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.
The Husband ‘Had an Opportunity’ to Retain Counsel, But Didn’t
During the mediation, the two sides hashed out an agreement that called for the husband to pay a single lump sum of $290,000 “to settle past, present and future alimony claims.” The retired judge asked the husband a series of questions in which the husband stated that he agreed with the settlement’s terms, that his agreement was “free and voluntary,” that he “had an opportunity to get an attorney [but instead] decided to represent” himself, and that he was not under the influence of any medication that impaired his thinking and judgment.
Two days after he settled, the husband learned that the mediation was actually not the result of a court order. He filed a post-judgment motion in the trial court and an appeal with the Court of Special Appeals, but neither was successful.
In general, when opposing sides conclude their mediation, they agree that the mediated settlement is the final resolution of the case. After that, the court will enter a consent judgment or dismissal of the case with prejudice, which means that neither party can re-litigate any of the issues that were under the umbrella of that case. If you find yourself in a position of needing to challenge a consent judgment, then you must file a motion to vacate that judgment on the basis of a lack of consent.
So, there was a very specific procedure to challenge the outcome and none of the many steps the husband took post-settlement fit within that procedure. As a result, the husband’s obligation under the settlement remained. Had he retained knowledgeable counsel and been represented throughout the process, the outcome likely could have been notably less harmful to him.
Whether or not your divorce case involves hundreds of thousands of dollars of alimony, it is undeniably incredibly important to you… far too important to leave exposed to the pitfalls that come from litigating without proper legal representation. The experienced Maryland family law attorneys at Anthony A. Fatemi, LLC have helped countless divorcing spouses over the years, and we’re ready to get to work for you. Contact us today at 301-519-2801 or via our online form to set up your consultation.