As we have discussed in this blog before, succeeding in your family law case is about more than just the facts, the evidence, and the law. Having all of these things on your side won’t help you at all if you are not in compliance with rules of procedure. One recent example of this was a case originally from Montgomery County, where a husband received a very unfavorable outcome in his divorce case. Since the husband waited too long to file his appeal challenging the trial judge’s decisions, he lost without the Court of Special Appeals ever even considering the merits of his arguments.
One of the many goals of family law cases is to create a degree of stability and finality in the decisions made by the courts. To this end, the law seeks to discourage parents or spouses from using different jurisdictions to re-litigate the same issues repeatedly. This was an issue in one recent Maryland case, in which the Court of Special Appeals upheld a trial court’s decision not to hear a visitation modification case because, according to the lower court, the issue had already been litigated completely elsewhere.
When it comes to the well-being of a child, most parents will do everything in their power to give their children the best of all available opportunities. This can be especially true when it comes to education. When where you live is the subject of a custody order or agreement, things can be more complicated. In one recent case involving a mother’s desire for her children to attend school in D.C., the Court of Special Appeals determined that the children’s “thriving” in school was not a material change of circumstances that allowed the courts to modify an existing custody agreement.
An old adage warns the reader to “be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.” The adage is a reference to the notion that many outcomes, even ones we desire strongly, may come with unintended consequences. This arguably was the case for a Maryland mother who lost a custody case with the man she named as her child’s father on the child’s birth certificate. A recent ruling by the Court of Special Appeals upheld that custody determination, even in the absence of a paternity test.
When you go to court in your divorce case, you may think that the key in your case is your factual proof, whether it is proof related to the value or nature of your spouse’s and your assets, the amount of income your spouse and you make (for the purposes of alimony or child support), or how the court should adjudicate child custody and visitation. But there is much more to most cases, including complying with the procedural rules related to how you get your factual evidence before the court. Knowing how to submit evidence in a compliant manner, as well as knowing how to respond when your spouse doesn’t follow the rules, can be as important a part of your case as the facts themselves.
In a recent case involving two parents who disagreed regarding where their daughter should attend kindergarten, the outcome of the case is an important reminder of the importance of achieving success at the trial level, due to the deference given to trial courts in child custody cases. Despite finding that the child would derive some benefit from going to the school that would maintain continuity, the trial judge awarded tie-breaking authority on educational decisions to the mother, even though that inevitably meant that the child would attend the school that did not maintain continuity. Nevertheless, the Court of Special Appeals upheld the decision, concluding that the trial court’s decision was not so completely in defiance of logic and the facts of the case as to constitute an “abuse of discretion” and trigger a reversal.
There are many things that can impact your relationship with your child. Certainly, one major factor is geography. For many parents, the event that leads to litigation is one parent’s choice to relocate far away. In a recent case decided by the Court of Special Appeals, however, the event was a father’s moving back, going from 3,000 miles away to being a half-hour drive from his daughter’s home. In this ruling, the court explained that a move like this clearly impacts parental access to the child, which means that it is a material change in circumstances for the purposes of modifying an order of custody and visitation.
The law in Maryland allows the courts to award spouses various types of alimony. One of these types is rehabilitative alimony. In Maryland, the basis for awarding rehabilitative alimony is a specific one. If, as occurred in one recent case decided by the Court of Special Appeals, the evidence brought to the trial court offers no proof of how the recipient spouse will enhance, through training or education, her ability to find suitable employment at the end of the award period, an award of rehabilitative alimony must be reversed.
Family dynamics can be unique and complicated. Sometimes these complex sets of facts can create difficulty for the courts in meeting such goals as “the best interest of the child” while also complying with the statutes. In an important recent ruling from the Court of Special Appeals, that body determined that the courts could rule on a father’s request for modification of child custody, even if the child’s mother resided with him temporarily.
Each state has its own peculiarities when it comes to the minimum standard a married couple must meet to pursue a divorce. Some requirements in some states can be cumbersome, awkward, or embarrassing for the parties involved. In an effort to do away with some of these problems, Maryland lawmakers recently changed the divorce laws here. Under the modified statute, some divorces that previously required a third-party witness to testify as to the length of the spouses’ separation may now go forward without this third-party witness testimony.