Some people may convince themselves that they do not need a skilled Maryland divorce lawyer to handle their case. They may assume that, because they and their spouse do not dispute most issues, or because they do not have many assets, or because their case does not seem to involve anything that implicates complex issues of law, they can handle it themselves. That kind of thinking is something that you should avoid, as it could be incredibly costly to you. Some divorcing spouses think they can’t afford to hire an attorney. More likely, you can’t afford not to.
Here’s a real-life example of how it can go wrong. In June 2019, V. M.-J. filed for divorce. The case went to trial that November and the spouses didn’t have attorneys. The court’s judgment gave the husband 15% of the wife’s government pension and ordered the wife to transfer her interest in the home to the husband, conditioned on his refinancing the home solely in his own name within 90 days.
Dissatisfied with the outcome, the wife appealed. Her appellate argument was that the trial judge made a mistake in distributing the home and her pension because the husband did not file any court pleadings asking for these things.
To back up her argument, she cited a 2016 case where the appeals court upheld a trial court decision denying a husband’s request for a portion of his wife’s pension, which it did because the husband didn’t ask for that in his pleadings.
The Damage a Failure to Object Can Cause
The appeals court still refused to overturn what the trial judge ordered in this wife’s case. The court explained that, even though the 2016 ruling “is undoubtedly good law,” it didn’t help the wife because she “never made any objection that [the husband] was precluded from seeking such relief. To the contrary, the record demonstrates that [the wife] acknowledged that the pension and marital home were appropriate issues for the court to consider and decide.”
Looking back, there were several junctures during the trial where the wife did — or failed to do — things that later proved potentially costly. During a morning session, the trial judge asked the couple to attempt to forge an agreement on the home and the pension during a lunch break. “At no point during this extensive colloquy with the court did [the wife] object to consideration of these issues on the basis that [the husband] never requested any relief in his pleadings.”
After lunch, the judge pointed out that the husband never filed a counter-complaint. Again, the wife made no objection. Instead, she took the stand and stated that the home and the pension “were the two issued before the Court and that’s my testimony.”
During closing arguments, the wife once more failed to object to the husband’s requests regarding the pension and the home. Instead, she told the court the husband could “have the house and I’d walk away, but my pension stays intact.”
In other words, she made critical tactical errors in the way she litigated her case. Had she objected, or had she not made those damaging statements, her appeal might have been stronger. In the end, what the wife said – and didn’t say – during the trial undercut her appellate argument and resulted in the appeals court upholding the divorce judgment.
Many of these trial maneuvers, such as objections and the like, may seem obscure or arcane to you, but they can make a world of difference, even in your seemingly straightforward divorce case. Given what a huge impact your divorce judgment will have on your future financial security, don’t leave anything to chance by trying to handle the case on your own. Instead, rely on the experienced Maryland family law attorneys at Anthony A. Fatemi, LLC to protect you and your interests. To learn more about how we can assist you, contact us at 301-519-2801 or via our online form.