Articles Posted in Case Summaries

In a lot of states, there is only one option for obtaining a divorce, and that is the “no-fault” option. (There are actually 17 of those states.) Maryland is not one of those 17. In this state, you have the choice of getting a “no-fault” divorce or getting a divorce based on the conduct of your spouse. The choice you select can make a big difference so, before you go to court and file either kind of divorce, be sure you’ve retained a knowledgeable Maryland divorce lawyer to get the information and advice you need.

In internet slang, there exists the word “stigginit.” It is, essentially, a variation of “sticking it,” and means “sticking it” to someone or acting out of pure spite. Some believe that, if a spouse chooses to proceed with a fault divorce as opposed to a no-fault divorce in a state (like Maryland) that has both options, that spouse is just “stigginit” to their ex, or being spiteful. In reality, that’s not true. Obtaining a divorce due to your spouse’s fault can yield some very tangible benefits for you, such as a larger spousal support award (or your spouse receiving a smaller award,) as well as a more favorable child custody arrangement.

Here in Maryland, there are several ways you can get a fault-based divorce. They include your spouse’s adultery, your spouse’s deserting you, your spouse’s going to jail for a crime, or your spouse’s having gone insane. There’s also a ground for something called “cruelty of treatment” and, as one recent divorce case revealed, that ground encompasses more than just physical violence.

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Watch enough TV crime dramas and, at some point, you’ll likely encounter your favorite grizzled detective grumbling about how a suspect was set free on “some ridiculous technicality.” What does that scene have to do with your divorce? It’s a reminder that there are “technicalities” in all areas of the law, including divorce law, and those aspects of the law or court rules can harm or destroy your case. When it comes time to pursue your divorce, relying on an experienced Maryland family law attorney can help you to minimize the risk that a technical matter of law or procedure will trip you up.

The recent divorce case of a couple from Hagerstown is a good example. After the trial court entered its order, A.P., who was not pleased with the outcome, did two things. She initiated an appeal process by filing a document called a “Notice of Appeal.” She also filed a document asking the trial court to change its order, called a “Post-Trial Motion to Reconsider.” She submitted both of these more than 10 days but fewer than 30 days after the court’s decision.

Both of these were viable options for the disgruntled wife. Maryland law says you can ask a judge to reconsider his/her order by filing a motion to alter or amend a judgment within 10 days. You can also file a motion in which you ask your trial judge to revise the judgment. (You have 30 days to file that kind of request.)

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Finding out well after you’re divorced that your ex-spouse hid substantial marital wealth and assets during the divorce process is undeniably frustrating and infuriating. It is, however, also potentially the basis for legal action. Depending on the details of your divorce (such as whether you created a marital settlement agreement) and the kind of financial malfeasance in which your ex-spouse engaged, you may possibly be able to reopen your divorce or, alternately, you may be able to seek recovery based upon your spouse’s breach of your marital settlement agreement. To learn more about your options, speak to an experienced Maryland divorce attorney right away.

A recent case from Baltimore County offers a view into what a spouse can sometimes do in that kind of situation. In this case, the CEO of a candy equipment supplier and his wife divorced in 2006. A dozen years later, the wife asked the judge to vacate that 2006 divorce judgment.

The husband, according to the wife, had engaged in fraud, concealing certain marital assets during the negotiation of the couple’s property settlement agreement. That fraud, according to the wife, had the effect of altering those negotiations and the outcome of the agreement.

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Family law matters can be incredibly stressful and contentious. Sometimes, these emotions may lead spouses or parents to make decisions that are less than ideal. Obviously, the best plan in your family law case is to follow all of the orders handed down by a judge. Even if you fall short of that, though, it is important to understand that there are limits to what the judge can do to you for disobeying an order. One way to help you avoid receiving inappropriate penalties for disobeying a court order is by making sure you have a knowledgeable Maryland family law attorney on your side.

L.M. was one of those parents. She shared a child with C.C. In September 2018, the child complained about injuries inflicted by the father and the father was charged with child abuse. Shortly after that, the parents were in court with the father asking the judge to issue a protective order against the mother. The judge sided with the father, ordering the mother not to “abuse, threaten to abuse and/or harass” the father.

Eventually, the parents were back in court with the father accusing the mother of sending him threatening texts. As it turned out, the mother had sent the father a few inappropriate texts, but they had stopped several weeks before the parents appeared in court. The judge found the mother in “constructive civil contempt” of court.

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“Res Judicata” precludes parties from re-litigating any suit that is based on the same (earlier) cause of action. This means that parties may not bring the same claim, based on the same facts, time and time again. While the principle of res judicata applies to child custody cases, courts may entertain a custody issue, involving the same child or children, if the parent is seeking the modification of a custody arrangement due to a change in circumstances since the previous court order. The outcome of any child custody case will have a tremendous impact on the family going forward – financially, emotionally, and logistically. To sufficiently protect your rights, you are encouraged to contact an experienced Maryland family law attorney as early in the process as possible.

No two child custody cases are alike. Parents may dispute any number of issues, including physical and legal custody, as well as visitation and child support. In fact, a couple in a recent custody case argued over the child’s surname (among other things). Here, the parents were never married but had a son together in 2009. The mother failed to place the father’s name on the birth certificate and did not give the child the father’s last name. The father argued that the mother did not tell him when their son was born.

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A spouse who seeks to initiate a divorce proceeding must properly serve the other party with notice in accordance with local state law. It is important to understand the methods of service that are deemed acceptable in your jurisdiction. Otherwise, you may not be entitled to the relief sought. Most states have a system of courts, each with the authority to hear and decide certain types of disputes. In Maryland, it is the circuit court that handles family law cases, such as divorce and child custody and support matters. Keep in mind that the rules for service of process vary depending on whether you are filing a case in a circuit court versus a district court (which handles other kinds of matters). If you are considering filing for divorce in Maryland, it is important that you contact an experienced family law attorney as early in the proceedings as possible.

Service of process has been defined as the way a defendant receives court papers and notice about a court case. There are a few legally acceptable and effective ways to serve one’s spouse with divorce papers. These methods include:   1) by certified mail, restricted delivery (requiring the defendant to sign for the papers), 2) through the use of a sheriff or constable (for a fee), and 3) by private process (which may be a family member, friend, or a private process server). In many states, including Maryland, if a party has difficulty locating the person to be served, he or she may file a motion with the court asking for permission to find another acceptable way to serve the documents.

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Divorce is difficult. Couples seeking to dissolve their marriage will likely face some challenging and potentially divisive issues, such as child custody and support, alimony, and the division of marital property. Ideally, the parties will set aside their differences to address these important matters in an effort to move forward in their separate lives. Fortunately, Maryland family law governs many aspects of the process, affording the parties somewhat of a blueprint of what to expect as they proceed through their case. But how these laws apply to the unique circumstances of any one family law case is not easy to predict. If you are considering divorce, it is important to contact an experienced family law attorney who can assess your case and provide you with a well-crafted strategy designed to achieve the best settlement for your situation.

Maryland courts take very seriously any issue related to child custody and support. In a recent family law case, the father sought to modify child support in accordance with §12-104 of the state code. Here, the parties were married in 1995 and had two children. In 2004, the couple entered into an agreement that was incorporated into the Judgment of Absolute Divorce. The agreement set the father’s monthly child support payments at $2,199, based on the parties’ separate income. It also provided that the amount should be recalculated every two years thereafter. Apparently, the father failed to disclose that his income increased dramatically over the years. In 2011, the court ordered the father to pay the mother $13,263 per month in child support, as well as arrears and other reimbursements. The father did not appeal the order.

But in 2012, the father filed a complaint seeking to modify child support, arguing that there had been a material change in circumstances because his income decreased by 25%. The dispute concerns the treatment of the father’s receipt in 2012 of $396,164.24 deferred compensation for child support purposes. According to the court, if it were not considered income, the father would be entitled to a modification of child support. If it is included in income, he would not. The court denied his request, concluding that the father failed to bring sufficient proof from which the court could determine what portion of the amount was a gain on the original deferred income. The father appealed, arguing that he met his burden of proving that he sustained a 25% decrease in income. He specifically argued that his deferred income, which was attributed to a parent in the years it was earned for the purpose of calculating child support, should not be counted a second time.

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By its very nature, divorce divides a couple. Throughout the proceedings, spouses are expected to address and resolve many emotionally charged issues, such as child custody, visitation, division of property, spousal support, and many other significant matters. While many divorce cases are fraught with contentious conduct on behalf of one or both spouses, there are ways to approach a case with an eye toward moving the process along efficiently and amicably, while protecting one’s interests. One of the best ways to accomplish this goal is to consult with an experienced Maryland family law attorney, whose primary purpose is to resolve your divorce case as smoothly as possible, while aggressively protecting your interests.

In a recent case, described by the court as “particularly acrimonious,” the father attempted to modify an existing child custody order and objected to the “best interest attorney” or “BIA” whom the court appointed to represent his children in the proceeding. Here, the parties first separated and then ultimately divorced in February 2012. The divorce judgment incorporated prior written agreements, including a “parenting agreement” that granted the mother sole legal and primary physical custody of the children. The father was granted visitation rights. With respect to the children and their interaction with one another, the court pointed out that before and immediately after the divorce neither party behaved “admirably.” The husband claimed that the wife obstructed his visitation rights.

In July 2012, the husband sought a modification of the custody order, requesting sole custody of the children. He also began to withhold his alimony and child support payments and instead to apply them to the mortgage payments on the family residence. The wife sought to hold him in contempt for redirecting the payments and further asked the court to appoint a BIA to represent their children. The state of Maryland provides guidelines for court-appointed lawyers who represent children in child custody matters. Ultimately, the BIA recommended that the father’s custody petition be dismissed. The father sought to disqualify the children’s BIA and then changed his custody request, asking instead for sole legal custody while his wife retains physical custody. Continue reading →

In a recent case, a woman who had married in 1995 and had two sons filed for divorce in 2009.  The husband was a physical education teacher. The wife later claimed the husband spent most of his time with somebody she thought was his girlfriend. She testified she was the daily caretaker for their kids. She worked as a manager at a used goods store and couldn’t afford to move out of the home and support he kids solely on her income.

The wife later claimed the marriage was tumultuous and that the husband had failed to pay the electric bill on one occasion and she and the kids had to live at home without electricity for a week. A similar incident happened with the water bill. She also argued she needed assistance from Social Services.

The wife also testified that about three years before her daughter from a prior relationship had told her that the husband sexually abused her while she was living in the family home. Because of that the wife had moved out of the couple’s bedroom where she stayed because she couldn’t afford to leave. Continue reading →

If you have doubts about paternity, it is important to raise them from the start. A 2007 appeal illustrates the danger of waiting until years pass to contest or inquire into paternity in Maryland. In the case, the court considered a challenge to paternity with respect to a child born during a short marriage. The father Patrick Ashley and woman were married in 1980. Before their marriage, the woman had dated Steven Reid. When they got together Ashley asked the woman to take a pregnancy test. She told him that the pregnancy test indicated she wasn’t pregnant. They got married. Eight months later, the woman gave birth to a son.

Shortly after that, the couple separated. The court issued a divorce judgment awarding the woman sole custody of her son, visitation to the man, and requiring the man to pay child support.

Over a decade later, the father began to doubt he was the son’s father based on visual observation, and got DNA testing. It revealed he wasn’t the biological father. Instead, the biological father was Reid, the man that the mother had dated just before getting married. Ashley filed a lawsuit to discontinue child support and request paternity testing. He alleged that the mother was pregnant with the son before they married. He also alleged that in 2004, he told the mother about the DNA test results. The woman asked if they should tell the son and asked if he thought the son would hate her. Continue reading →

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