown, hard to trace number.  Once he or she has the new e-mail account, he or she will be able to open a Facebook page and use same to create a profile on Tinder, Bumble, Grinder, etc.

An initial consultation with a qualified family law attorney will more than likely cost you between $250 and $500 depending upon the attorney’s experience and the nature of the case; however, when you are considering that the well-being and financial future of you and your children, and that thousands to millions of dollars of marital assets are at issue, spending an initial consultation fee to get your ducks in a row is very wise.

By: Susan M. Wyckoff, Esquire

1. Do gain perspective and knowledge with professional assistance.

When experiencing difficulties in your marriage, it may seem natural to turn to family and/or friends in seeking advice and comfort.  Although a friend or a family member may mean well, your communications with them whether in person or via e-mail, may not offer the confidential and objective advice that you need and will receive from a professional.

There is a confidential privilege that exists in communications with certain professionals.  Upon a showing that an attorney and client communicated in a professional capacity, the attorney-client privilege is invoked.  One of the items an attorney should go over with you is the existence and any limitations to this privilege; however, generally you will be able to discuss your marital difficulties and the law related to same confidentially with your attorney.  By way of example, during your marriage you have had sexual relations with someone other than your spouse.  You do not want your marriage to end; however, you do not know what to do.  If you consult with a divorce attorney and the attorney-client privilege is invoked, your lawyer is under a professional ethical obligation to keep that conversation privileged.  Your lawyer may discuss with you the legal issues related to you disclosing the affair to your spouse, how it may affect grounds for divorce, custody, support, alimony, and/or marital property.  By contrast, if you confide in your best friend in your heart you believe that your best friend would never betray your confidence.  However, months later your spouse has found out about the affair, you are in the middle of divorce litigation, and your spouse’s attorney subpoenas your best friend to the witness stand in a public courtroom and asks about the affair in detail.  Under oath, and ordered by the Judge your best friend has no choice but to admit that you told her about the affair and every single detail you told her whereas your lawyer may not be called to the stand to testify.

Lack of objectivity is also another problem with discussing such issues with a family member or friend.  If you are experiencing difficulties in your marriage, it is natural to turn to a friend who may have gone through a separation or divorce for comfort and advice.  Be cautioned that although your friend may have gone through a separation and/or divorce, the set of circumstances of his or her situation may differ greatly from yours.  An outcome in one separation or divorce case may not necessarily be the same outcome in another.


It may be very tempting during a heated argument with your spouse to threaten that you are leaving the marriage or even go so far as to say that you want a divorce.  It is easy for your emotions to get the best of you and say things in anger that you really do not mean.  By way of example, you come home one from a business trip to find out that your spouse has moved out of the marital home.  You are in shock and do understand what went wrong.  A few days later, you are served with divorce papers.  Yes the two of you were having difficulties, but you had no idea why your spouse chose to file for divorce instead of trying to work things out.  Later in the litigation process your attorney asks your spouse what lead to the dissolution of the marriage and your spouse responds, “Every time we argued she threatened to leave and/or divorce me, so finally I left and began divorce proceedings.  I gave her what she asked for.”  It just now occurs to you just how hurtful telling your spouse that you want a divorce every time you had an argument was not clearly communicating what you wanted.  The word divorce has a shock and awe to it; however, it may be you that will be the recipient of the shock and awe if you repeatedly use it when you are not ready to end your marriage.

In addition, divorce litigation is not a tool to fix your marriage or get your spouse’s attention.  A red flag should raise for a family law attorney if during an initial consultation the client’s reason for wanting to file a Complaint for Absolute Divorce against his or her spouse is because the client wants to get “the attention” of his or her spouse.  The client believes his or her spouse is not taking them seriously and/or is not trying to work on the problems in the marriage.  The client does not want to actually get a divorce, but still want to file a Complaint for Divorce because the client is angry or frustrated with his or her spouse.  Divorce litigation can be both emotionally and financially draining, not just on you and your spouse, but on any children, family and friends.  Before casually throwing out the threat of hiring a lawyer and filing a Complaint for Divorce, ask yourself is there no hope or expectation of a reconciliation.


If there are difficulties in your marriage, there is a good chance they are related to financial issues.  You and your spouse argue about money all the time.  There never seems to be enough money to make ends meet and one or both of you do not seem to understand what money is coming in and what money is going out.  Or perhaps one spouse complains the other is too controlling with the finances and yet the spouse with who is complaining of same has not looked at a joint tax return, bank statement, or the bills for years.  Whether you stay together or decide to separate, now is the time to take ownership of what your monthly income and expenses are.    In addition, you should always have a basic understanding of your assets and liabilities, including, but not limited to their fair market value and any balance owed.  It will be difficult to resolve your financial differences if both of you do not have basic knowledge of and understand them.


If you have an Advanced Health Care Directive in which you appointed your spouse to make medical decisions on your behalf or a Power of Attorney in which you appointed your spouse to make financial decisions on your behalf in the event of your incapacity, you probably did so at a time when you and your spouse were trusting of one another and not during a period of time when your marriage was in trouble.  Depending upon what difficulty you are dealing with in your marriage you may wish to revisit your spouse being the one who makes medical and/or financial decisions for you in the event of your incapacity.  If your spouse is cheating on you and spending the kids’ college money on her girlfriend is this truly the person you trust with your medical care?


There are several different processes, including, but not limited to alternative dispute resolution, by which to separate and/or divorce.  Each couple, each case, may be different and what works for one couple does not necessarily work for another.  You should briefly familiarize yourself with a few options that you can discuss in further detail with a family law attorney.  Each process is time consuming and a financial commitment; therefore, it is wise to get more detail from a family law attorney as to the pros and cons of each process so that you will have realistic expectations. Two such processes are discussed below.

Mediation:  The opening scene from the movie Wedding Crashers where a husband and wife are engaged in dividing their airline miles and other property is often cited by clients who want to engage in the mediation process, but with professionally trained mediators and not the actors, Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson.  Mediation is a process by which the parties negotiate and attempt to reach a written settlement agreement with the assistance of a trained impartial person called a mediator.  Depending upon the mediators training, he or she will be able to address among other issues, custody, support, alimony, and property issues.  The parties may engage in private mediation or if there is litigation pending, court ordered mediation with a court appointed mediator.  Stay tuned for the upcoming Blog, “We Want to Use a Mediator, Do We Really Need Lawyers?”

Collaborative Practice:  The International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (IACP) define Collaborative Practice as “a voluntary dispute resolution process in which parties settle without resort to litigation.”  On their website,, the IACP go on to define the core elements of Collaborative Practice as:

  • Negotiate a mutually acceptable resolution without having courts decide issues.
  • Maintain open communication and information sharing.
  • Create shared solutions acknowledging the highest priories of all.

Both parties will be represented by counsel who have been trained in the Collaborative Practice, as well as assisted by other professionals or experts, such as accountants or financial planners.  The parties sign a collaborative participation agreement, disclose financial information and use good faith efforts to try to reach a written settlement agreement.


Sharing the difficulties of your marriage on Facebook, Twitter or another form of social media, even if your account is private, is not a smart idea.  When you post something think do I want my children, family, friends, and neighbors to read this tweet.  By way of example, you find out your spouse is having an affair so you decide to post the photo you found of your spouse and his lover on your Facebook page with a caption that details what a lying, cheating, @*$# your spouse is.  You and your spouse end up going to counseling and working things out.  Several months later your daughter comes to you in tears with a copy of the picture you posted on her phone.  You have no idea who sent her the picture, but does it even matter, because you are the one who put it out there.

In addition, it is common practice for divorce attorneys to request and/or subpoena copies of a divorce litigants social media posts, tweets and pictures.  Do you really want the Judge determining your fitness and character during a contested custody case to read a Facebook post where you failed to control your emotions, are hostile and threaten your spouse that he will never see his child again?

Stay tuned for the post, “Revenge Porn Law, Civil Suits and Criminal Charges that May Follow.