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When you are attempting to get divorced, some people think that it can be very simple as long as the two spouses have been separated for sufficient length of time and there is no dispute about property, spousal support or child issues. For these (mistaken) reasons, too many people try to tackle the legal process of getting a divorce on their own.

The reality is that getting a divorce, whether or not it is a contested matter, often requires careful attention to the rules and detailed knowledge of the law. You have to how to include the proper provisions in your divorce petition, you have to know how to go about serving notice of the filing on your spouse in a way that meets the law’s requirements and you have to know what to do if your spouse does not respond to your filings. Those are but three examples of things that can stymie someone not familiar with the law and the system, and all are examples of how an experienced Maryland family law attorney can help most any spouse seeking to obtain a divorce.

Here’s a recent real-life example. Q.Z. and X.H. were a Chinese couple who married in that country in 1994 and had two children in the United States, one in 2004 and one in 2006. The couple separated in 2012 and Q.Z. (the father), along with the children, returned to live in China, allegedly with no opposition from the mother. The mother remained in Maryland. The father filed for divorce in Maryland in November 2017.

In many marital relationships, the spouses share much in common. They may share not only common interests, but also similar degrees of intellect and/or education. However, not all marriages work this way. Some may, in fact, have significant disparities of intellect, education or earning capacity.

A large disparity can matter a great deal if that marriage ends in divorce. It can be important because the disparity may open the door for the dependent spouse to argue successfully that his spouse used her position of dominance to create a marital settlement agreement that was the product of fraud. What this should tell you is that, even if you got your spouse’s signature on the “dotted line” of a settlement agreement, you may not be finished litigating those issues, which is one more reason why you need experienced Maryland family law counsel on your side.

How does this type of fraud argument work? A recent case originating in Montgomery County is a good example. K.P. and W.P. were spouses who separated in 2012. In September 2016, the wife’s lawyer drafted a “comprehensive settlement agreement resolving all issues arising out of the marriage.” The wife signed it in the lawyer’s office. She then allegedly asked the husband to meet her at a bank later that same day.

The creator of a series of cops-and-lawyers weekly TV dramas was in the news headlines recently, but the courtroom in question was not a fictional scene from one of his successful shows. Instead, a (very non-fictional) California appeals court issued a ruling related to the producer’s divorce case that closed the door on a fraud lawsuit the man’s ex-wife had been attempting to litigate.

While the producer’s case played out in California, you may find yourself wondering, “Is there such a thing as a fraud claim related to divorce in Maryland and, if so, what should I do if I find myself facing such a case?” Whenever you are going through divorce, or any legal action related to your divorce, one of the keys to being as successful as possible is to be sure you have an experienced Maryland family law attorney on your side to give you the answers you need to all the questions you may have.

In Maryland, there is a very specific way in which the law and the courts look at fraud that is tied to a divorce proceeding. Specifically, the law divides this kind of fraud into two categories: intrinsic fraud and extrinsic fraud. In this context, intrinsic fraud is fraud that is tied to issues pertaining to the original divorce litigation, or things that were (or could have been) litigated in that case. Extrinsic fraud means something that was so hidden that it prevented the parties from litigating that issue in a meaningful way and prevented the court from making a complete ruling because the hidden issue was never presented to the fact-finder. This latter type of fraud is considered more egregious.

If you know a little bit about Maryland family law, then you may know that, even if you are awarded permanent alimony in your divorce, that support may not always be permanent. The law allows your ex-spouse to get that obligation modified if he can show that he underwent a change in his financial circumstances that qualifies as “substantial.”

For most people, transitioning from the world of work to retirement involves a significant change in income. So, does that necessarily mean that, if your spouse retires, you automatically lose your much-needed alimony? No, it doesn’t. You still have various ways in which you can defeat a motion asking the judge to modify the alimony obligation you’re receiving. One of the best ways to avail yourself to those options is to retain a skilled Maryland family law attorney.

If your spouse has filed a motion to terminate or modify an existing alimony obligation that you’re receiving, two ways in which you can attack this request and keep your alimony payments at their current level are:

One goal for divorce is to create closure and free up both spouses to move on with their separate lives. Sometimes, that means certain things financially like selling the marital home. If you think that the proposed sale is improper, whether because the sale price is too low, the broker commission is too high or something else, you have certain legal options you can take. However, it is important to be forewarned: simply because you file the proper paperwork objecting to the proposed sale, that does not automatically mean that the trial judge must hold a hearing before ruling on your objection, as one husband learned recently.

Whether you are the spouse supporting a proposed sale of the marital home or opposing it, it pays to have an experienced Maryland family law attorney on your side.

Y.A. and N.A. were couple going through a divorce where selling the marital home was an issue. The judge handling their divorce case ordered the couple to split everything related to the sale 50-50. Each spouse would pay half the costs and fees of the sale, and each spouse would receive half the proceeds after the sale was finished.

A recent child custody case ruling made by the Court of Special Appeals offers parents in custody disputes several very important pieces of information. One, the ruling explains many of the legal standards that judges use to resolve custody disputes. Two, as the court stated, in “custody disputes, the ‘overarching consideration’ is the best interest of the child.” This, of course, is as it should be. When it comes to advocating for your child and your relationship with that child in a legal custody matter, be sure you are protecting that relationship by securing legal representation from a knowledgeable Maryland family law attorney.

That recent case involved the custody of a girl named K.T. From the time that K.T. was born until she was almost 9, her parents lived together with her in Prince George’s County. In 2016, however, a fight between the mother and the daughter escalated to an altercation between the two parents and ended with the mother receiving a protective order and the father being ordered to leave the home. Eventually, the courts decided that the parents should, on a temporary basis, share joint legal custody and have equal physical custody on a week-on-week-off basis.

The court assigned a custody evaluator to the case. The evaluator concluded that both parents were fit, that both homes were appropriate for custody and visitation, and that both parents communicated with each other effectively in matters regarding K.T. The father was open to a 50-50 custody arrangement; the mother less so. Based on the evaluator’s evaluation and other evidence, the trial court ordered that the parents share joint legal custody and share physical custody on a 50-50 basis. The mother appealed, but the appeals court upheld what the trial court ordered.

Many of us are likely familiar with the stereotype: a marriage is irretrievably in breakdown and one spouse, sensing the end, decides to go out, drain the marital accounts and either blow that money or else hide it. This is something called “dissipation of assets” and it is potentially very harmful to the spouse on the other end. When that happens, you need to know how to respond, which is one reason (among many) why you need experienced Maryland family law counsel on your side as you prepare for, and then go through, the divorce process.

Dissipation of assets is defined as “where one spouse uses marital property for his or her own benefit for a purpose unrelated to the marriage at a time where the marriage is undergoing an irreconcilable breakdown.” So, if one spouse depletes marital assets during the marriage’s final decline (or during the divorce action) and uses those proceeds on things that benefit only him/her individually and not the marital unit, then that is dissipation.

In a case where your spouse has squandered, or absconded with, marital funds, there is a multi-step process in court that must take place. First, you must give the court enough evidence for the judge to find that you’ve established the basic elements of dissipation as defined by Maryland law. (This is called establishing a “prima facie case.”) Once you’ve demonstrated that to the court, then the burden shifts to your spouse, who must show that he/she didn’t dissipate the funds but spent them on a legitimate marital purpose. (For example, if you withdrew substantial sums from the marital checking account but did so to pay the mortgage payment on the marital home and the rent on your one-bedroom apartment after your spouse asked you to move out, then those expenses are valid and are not dissipation.)

In cases of divorce where businesses are among the spouses’ marital property, the issues can be very intricate. A value must be established for the business (just as it must be for every other marital asset), and this often requires the services of an accounting and business valuation expert. In order to achieve your fullest and fairest outcome in your divorce, it may often be worth your while to retain your own expert witness to perform a valuation of the business. Whether it is expert witness evidence, document evidence or testimony, when it comes to amassing and presenting the evidence you need for a fair result in your divorce case, be sure to reach out to a knowledgeable Maryland family law attorney.

L.H. and K.K.’s divorce was a case that centered around asset division and a business as a marital asset. The pair married in the fall of 1997. They separated 15 years later and their divorce became final in 2016. With regard to the division of assets, the court concluded that a tree service company owned by the wife was a marital asset. The court ordered that the wife keep the business, but that the husband should receive a monetary award for his portion of the marital asset.

In order to make an equitable division and set a proper amount for the award to the husband, the court needed to know the business’s worth. The husband retained an expert to assess the value of the business. (The wife hired an accountant to serve as her expert, as well.)

When you reach a settlement agreement to resolve outstanding issues in your divorce, you likely hope that this agreement will bring about closure. Sometimes, however, that doesn’t happen. Whether it is a spouse’s refusal to follow the terms of the agreement or complications that arise after life events intervene, there may be many reasons why new disagreements emerge between you and your ex-spouse. When that happens, you may need to go back to court to protect your rights. To best protect yourself, be sure you have an experienced Maryland divorce attorney on your side.

Like many people, J.D. and P.M. purchased some real estate while they were married. One of the properties they purchased was a 4-bedroom, 3-bath home in Bowie. In 2004, the couple separated. The husband continued living in the Bowie home while the wife moved into an apartment in Silver Spring.

Eventually, the pair worked out a marital agreement and that agreement was included in the couple’s 2013 divorce judgment. In the agreement, both spouses acknowledged that the husband would take sole ownership of the Bowie residence, and that he would be solely responsible for making the mortgage payments, as well as all insurance and taxes.

Going to court in a family law case can be a very stressful time for many parents and spouses, even when things go the way you expect them to. Now imagine going to court where the judge addresses an issue and makes a ruling that you totally did not expect and for which you were completely unprepared. That would probably be exponentially more stressful. Would you know what you could, or should, do in that situation? Circumstances like this, which do happen in real life, are examples of why it pays to have representation from an experienced Maryland family law attorney on your side.

A recent case illustrating this scenario was the custody dispute between M.M. and J.S. For the first few months after the couple divorced, the parents temporarily shared joint physical and legal custody. The father lived in Maryland. The mother lived out of state and was pregnant. The day before the couple’s three-day custody hearing was to begin, the wife’s lawyer informed the court that the wife was experiencing pregnancy complications and could not travel from Illinois to Maryland until after the new baby’s birth, which was still six weeks away.

The wife provided that information as part of an emergency request for postponement of the custody hearing. The judge held a hearing on the postponement request and ultimately postponed the custody hearing. The judge, however, also modified custody, giving the father temporary sole custody. The wife appealed that custody modification and she won. She won because the trial judge’s action violated her constitutional rights.

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