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Everyone assumes they know certain things about family law cases. For example, when you share custody of your children with your ex-spouse, and your ex-spouse has the children the majority of the time, many people might assume that either you are paying child support to your ex-spouse or that neither parent is paying support.

Did you know that this does not necessarily have to be the case? In some situations, based on what you make and what your ex-spouse makes, your ex-spouse may actually be the one to pay support, even though the children reside with you less than 50% of the time. This just goes to show that you should never assume when it comes to the law. Instead, contact an experienced Maryland family law attorney to get the facts.

As an example of how this can happen, there’s the case of N.K. and M.B. N.K., the mother, made $108,000 annually as a physician. Initially, the father made $130,000 annually and paid the mother $1,432 a month in child support. The father had the children for 128 overnights, and the children stayed with the mother the remaining 65% of the time.

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An old saying by English author Alexander Pope theorizes that “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.” In few places is that more true than in the law. Too many times, non-lawyers sincerely believe that they can pursue their case successfully on their own. They think that, by spending a little time with the Google or Bing search engines, they can equip themselves adequately to act as their own attorney in their Maryland family law dispute.

Very often, they are mistaken. The consequence of that mistake is often losing a case that, with the aid of skilled lawyer, might have possibly ended more favorably. With something as precious and valuable as your family at stake, why would you chance losing due to some statutory technicality, filing deadline or nuance of caselaw that you’d overlooked? Your family is too important, which is why you should be sure you retain a knowledgeable Maryland family law attorney to handle your case.

How can your case go very wrong on your own? A recent dispute addressed by the Court of Special Appeals offers a useful example. O.K. was a father in a dispute with E.L., his children’s mother. On a temporary basis, the court gave the mother sole legal and physical custody.

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Whether your spouse is making a claim for alimony, a claim that you dissipated assets, or both, it is important to know that there are certain expectations the law has of her, and certain things she must prove to the court, before she can be entitled to a ruling in her favor. In other words, there is an opportunity for you to oppose these legal arguments successfully by persuading the court that your ex-spouse has failed to meet her burden of proof. To be sure you have the resources you need on your side to win these kinds of legal battles, be sure you have an experienced Maryland alimony / spousal support attorney on your side.

In a divorce case, a claim for alimony is one of the most common issues that may arise, as a spouse who has historically earned less and continues to have a smaller income very commonly will seek a sum of alimony as part of the divorce judgment. While less common that alimony, a spouse’s “dissipation” of assets is another common claim. This means that one spouse allegedly used marital funds for the divorce for some purpose other than marital need. If, for example, you used marital assets to buy an expensive car for your child from a previous marriage, then that could constitute dissipation of assets.

The recent case of two spouses from Frederick County, M.B. and J.B., is helpful in shining light on certain requirements for each of these types of claims. J.B., the wife, sought rehabilitative alimony. For a spouse to be entitled to an award of rehabilitative alimony, she must demonstrate to the trial court that the award will facilitate her rehabilitating herself into a self-supporting divorced individual. Your spouse, if she contends that she needs additional education or professional training, must indicate exactly what education/training is needed and exactly how that would allow her to find “suitable employment.”

When it comes to setting up a child custody schedule in Maryland as part of a divorce, small differences have the potential to have massive impacts. A difference of just a few overnights can greatly alter what will owe in child support. Potentially, one or two extra overnights may mean owing hundreds, or even thousands, less in child support every month if those extra nights give you shared custody. In other words, it pays to exercise great care when it comes to a custody schedule in a marital settlement agreement. And it pays to have an experienced Maryland child support lawyer on your side who knows this and other nuances of the law keenly well, to get you the best outcome possible.

So, how can just a slight alteration of a custody schedule make such a big difference in child support? As a recent case illustrated, the key lies in Maryland’s definition of shared custody versus sole custody. In this state, the dividing line is 35%, or roughly 128 overnights. If you have fewer than that, then the other parent has sole physical custody. If you have more than that, then you and the children’s other parent have shared physical custody.

That recent case involved a father who had visitation on alternating weekends, alternating Wednesday evenings, some federal holidays and part of the summer break. He was also required to pay $2,620 per month in child support but later asked the judge to reduce his obligation. He argued that his support obligation was being calculated as if the mother had sole physical custody but, based on the number of overnights the children had with him, the parents shared joint physical custody.

The days and weeks that immediately follow the breakup of your marriage can be an incredibly trying time. You may feel hurt, confused, angry, frightened, overwhelmed, betrayed and a host of other emotions. You’ve experienced a great trauma, and like anyone living through that kind of pain, you may not be at your best in terms of decision-making. That includes making decisions like signing a marital settlement agreement. This is just one reason among the many why it pays to have a skilled Maryland divorce attorney on your side. You can trust your attorney to handle your legal affairs while you concentrate on managing your life.

Even if you’ve not heeded that advice, have made a bad decision by signing a bad settlement agreement without consulting an attorney, and later come to conclude that were taken advantage of, you still may have options. As one recent case illustrated, depending on just how extremely one-sided your marital settlement agreement was, you may be able to get it invalidated as ‘unconscionable’ under Maryland law.

In the recent case, the husband, G., and the wife, J., were married for six years when they separated in early 2015. Only a few days after the pair parted ways, the husband gave the wife a proposed marital settlement agreement, which the husband’s attorney had drafted. The agreement gave the husband the marital home, two rental properties, two cars, two motorcycles and all of the retirement accounts. The wife got a one-time payment of $7,000. Additionally, the agreement stated that the wife forever waived her right ever to pursue an alimony claim, either rehabilitative or permanent.

When your marriage comes to an end, there are many things that must be resolved, one of which is custody of the children. In the past, you may have worked full-time outside the home to provide for the family financially while your spouse was a stay-at-home caregiver. Just because your spouse was the primary caregiver prior to the marriage’s end, that does not automatically mean that she is legally entitled to be the primary physical custodian after the divorce. The court must decide custody based on the best interest of the children and there is large list of legal factors the judge must look at, with past arrangements being only one factor among many.

In other words, if you desire to be your children’s primary physical custodian, do not despair just because your ex was a stay-at-home parent prior to the divorce. Instead, consult with an experienced Maryland family law attorney and learn more about how to pursue your goals in your case.

As an example of a case where the “stay-at-home” parent didn’t receive primary physical custody after the divorce, there’s the case of A.P. and J.P., who began divorce proceedings in 2017. The husband had been an active member of the U.S. Navy for more than a decade. The wife was very briefly employed during that time, but mostly stayed home to care for the children.

Sometimes, family court cases may require a heavy focus on the facts in order to resolve. However, that is not always the case. Some family court cases can turn on a party’s knowledge – or lack thereof – of the rules of court procedure. To be sure you’re in the best position possible, be prepared with representation from a skilled Maryland family law attorney.

As an example, there’s the recent case between C.C. and A.S. The pair were reportedly in an intense dispute regarding custody of their two daughters. The dispute escalated after the mother placed an app on each of the daughters’ cell phones that allowed her to monitor from a remote location the girls’ texts and social media posts in real time.

When the parents went to court in Queen Anne’s County, the mother was prepared to offer evidence regarding the content of certain texts between the father and the daughters. The father argued that the mother had violated Maryland’s Wiretap and Electronic Surveillance Act and asked the judge to exclude all of this text-message evidence. The trial judge sided with the father and kept all of the text-related evidence out of the trial.

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.

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