Articles Posted in Case Summaries

Last year, this blog covered an interesting ruling by the Court of Special Appeals in which the court ruled an adult sibling found to be a Child In Need of Assistance (CINA) had no rights to visit with her younger siblings against their parents’ wishes. Recently, the Court of Appeals issued a new decision in this case.

As noted in other blog posts, parents of minor children have a fundamental right to make major decisions about the care, custody and control of their children. Usually third parties who want visitation against the parents’ wishes have to make a showing of exceptional circumstances such that the court failing to grant visitation would have a very detrimental effect on the children. The earlier ruling followed a Supreme Court ruling about a Washington statute where the Court ruled a statute that didn’t give parents’ beliefs a presumption of acting in the child’s best interests was unconstitutional.

In this case, an older sister born in 1993 wanted to visit her half-siblings over the objections of her father from whom she was estranged after being declared a CINA. She had been deemed a CINA after her father wouldn’t let her come back home to him, his new wife and their two small children. Her own mother had committed suicide and she had alleged her father was abusive. Continue reading →

It’s extremely rare for someone to request alimony separate from divorce these days, but it is possible. In an interesting 2009 case that illustrates the importance of having a family lawyer represent you through your divorce, a couple were married and had two children. The husband filed for limited divorce after a one-year separation from his wife. Next the wife counter-claimed for absolute divorce on the basis of adultery and abandonment. The wife requested alimony.

Both of the spouses needed an interpreter and were not represented by counsel. By law, requests for divorce are granted only with a corroborating witness. Neither the husband nor the wife had brought one. The court wasn’t able to award a divorce or a limited divorce. Additionally neither spouse offered testimony to corroborate grounds for divorce. The trial judge nonetheless heard testimony on child support and alimony.

Although the divorce case collapsed, the judge awarded custody of the two kids to the wife and ordered the husband to pay child support of $764. The judge ordered the husband to pay $1500 to the wife every month as indefinite alimony. The court did not characterize the alimony or child support as pendente lite (temporary pending litigation). The case was closed with the requests for divorce denied. Continue reading →

Before administering corporal punishment, a parent in Maryland must consider the child’s age, size, ability to understand the punishment, and ability to comply with the punishment. Because standards have changed significantly in the last few decades, it can be difficult for some parents to know what kinds of punishments are completely unacceptable and which ones are more appropriate to a situation. While a “spanking” may be appropriate for some children at certain developmental stages, haphazard striking in a fit of rage is not. This issue can become a critical one in a divorce and child custody case.

Section 4-501(a)  contains the definition of abuse for family law cases. Abuse under 4-501 is defined as (1) an act causing serious bodily harm, (2) an act that places someone covered by the law in fear of imminent serious bodily harm, (3) assault in any degree, (4) rape or sexual offense, and (5) false imprisonment. Abuse can also include abuse of a kid, but it does not preclude reasonable corporal punishment by a parent or stepparent, depending upon the kid’s age or condition.

Section 5-701 covers “child abuse and neglect.” That law defines abuse as (1) physical or mental injury of a child by any person who has responsibility for the child where circumstances indicate the child’s health is harmed or (2) sexual abuse.

If you are served with a notice that your parental rights may be terminated or any other kind of legal notice from the State related to your children, it is critical to contact a Maryland family law attorney as soon as possible. Some parents fail to understand the urgency of these notices and take their time in responding. But important legal time limits may exist and any kind of delay may jeopardize your long-term relationship with your children.

In a 2009 case, three government agencies had sought to terminate a mother’s parental rights in connection with her three children. In 2004, two of her daughters were placed in foster care and found to be children in need of assistance (CINA). Three days after he was born, her son was also found to be a CINA.

An agency sought guardianship of all the kids on the same day the show cause orders were filed. These orders stated that if no objection was filed within 30 days after the Order was served on her, the mother would be agreeing to terminate parental rights. The mother was personally served on August 26, 2008. The father was served two days later. Continue reading →

One of the most difficult situations within Maryland family law is parental child abuse. A 2012 appellate case dealt with the question of a child abuse charge against a father. In the case, the department of social services received a report that a father had held one of his two children by the arm to make sure he finished eating spaghetti with mushrooms.

When the mother, who shared custody with the father, came to pick up the kids, she saw there were bruises on her son’s neck and a scratch under his chin. She took him to a pediatrician who reported the possible abuse to the department of social services. The police investigated and the son told them that the father had grabbed him by the neck and pulled him down.

The investigation led to a social worker finding that indicated child abuse. The father provided a substantially similar account as the son and the mother. Under Maryland law, child abuse is the physical or mental injury of a child by a parent who has care, custody or responsibility for supervising a child such that the child’s health or welfare may be harmed. Continue reading →

In Maryland, there are two statutory schemes that govern whether paternity testing should occur. One of them, the Paternity subtitle of the Family Law Article, describes procedures that allow the state to establish paternity and require fathers to pay child support.

Under this section, there is a presumption that a child is the child of the man to whom the mother was married when he or she was conceived. This presumption can be rebutted. The mother, father or child can be required to take a blood or genetic test to see if the person being claimed to be the father may be excluded.

The Estates and Trusts Article presumes that the child born or conceived during a couple’s marriage is the legitimate child of each spouse. The purpose of the presumption is to reduce the cost of administering an estate. The trial court has the discretion to decide whether testing requested by a motion is in the child’s best interests or not. Continue reading →

Recently, our office assisted a client in drafting and finalizing a prenuptial agreement between him and his fiancée.   While our office has drafted prenuptial agreements and voluntary separation agreements for many of our clients, this client’s situation was a bit unusual.  He needed the agreement negotiated and signed within a few days because he and his fiancée were planning to get married in less than two weeks.

Our client’s family had been encouraging him to speak with an attorney about drafting a prenuptial agreement for several months, but our client waited until just before his wedding to finally seek legal advice.  Once he came in for his initial consultation, our office strongly advised him that his family was right – he should enter into a prenuptial agreement with his fiancée to ensure all his rights were protected if they were to ever divorce.

Our client earned a substantial yearly income working for the government.  Additionally, he owned his own business in Washington DC, had a substantial retirement account, owned several automobiles, and had almost no debt to his name.   In contrast, his fiancée was in the US on a student visa, she was not employed, she had several student loans, and she owned no property other than one automobile which was over a decade old.

Recently, our office assisted a Dad who wanted to obtain sole residential and sole legal custody of his two young children.  He was a young father, only 21 years old, but he had already demonstrated a level a maturity of someone much older.  He had been taking care of the children for about a year with little to no support or even contact from the children’s mother.

The Dad, acting on his own without the assistance of an attorney, filed for custody with the Circuit Court for Montgomery County, MD.  When he filed for custody, he never anticipated that the children’s mother would fight him. However, that is exactly what happened.  After being served, the children’s mother hired an attorney, who immediately opposed the Dad’s request for sole custody and filed for joint custody on the mother’s behalf.

By the time the Dad had saved a little money to hire an attorney and had sought assistance from our experienced family law attorneys, the custody merits trial was less than one week away.  The Dad came to our office petrified and nervous that he was going to lose custody of his children.  He believed that the Court would favor the mother solely because she was the mother and she would automatically get joint custody even if that wasn’t in the best interest of the children.

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