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United States District Court for the District of Maryland
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Bar Association of Montgomery County, Maryland

Family-owned businesses are a staple of the American commercial landscape. Many of these businesses are passed down across multiple generations. Sometimes, though, the family business in question is your spouse’s, not yours. When that happens and you’re divorcing, some or all of that business may be a marital asset subject to equitable distribution. Getting a truly just outcome in that scenario means getting a proper determination of both the business’s status (as marital) and its value. A skilled Maryland divorce lawyer can help go about obtaining that just and appropriate outcome.

A recent example of this kind of divorce case comes to us from Baltimore County. The husband’s parents were successful businesspeople, having run a seafood market and restaurant west of Baltimore since 1963.

The husband and wife married in 2004. In 2005, the husband (“Eric”) and his father (“Bill”) formed a corporation to operate the market and restaurant. Initially, Eric owned 25% of the shares and Bill owned 75%. In January 2006, Bill transferred his shares to Eric and Eric’s sister. That left Eric with 75% ownership and the sister with 25%.

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“Lawyers often joke that we went to law school because we aren’t good at or don’t like math,” quipped a Maryland Court of Special Appeals judge recently. In a similar vein, a student in a law school seminar once interrupted the instructor who was laying out a math-intensive hypothetical. “Pardon me, Professor, but… we don’t do math. If we did, we wouldn’t be here.” Similar to the Court of Special Appeals Judge’s observation, the student was implying that he and his classmates arrived at law school rather than medical school or engineering school solely as a result of their poor math skills or strong dislike of math. In seriousness, though, math and law can — and do — intersect frequently, especially in divorce cases involving the division of marital assets. When you are in a divorce case where that is a significant issue, your outcome can often be enhanced by having on your side a skilled Maryland divorce lawyer (who may or may not love math.)

The case that spawned the Court of Special Appeals’ observation about math was a recent divorce dispute about retirement assets. The judgment in that divorce action stated that the “parties shall equalize their retirement assets.” To do that, the court instructed the wife to roll over $303,388 from her retirement to the husband’s retirement.

The problem was, as the appeals court put it, “something didn’t add up,” and fortunately for the wife, her legal team spotted it and argued it in her motion to enforce the judgment. Specifically, the wife’s counsel found the presence of a typographical error and deduced that a transfer of $303,388 would not equalize the spouses’ assets. To achieve an equal split, the wife argued, the correct sum should have been $40,000 less, or $263,388.

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In many walks of life, people say that “timing is everything.” In civil lawsuits, timing isn’t everything but it definitely is a very important thing. That’s especially true in divorce cases. When it comes to things like alimony and monetary awards, the date used for evaluating the spouse’s assets is key. Sometimes, even just a difference of only a few months can alter the outcome by thousands of dollars. As with any essential detail of your divorce case, a knowledgeable Maryland divorce lawyer can help you identify the correct date and, in the process, get you a fair outcome.

Maryland law requires a trial court, before imposing a monetary award as part of a divorce, to engage in the three steps. First, the judge must identify what property is the husband’s, what is the wife’s, and what is marital. Second, the trial court must decide the value of the marital property. Finally, if the judge determines that simply dividing the marital assets “according to title” would yield an unfair result, then the judge adds a monetary award to the spouse who received the lesser group of titled marital assets.

In S.L. and T.L.’s divorce case, the trial court in Prince George’s County went through all those required processes. The court determined that, of the couple’s $1.24 million in assets, $553,000 was titled in the husband’s name, $86,000 was in the wife’s name, and $602,000 was titled in the spouses’ names jointly. After subtracting the couple’s marital debt, the judge ultimately awarded the wife a monetary award of $50,000.

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Sometimes, it may seem easy to think that you can proceed with your divorce case without legal representation. You have documents supporting your arguments and your issues are straightforward, so an attorney isn’t necessary, right? Having convinced yourself, you show up to a hearing, an arbitration, or a mediation. Then, oftentimes, bad things happen. An unfavorable divorce-related ruling can be extremely damaging, either personally, financially, or both, so make sure you have a knowledgeable Maryland divorce lawyer on your side throughout your divorce case to protect your interests.

As an example, there’s this alimony case from Baltimore County. The husband was a highly-compensated anesthesiologist making more than $27,000 per month and his wife was a community college professor who made a little more than $7,000 per month. In the summer of 2020, the court convened a remote status conference. Shortly after that, the wife’s attorney contacted a retired judge about mediating the alimony dispute between his client and her husband.

The husband inquired from the retired judge whether the mediation was private or court-ordered and was told the court ordered it. At the time of the mediation, the husband was in the hospital, one day removed from a medical procedure that required local anesthesia. Nevertheless, he didn’t obtain an attorney.

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California was the very first state in the U.S. to recognize “no-fault” divorce, doing so in 1970. Today, all states recognize no-fault divorce but some, including Maryland, give you the option of seeking a no-fault divorce or an at-fault divorce. Since Maryland allows both kinds of divorce actions, you may ask yourself, “Which one is better for me?” For answers to that and all other essential divorce questions, get in touch with a knowledgeable Maryland divorce lawyer who can assess your specific facts and give the advice you need for your specific situations.

For the last eight years, fans of reality TV on the TLC network have followed the relationships of dozens of couples on “90 Day Fiance.” While viewers presumably hope for true love for each of the lovebird pairs, not all the couples’ stories end with a “happily ever after.” Indeed, one of the “90 Day Fiance” couples is currently going through the divorce process here in Maryland.

The pair appeared on the show in 2015 when the husband was 58 and the wife was 19. Six years later, the husband filed for divorce, asserting that the wife committed adultery.

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When you decide to enter into a prenuptial agreement or a marital settlement agreement, there are several critical phases. There’s the phase where you and the other party negotiate the terms of the agreement, and you work to ensure that all the terms adequately protect your interests. There’s also the phase where you and the other party execute the agreement, and you work to ensure that the document you sign matches the bargain you struck during the negotiation phase. Finally, there may be a phase where you have to litigate to enforce the agreement and get the benefit of the contract you signed. At each of these phases, your chances of getting the fairest possible outcome can be enhanced by having legal representation from an experienced Maryland spousal support (alimony) lawyer.

That’s because, at any phase, things can go astray from what you wanted… and executed.

For example, there’s the alimony case of X.L. and H.L., a couple who, in March 2016, worked out a prenuptial agreement. In that document, both spouses agreed to waive the right to receive alimony in the event of separation or divorce. They married one month later.

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For most people, one of the biggest financial transitions we’ll make is from full-time employment to retirement. The move into retirement comes with many changes, and often involves a substantial reduction in income. When that happens, that reduction may entitle you to obtain a reduction in the amount of alimony you owe… or maybe even elimination of your entire remaining alimony obligation. A knowledgeable Maryland alimony lawyer can help guide you through the process and obtain a modification that is fair based on your new circumstances.

F.H. was one of those people. He planned to retire from work in early 2021 at the age of 71. He, however, remained obligated to pay his ex-wife $2,500 per month in indefinite alimony following a 2015 divorce. The husband, as a result, filed a motion with the court to get his indefinite alimony terminated.

In Maryland, getting your indefinite alimony terminated requires demonstrating several things to the court. For one thing, you have to show that there has been a “material change in circumstances that justify” the termination. This, by the way, can be a change on your end or your ex-spouse’s end. For example, if you become disabled and your post-disability income is a mere fraction of the $300,000 you were making as a physician, that might make termination justified. Alternately, if your spouse gets a new job making double what she did before, that might also be the sort of change of circumstances that justifies termination of your alimony obligation.

For many couples, separation agreements are very useful tools. If you go that route, it’s important to make sure that your separation agreement is sufficiently detailed in all areas. For example, with alimony, it’s not enough to say “how much” and “for how long,” but also to address things like “when may the supporting spouse seek modification?” An experienced Maryland divorce lawyer can help you with negotiating and executing an agreement that is fair, complete, and clear.

Of course, even once you’ve done that, there may be pitfalls. For example, what happens if your spouse, who owes you alimony, experiences a non-permanent downturn in his income? Often, a temporary dip in income is not enough to lead to a reduction in your alimony but it depends on the exact wording of your separation agreement. A knowledgeable legal advocate can be essential in protecting your right to receive alimony.

Take, for example, the alimony case of C.T., a successful anesthesiologist, and his wife, R.L. They separated in 2015 and, three years later, worked out a separation agreement. That document called for the husband to pay alimony of $6,000 per month for 47 months, and then pay a lesser sum for the next 88 months.

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Here in Maryland, a prenuptial agreement can be a very beneficial thing for both you and your future spouse. Some people consider a prenuptial agreement to be the cynical ploy of someone who’s already planning a divorce before the wedding has even occurred, but that is rarely the reality. A well-written and fairly negotiated prenuptial agreement can give you confidence that you and your spouse will be in control, rather than a court, if the marriage eventually ends. Making sure that both you and your spouse are working with knowledgeable Maryland prenuptial agreement lawyers can go a long way in ensuring you get something that is fair, mutually agreeable, and largely safe from a subsequent legal attack.

Prenuptial agreements have been in the news a lot lately. In December, music mogul Dr. Dre finalized his divorce. During that litigation, the hip-hop icon sought to enforce a prenuptial agreement. The wife strongly opposed, arguing that she signed the agreement under duress.

Four months earlier, another celebrity prenuptial agreement dispute came to a close. Singer and talk-show host Kelly Clarkson successfully argued for the enforcement of the prenuptial agreement that she and her husband signed. News reports generally did not indicate why the husband thought the prenup was invalid.

Proper recordkeeping is a must when it comes to preparing tax returns, but it’s not the only place where good recordkeeping can be incredibly valuable. Divorce is another legal area where the difference between success and failure could be your good records, or a lack thereof. Good records may be the critical evidence you need to substantiate your position. On the flip side, if your spouse is making a financial argument that isn’t supported by appropriate documentation, you may, with the help of a knowledgeable Maryland divorce lawyer, be able to use that lack of paperwork to defeat their argument.

You can see that in action in a recent divorce case from Montgomery County.

The husband married his wife in Bangladesh in 2011 and brought her to the United States, where he’d lived since 1998. In 2019, the couple split up and, a year later, the wife filed for divorce. At the time that the wife filed for divorce, the husband had nearly $219,000 in a Bank of America account. Four weeks later, that account balance was just under $11,000.

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