For many people, the issue of mental illness is a part of their lives and an ongoing battle. When a person with mental illness is also a parent, the issues become that much more complicated, especially when it comes to child custody and visitation litigation. A recent ruling by the Court of Special Appeals highlights the important concept that a parent’s improving or declining mental health may constitute the sort of material change of circumstances required to modify an existing order of custody and visitation.
The case regarding the custody of, and visitation with, one little boy from Western Maryland has touched upon some of the most visible social issues of today. What it also did, following a recent ruling by Maryland’s highest court, was re-establish the existence of a “de facto parent” doctrine and to give these de facto parents certain rights with regard to the children that they helped nurture and raise. The high court’s ruling has been praised as an important victory for gay and lesbian individuals with children.
A recent ruling by the Maryland Court of Special Appeals decided a case involving an unfortunately common scenario in family law cases involving custody and visitation, in which one parent claims she seeks only to protect her children from unsafe and unhealthy material and behaviors, while the other parent claims he is a fit and loving parent entitled to contact with his children. In these cases, one vital element of success is getting all of your evidence on the record. In this recent case, the mother was unable to admit into evidence her statements about the “sexually precocious” language the children used because her statements were inadmissible hearsay.
Child custody cases’ resolutions are often the result of the specific facts unique to each case. In addition to being fact-intensive, these cases may also become very legally complicated when the residences of the family members involved span state lines. In one such case recently decided by the Maryland Court of Appeals, a Maryland father was unable to pursue a modification to his custody and visitation arrangement because the specific facts in his case indicated that the mother and children no longer had sufficient minimum contacts with Maryland, meaning that Maryland courts no longer had “continuing, exclusive jurisdiction” over the case.
There are many factors that go into a Maryland alimony case. Courts must make decisions regarding recipient spouses’ needs, as well as paying spouses’ abilities to pay. Sometimes, these cases are made more complex when the recipient spouse hasn’t been in the workforce for years, or has a medical condition that limits her ability to work. In the case of one Bel Air couple, the Court of Special Appeals recently upheld a ruling that imputed an income of more than $20,000 to the wife, a stay-at-home-mom and cancer survivor. The wife lost this part of her appeal because the evidence before the trial court did not demonstrate that she was unable to work.
The couple in the case, Mark St. Cyr and Lauren St. Cyr, married in 1994. A year later, the wife delivered the couple’s first child and quit her $45,000-per-year assistant branch manager position to raise the daughter. The couple had two more children, in 1997 and 1999. The wife stayed at home, raising all three of the children. In 2009, doctors diagnosed the wife with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The wife underwent chemotherapy and bone marrow extraction, and her cancer eventually went into remission.
The Maryland Family Law Code makes clear that parents are responsible for their child’s support, including their care, nurture, welfare, and education. While this may seem like a straightforward and reasonable legal concept, there are instances in which an alleged parent challenges this obligation or attempts to avoid the support obligation altogether. Local state agencies and courts work to ensure that a parent who is legally obligated to support a child actually fulfills that responsibility. In many divorce cases, a judge will require one party to pay monthly child support. To be sure that your financial interests are adequately protected upon separation from your spouse, you are encouraged to consult with an experienced Maryland family law attorney as soon as possible.
In a lengthy and complicated divorce case, the husband sought to avoid responsibility for child support by contending that he was not the father of a child conceived via in vitro fertilization under the plain meaning of Maryland’s artificial insemination statute. Specifically, the father alleged that the law does not encompass the process of in vitro fertilization from a donated egg and sperm, in which the child conceived and born bears no genetic connection to either of the parties.
Establishing paternity or “parentage” is fundamental to a child’s life for many reasons. For one, parents are legally responsible for the care and general welfare of their children, including financial support. Paternity becomes even more important in cases in which the alleged parents are divorced or have never been married. There are several ways in which parties may establish parentage under Maryland law. For instance, the parents may agree to sign an affidavit in support of paternity, a court may find that paternity has been established, or the father may undergo DNA testing. Virtually every aspect of family law is governed by the state code or established case law. In order to be sure your financial and legal rights are protected, you are encouraged to discuss your case with an experienced Maryland family law attorney.
A recent Maryland Court of Appeals case illustrates how complicated paternity cases can be, and how important it is to work out the legal aspects as early in a child’s life as possible. In Davis v. Wicomico County Bureau, “petitioner” signed an Affidavit of Parentage shortly after the birth of his twin sons in 2009. The local child support agency brought a complaint against petitioner, alleging that he was responsible for child support payments. Petitioner, however, asked for a paternity test, claiming that he was not the children’s parent. Both the trial court and the court of special appeals denied his request for a paternity test. The court of special appeals concluded that under Sections 5-1028 and 5-1038, petitioner was not entitled to a blood or genetic test.
It is not uncommon for a married couple to spend the first 25 to 30 years of their life together working and saving money to enjoy in retirement. Over the course of their lifetime, spouses often invest money in stocks, 401K plans, education plans, pension plans, real estate, and other investment opportunities. Ideally, the couple will have an opportunity to enjoy the results of their labor in retirement together. But an interesting phenomenon is taking place. A large percentage of the baby boom generation is seeking to divorce, resulting in some unexpected financial consequences. If you are considering a separation or divorce at any stage of your life, it is extremely important to protect your financial interests, including any investments. You are encouraged to contact an experienced family law lawyer, someone who understands the local divorce laws in Maryland.
According to a recent article, since divorce among people age 50 and older is so widespread, it is becoming known as a “gray divorce.” The author points out that divorce for this age bracket raises several unique concerns involving how each spouse will retire now that the so-called “nest egg” must be split in two. For instance, in a typical divorce, Maryland law allows for the periodic payment of alimony to one spouse. The ultimate goal of alimony is to give the “supported spouse” an opportunity to become self-supporting. When a court awards alimony, it is intended to be “rehabilitative alimony” for an allotted period of time to enable a dependent spouse to become self-supporting.
Couples with children who decide to divorce must address a series of significant and possibly life-changing issues. In addition to the division of property and spousal support, parents must also face matters of child custody and support. Ideally, parents will agree on the custody situation that is in the best interests of the child. Courts often get involved to approve the arrangement and decide on a fair amount of monthly child support. Keep in mind that parties are able to seek a modification of the amount in the future, should a change of circumstances occur. Courts take very seriously an individual parent’s obligation to make child support payments in a timely fashion and may be called upon to enforce the order. To be sure that your financial and legal rights are protected, you are encouraged to contact an experienced family law attorney as soon as possible.
Maryland law provides local state agencies with the authority to collect overdue child support payments. In a recent Maryland court of appeals case, a local county Office of Child Support Enforcement (the “Office”) attempted to collect a judgment of almost $10,000 against an obligor-parent for unpaid child support. Here, the Office requested a circuit court to issue a writ of garnishment against the obligor’s bank, which in turn suspended the obligor’s two accounts. Under Maryland law (Section 11-504(b)(5)), a judgment creditor may “attach assets” of a debtor to satisfy a money judgment.
Each state has the authority to enact laws regulating marriage and divorce. For this reason, there can be significant differences among the states with respect to myriad related issues. For instance, as recently as last year, the highest court in the country struck down certain state bans on same-sex marriage. While many states, Maryland included, already recognized and upheld same-sex marriages, some states did not. This decision paved the way for equality in marriage. Interestingly enough, such equality can impact other family law rights, such as a same-sex couple’s right to pursue divorce, as well as the right to adopt children. Due to the unique nature of each state’s laws, it is important to consult with a local Maryland family law attorney if you are considering a divorce or any legal procedure affecting your family.
With respect to equality in family law issues, according to a national news article, the United States Supreme Court just recently reversed a decision by the highest court in Alabama that refused to recognize a same-sex adoption. Here, two women — V.L. and her partner E.L. — never married and lived in Alabama. E.L. gave birth to three children while the couple was together. In order for V.L. to be able to adopt the children, the women established a temporary residency in Georgia. A Georgia court granted V.L. parental rights.