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COVID-19, or novel coronavirus, has disrupted many things about almost everyone’s lives. Instability and uncertainty are hard enough on adults, but they are even harder for children. If your children are the subjects of a visitation order by a judge, the current state of things may make maintaining the regular schedule that the court ordered tricky. Like the many other unplanned things in life that may upset a visitation schedule, this pandemic demands many things from you. One of those demands is to work together in a collaborative way with your child’s other parent and act in the best interest of your children. Also, just as is true in any other major unexpected event, always obtain advice from a knowledgeable Maryland child visitation attorney before you take unilateral action that is not in compliance with your court orders.

Business Insider recently looked at this exact issue of visitation and COVID-19. Many of the suggestions and recommendations made within that piece are effective ones. For one thing, use your common sense. If your ex has primary physical custody of the kids and you’ve just tested positive for COVID-19, don’t let the children come to your home for their regularly scheduled visit.

On the other hand, if you are the children’s primary residential parent, you should also make sure the decisions you make are rational ones. If your ex’s current spouse has the virus, or your ex currently lives in Italy, then that is a reason to delay visitation. On the other hand, if your ex’s coworker’s spouse recently traveled from Ireland (but has no symptoms and self-quarantined for 14 days after returning home,) that alone probably isn’t a valid justification for denying a court-ordered visit.

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The breakdown of a relationship between two parents is often very difficult on everyone. That’s true whether you’re a famous celebrity or an “ordinary” person. It’s also true whether or not you are biologically related to your child. However, if you are in a situation (like many LGBT+ couples) where one of you is a biological parent and one is not, that fact can complicate things if a custody dispute arises after your separation. If you find yourself in a custody disagreement, then you know that nothing may be more important to you than your relationship with your child. Be sure you are protecting that relationship to the maximum extent by securing legal representation from a skilled Maryland child custody attorney.

As an example of how difficult breakups can be for families with children, there’s the case of two of the stars of Bravo’s Flipping Out series. Although the two men never married, they had been together for 10 years and shared a three-year-old daughter when they separated in 2019.

According to a Yahoo! Entertainment report, although the daughter was the biological offspring of one partner and no biological relationship to the other, both fathers would have legal parental rights. “According California State Law, both [fathers] have equal parental rights to [the child], regardless of biology, because both of their names are listed” as parents on the daughter’s birth certificate.

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When you’ve decided to make the life-changing decision to pursue a divorce, there are likely many goals you desire to accomplish. One thing you probably want is an efficient process and closure that is as swift as possible. There are several things that go into making that happen, and one of those is ensuring that you’ve filed in the right place. Choose incorrectly, and your divorce petition could get thrown out for lack of jurisdiction or for improper venue. To avoid these missteps and get your divorce as expeditiously as possible, along with accomplishing many other goals, be sure to rely on representation from an experienced Maryland divorce attorney.

As an example of how the issue of venue can derail a case, there is the recent case of one Carroll County wife. In January 2019, the wife filed for divorce in Baltimore. At the time, both spouses lived in Carroll County. The husband promptly asked the court to throw out the wife’s case due to “improper venue.” Improper venue means that the plaintiff has filed the action in the wrong location and that the case if it is to proceed, must proceed in a trial court in a different place. In this case, the husband’s argument was that Carroll County was the only proper venue for litigating the couple’s divorce.

The trial judge in Baltimore sided with the husband and granted his request for dismissal. The wife asked the court to reverse that dismissal, arguing that Baltimore was a proper location to litigate the case, as the spouses married at Baltimore’s Church of the Redeemer. Nevertheless, the judge denied the wife’s request, and the dismissal remained in effect.

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Family law matters can be incredibly stressful and contentious. Sometimes, these emotions may lead spouses or parents to make decisions that are less than ideal. Obviously, the best plan in your family law case is to follow all of the orders handed down by a judge. Even if you fall short of that, though, it is important to understand that there are limits to what the judge can do to you for disobeying an order. One way to help you avoid receiving inappropriate penalties for disobeying a court order is by making sure you have a knowledgeable Maryland family law attorney on your side.

L.M. was one of those parents. She shared a child with C.C. In September 2018, the child complained about injuries inflicted by the father and the father was charged with child abuse. Shortly after that, the parents were in court with the father asking the judge to issue a protective order against the mother. The judge sided with the father, ordering the mother not to “abuse, threaten to abuse and/or harass” the father.

Eventually, the parents were back in court with the father accusing the mother of sending him threatening texts. As it turned out, the mother had sent the father a few inappropriate texts, but they had stopped several weeks before the parents appeared in court. The judge found the mother in “constructive civil contempt” of court.

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Going through a custody dispute can be a scary thing. You may recognize that you need capable legal representation, but you may fear that you lack the financial resources to hire a skilled Maryland child custody attorney. Never let that fear stop you. Always talk to counsel first. There may be various options available to you to address your financial resource-related concerns, including getting a court order that makes your ex-spouse or partner responsible for paying your attorney’s fees.

Biological parents have long understood that, in Maryland, they have the potential to persuade a judge that the other side should pay their attorney’s fees. The law says an award of attorney’s fees is available and the judge may award any amount of “fees that are just and proper under all the circumstances,” according to the statute. You simply have to give the court evidence of your financial status, your needs, your ex’s financial status and your ex’s needs, along with proof that you had a valid justification for bringing your case.

Of course, as we all know, parenthood is something much deeper than just DNA. There are lots of people who act as a child’s parent while sharing a lesser biological tie to that child… or none at all. This can include some families with stepparents and families with LGBT parents. Fortunately, Maryland recognizes these parents’ legal status under something called ‘de facto’ parenthood. This may lead you next to wonder… can these ‘de facto’ parents, if they need to pursue a custody case in court, receive an award of attorneys’ fees? The good news is that a case from last year made it clear that the answer to this question is “Yes!”

You work hard to provide for your family. You also have a strong desire to be an active and involved parent in your child’s life. A recent case from Baltimore County looked at the conflict than can arise from these two things. Namely, the case looked at whether one parent should only have physical custody during periods of time when he wasn’t working. In order to foster your relationship with your child, it is important to have time with that child, including overnights. Sometimes, you may have to work during parts of those periods. That doesn’t mean that you should lose custody time. To achieve a custody arrangement that best promotes your relationship with your child, be sure to retain the services of an experienced Maryland child custody attorney.

As the court stated in this important victory for the father, the law doesn’t require that you either be off work or relinquish custody time. The law requires that a physical custody schedule promote the best interests of the child.

In the case, the dispute focused on the son of D.B. and N.W. The parents were never married and lived separately, but decided to raise the boy together. The father worked nights and the mother worked in the daytime. Eventually a dispute arose regarding the schedule and the parents ended up in court.

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For many divorced parents who have children but whose children reside with their ex-spouse, paying both alimony and child support is part of life. If you’re one of those parents, you may struggle with meeting both of those financial obligations. If you have found that you no longer have the monetary means to pay both types of support at the amounts ordered by the court, make sure that you reach out to an experienced Maryland divorce attorney and investigate which options are available to you to keep you current on your obligations.

P.N. was one of those parents dealing with an arrearage in his court case. When his divorce was finalized in 2005, a Maryland trial court ordered him to pay “non-modifiable” alimony of $3,250 per month and $1,422 per month in child support. At the wife’s request, the husband’s alimony and child support sums were paid through wage garnishment.

The husband eventually fell behind on both alimony and child support, since he did not make enough to pay both obligations. Eventually, he went back to court to ask that, going forward, all the money that he paid be credited toward his child support obligation, and, only after that was satisfied, would anything be paid toward alimony. Maryland’s state agency responsible for distributing the sums garnished from the husband had a different way of handling things, however. The sums garnished from the husband’s income went roughly 70% for alimony and 30% for child support.

Having a knowledgeable family law attorney on your side in your child custody case can help you in a number of ways. That’s because there are a number of ways in which your case can go wrong if you lack the sort of effective legal counsel that your case needs.

Procedural mistakes, for example, can be devastating. You can have the strongest evidence possible or make the most compelling and persuasive argument possible, but if you have not met all of the requirements of the procedural rules, then that proof or argument may go for naught and you may still lose.

A case from Prince George’s County offers up a good example. In early 2016, a mother and a father reached an agreement on joint custody. A few months later, the judge decided that the mother had engaged in misconduct to deny the father visitation and ordered that the father receive sole legal and physical custody of the child, with the mother receiving only daily electronic contact via Skype or Facetime.

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Did you know that the well-traveled idea that ostriches bury their heads in the ground to hide from danger is actually totally false? Rather than just hiding and doing nothing, ostriches are actually hard at work when they put their heads in the ground. What they’re really doing, as opposed to just averting their eyes and ears from the threat outside, is diligently tending to their eggs that they’ve nested inside that hole in the ground.

When it comes to your child support obligation case, be like the real ostrich, not the mythical ostrich. Be pro-active; don’t hide from your problems. Simply sticking your head in the sand, so to speak, and pretending like your problems don’t exist is a bad idea. In a contempt case against you based on your back-owed child support, it is a terrible idea. You can lose your right to make arguments about what your child support payments should be going forward, you can have your wages garnished, you can lose your passport and you can potentially lose your freedom (and be thrown in jail.) Instead of that, reach out to an experienced family law attorney and find out what you can do to benefit yourself and your family.

D.G. was a father who had a back-owed child support problem. He was a professional basketball player who had a child with M.G., a woman who lived in Howard County. D.G. agreed in 2014 to pay the mother $4,000 in child support.

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In life, everyone makes mistakes, sometimes. Some of those mistakes happen within the confines of your family law case and, if that happens, the consequences can be severe. Even if you have made significant mistakes in your case, it is still imperative that you don’t give up and that you continue aggressively to fight for your relationship with your children. The law in Maryland may give you more options than you might have thought. Contact an experienced family law attorney to find out what paths may be available for you.

So, what do we mean by mistakes? As an example, let’s look at the case of C.K.N., a Montgomery County mom and Cameroonian immigrant going through a custody battle with her child’s father, E.L. A custody case, like other civil law cases, has a “discovery phase,” where each side has the opportunity ask the other side to respond to certain questions (called “interrogatories”) and to turn over copies of certain documents (called “requests for production.”)

One of the reasons it is so important to have a skilled family law attorney representing you during every phase of your case is that failure to follow certain rules, including discovery rules, can lead to severe punishments. In C.K.N.’s case, she failed to respond to certain discovery requests on time, so the judge punished her by imposing severe restrictions on what she could argue at her hearing and what evidence she could present in her custody case.

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