Baseball, Woody Allen, and an Absentee Spouse: Lessons from the Maryland Appellate Court in a Recent Potomac Divorce

Divorce cases are often highly fact-intensive contests. That means that much of the outcome of your case will rest on the trial judge’s exercise of his/her discretion. Overturning a trial court decision based on a judge’s exercise of discretion is often highly difficult, which is why, if you are embarking on a contested divorce, it’s well worth your while to retain a skilled Maryland divorce lawyer and make sure your trial presentation is the strongest it can be.

A recent divorce case originating here in Montgomery County makes for a good case study revealing some “everyday” types of information that can help you as you approach the divorce litigation process.

One point is ensuring that you have clear and open lines of communication with your lawyer and that both of you are “on the same page.”

In the Montgomery County case, the husband was a Korean native and residing in that country at the time of the divorce hearing. The husband unsuccessfully sought permission to attend the hearing remotely, which would seem to indicate a strong interest in participating. At the trial, the wife’s lawyer offered the husband’s attorney the opportunity to request a continuance so that the husband could travel and attend the trial in person, but the husband’s counsel “declined and insisted on proceeding that day.” As a result, the trial took place with no participation by the husband.

After opening its opinion with a quote from actor Woody Allen (“80 percent of success is showing up,) the appellate court rejected the husband’s contention that the trial court abused its discretion when it decided “issues without considering the testimony and evidence [the husband] would have presented but didn’t” because he wasn’t in attendance.

The appellate court’s opinion (including the Woody Allen quote) seems to imply that the husband might have benefited from a clearer strategy to present all his evidence in his absence or else a plan to postpone the trial to allow him to travel to Maryland and participate in person.

Like Arguing Balls and Strikes in Baseball

Another important “nugget” readers can take from this appellate court opinion relates to what is (and is not) judicial bias. The husband contested the trial judge’s determinations about the wife’s credibility, the judge’s alleged “rushing” of his lawyer (but not rushing the wife’s attorney), not viewing certain videos and pictures his counsel presented (but viewing videos and pictures the wife submitted), and allegedly making improper remarks during opening and closing arguments.

Generally speaking, these kinds of assertions often aren’t the stuff of a successful appeal of a divorce judgment. The court compared the husband’s arguments to a case from 1999 where the losing party criticized the trial judge’s “facial expressions, expressions of frustration, evidentiary rulings, and trial management decisions.” The court in that 1999 decision drew an analogy, comparing these sorts of appellate arguments to a baseball team contesting a game’s outcome because they were “unhappy with what the umpire perceive[d] to be the appropriate ball or strike call.”

To succeed in appealing your divorce judgment, you need to demonstrate that something the trial judge did failed to “comport with applicable law.” The husband didn’t have that, and so he lost.

You need to be ready to “show up” with the strongest array of evidence possible when the trial court convenes your divorce hearing. As part of doing that, retaining experienced counsel can be invaluable. The skilled Maryland family law attorneys at Anthony A. Fatemi, LLC can help you to ensure that the judge in your case has the complete picture. Contact us today at 301-519-2801 or via our online form to set up your consultation.

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