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Prenuptial agreements can be an important part of a couple’s pre-marital planning. Obviously, if you’re going to the trouble to create and execute a prenuptial agreement, you want to be sure that the prenuptial agreement you have is something that, if it is eventually needed, will be enforced by the courts. A skilled Maryland divorce lawyer can help you in setting up your prenuptial agreement to get something that will meet the law’s requirements and do what it is supposed to do.

Here in Maryland, there are several ways that a prenuptial agreement may fail to qualify to be enforced. A recent case from Montgomery County is an example of how the process can go wrong and lead to an invalid agreement.

G.H. and H.H. were a couple who married in the summer of 2011. It was his third marriage and her second. According to the wife, the husband did not bring up anything about a prenuptial agreement until roughly one week before the wedding day. The agreement that the husband presented to the wife was written by the husband’s lawyer and was composed in English, a language with which the wife allegedly had limited skills.

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If you’ve followed the news coverage of the divorce of Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and his wife, Melinda Gates, you’ve likely seen headlines, everywhere from People to Business Insider, stating that Melinda has declared her marriage to Bill to be “irretrievably broken.” The headlines blare as if the readers are getting some new and surprising insight into the state of the Gateses’ marriage. As any knowledgeable Maryland divorce lawyer will tell you, though, the reality is actually something much more mundane.

People outside the legal world sometimes misunderstand how the legal process works. They may see language included in a party’s pleading and think that it is particularly unique, insightful, or shocking when actually, it is just form language that is required by the rules that the law has erected. The stories about the Gateses’ divorce make for one very good example of that.

Melinda Gates filed for divorce in her hometown of Seattle. Washington is a state that recognizes no-fault divorce. In states like these, the spouse who files for divorce doesn’t need proof that the other spouse was “at fault” (such as, for example, being unfaithful, being excessively cruel, being insane or imprisoned, or deserting the filing spouse.)

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Sometimes, a divorce case may be something that is straightforward and involves mostly the resolution of factual issues. Other times, your divorce case may feel like a chess match with a series of dueling procedural moves. Whether your case looks more like the former or the latter, it can benefit from the skillful representation provided by an experienced Maryland divorce lawyer. The right attorney can help you to present your strongest possible factual case and avoid being sidetracked by the other side’s procedural moves.

One of the many decisions that must be made in any divorce case is where to file. Once you’ve made your choice and filed your petition, your spouse is generally not allowed to defeat that by turning around and filing his/her own divorce petition in another county.

Here’s an example. In early August 2019, a Maryland man filed for limited divorce in Baltimore County. Less than six weeks later, the wife filed for absolute divorce in Montgomery County.

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In a lot of states, there is only one option for obtaining a divorce, and that is the “no-fault” option. (There are actually 17 of those states.) Maryland is not one of those 17. In this state, you have the choice of getting a “no-fault” divorce or getting a divorce based on the conduct of your spouse. The choice you select can make a big difference so, before you go to court and file either kind of divorce, be sure you’ve retained a knowledgeable Maryland divorce lawyer to get the information and advice you need.

In internet slang, there exists the word “stigginit.” It is, essentially, a variation of “sticking it,” and means “sticking it” to someone or acting out of pure spite. Some believe that, if a spouse chooses to proceed with a fault divorce as opposed to a no-fault divorce in a state (like Maryland) that has both options, that spouse is just “stigginit” to their ex, or being spiteful. In reality, that’s not true. Obtaining a divorce due to your spouse’s fault can yield some very tangible benefits for you, such as a larger spousal support award (or your spouse receiving a smaller award,) as well as a more favorable child custody arrangement.

Here in Maryland, there are several ways you can get a fault-based divorce. They include your spouse’s adultery, your spouse’s deserting you, your spouse’s going to jail for a crime, or your spouse’s having gone insane. There’s also a ground for something called “cruelty of treatment” and, as one recent divorce case revealed, that ground encompasses more than just physical violence.

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Watch enough TV crime dramas and, at some point, you’ll likely encounter your favorite grizzled detective grumbling about how a suspect was set free on “some ridiculous technicality.” What does that scene have to do with your divorce? It’s a reminder that there are “technicalities” in all areas of the law, including divorce law, and those aspects of the law or court rules can harm or destroy your case. When it comes time to pursue your divorce, relying on an experienced Maryland family law attorney can help you to minimize the risk that a technical matter of law or procedure will trip you up.

The recent divorce case of a couple from Hagerstown is a good example. After the trial court entered its order, A.P., who was not pleased with the outcome, did two things. She initiated an appeal process by filing a document called a “Notice of Appeal.” She also filed a document asking the trial court to change its order, called a “Post-Trial Motion to Reconsider.” She submitted both of these more than 10 days but fewer than 30 days after the court’s decision.

Both of these were viable options for the disgruntled wife. Maryland law says you can ask a judge to reconsider his/her order by filing a motion to alter or amend a judgment within 10 days. You can also file a motion in which you ask your trial judge to revise the judgment. (You have 30 days to file that kind of request.)

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When two people marry in Maryland, especially if they marry later in life, they may bring multiple assets into the marriage, including bank accounts, retirement accounts, stocks, and more. Those assets may start out as non-marital but, if you and your spouse mix marital funds with a non-marital account’s funds, that mixing may change how the law views that asset, and may entitle you to a more favorable distribution of assets. Whether you are seeking or opposing a finding that an asset is non-marital in your divorce, it pays to have an experienced Maryland divorce attorney on your side to get the fair resolution you deserve.

A.S. and T.R. were a couple with these kinds of assets. The pair married in 2006 then separated a decade later. The wife had an individual retirement account that, at the time of the couple’s divorce trial, had a balance of $86,453. In the trial court’s final judgment of divorce, the judge found that the IRA’s funds were almost entirely non-marital.

The husband appealed successfully. A key reason for that related to the way the trial court erred in analyzing the couple’s marital and non-marital assets.

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Lawyers, of course, keep up with new rulings from the courts all the time to make certain they are up-to-date on the law in the areas where they practice. That’s important because, when you are working with the right Maryland divorce attorney, you have the benefit of a legal advocate who possesses a thorough, complete, and up-to-date knowledge of the law in this state.

Many court rulings, however, also have information that can be really useful for most anyone facing a particular circumstance, like going through a divorce. Take, as an example, this divorce case from Baltimore.

The wife filed for divorce in 2019 after 17 years of marriage. Each spouse accused the other of financial misconduct.

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One of the things that makes divorce different than many other legal matters is something fundamental to many marriages. For lots of people, marriage (and, by extension, divorce) is a place where the secular and the sacred meet… where man’s laws intersect with God’s laws. Whatever your religion teaches about marriage and/or divorce, it is vitally important, if you are going through a divorce in Maryland, to understand how the civil laws of Maryland will view your situation. To get the answers about these kinds of issues, as well all the other issues your divorce case presents, look to an experienced Maryland family law attorney, who can offer you customized advice based on your specific situation.

Last year, this blog discussed a case involving two Islamic couples divorcing in Maryland. Both that case and a much newer divorce case recently decided by the Court of Special Appeals are illustrative of the problems that can arise for these couples in terms of interpreting the agreements they made during their religious marriage.

If you are someone going through a Maryland divorce after having gone through an Islamic marriage process (or some other religious marriage process with similar procedures), the most important thing to understand is not how your religion views those marital processes, but how the Maryland courts will see them.

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A comedic TV commercial series features disgruntled car buyers hiding their identities behind masks and disguises. They are mortified because they found out, only after they made their purchase, that they ended up “paying too much” for their used car. There’s a little bit of a legal lesson in this, which is: be absolutely certain before you sign a contract on the bottom line because, once you do, it is generally very difficult to avoid the promises you made in that document. That’s true of a marital settlement agreement, as well, which is why you definitely should consult an experienced Maryland divorce attorney before signing one of those documents.

K.J. was a spouse whose divorce case was a clear example of “post-execution regret.” In 2011, with his marriage broken down, he signed a marital settlement agreement with his wife. One of the terms in that contract, “Paragraph 20,” stated that the husband would pay the wife 1/3 of any settlement or judgment he received from a personal injury lawsuit that was pending at the time of the divorce.

The injury case in question was not your ordinary case, though. It was a lawsuit arising from injuries the husband suffered in the Beirut barracks bombings of 1983, the defendant was the government of Iran, and the claim for damages was extremely large.

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Most contested divorces are fact-intensive. They revolve around who did or didn’t do something, when a spouse purchased an asset (and what assets were used to make that purchase,) the amount of money a spouse did or did not earn, and so forth. However, issues of law can also impact your divorce case, and a substantial change in the law can significantly influence how your divorce case is litigated. That’s one of the many places where having an experienced and diligent Maryland divorce attorney can benefit you, as your legal advocate will be up on the new laws and what you’ll need to succeed.

One of the bigger changes in Maryland law in 2020 was not something specific to divorce law. Maryland’s highest court, in a ruling related to a personal injury case about lead paint exposure, announced that Maryland was adopting a new standard for deciding whether or not expert testimony is admissible. That standard, called the Daubert standard (based upon the 1993 U.S. Supreme Court case of Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals) lays out several criteria a judge should use to decide whether an expert’s evidence should be admitted or excluded.

At this point, you may find yourself thinking, what does this have to do with my divorce case? Aren’t experts usually just a part of criminal cases, malpractice cases and personal injury lawsuits?

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