Articles Posted in Child Custody

In life, everyone makes mistakes, sometimes. Some of those mistakes happen within the confines of your family law case and, if that happens, the consequences can be severe. Even if you have made significant mistakes in your case, it is still imperative that you don’t give up and that you continue aggressively to fight for your relationship with your children. The law in Maryland may give you more options than you might have thought. Contact an experienced family law attorney to find out what paths may be available for you.

So, what do we mean by mistakes? As an example, let’s look at the case of C.K.N., a Montgomery County mom and Cameroonian immigrant going through a custody battle with her child’s father, E.L. A custody case, like other civil law cases, has a “discovery phase,” where each side has the opportunity ask the other side to respond to certain questions (called “interrogatories”) and to turn over copies of certain documents (called “requests for production.”)

One of the reasons it is so important to have a skilled family law attorney representing you during every phase of your case is that failure to follow certain rules, including discovery rules, can lead to severe punishments. In C.K.N.’s case, she failed to respond to certain discovery requests on time, so the judge punished her by imposing severe restrictions on what she could argue at her hearing and what evidence she could present in her custody case.

An old saying by English author Alexander Pope theorizes that “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.” In few places is that more true than in the law. Too many times, non-lawyers sincerely believe that they can pursue their case successfully on their own. They think that, by spending a little time with the Google or Bing search engines, they can equip themselves adequately to act as their own attorney in their Maryland family law dispute.

Very often, they are mistaken. The consequence of that mistake is often losing a case that, with the aid of skilled lawyer, might have possibly ended more favorably. With something as precious and valuable as your family at stake, why would you chance losing due to some statutory technicality, filing deadline or nuance of caselaw that you’d overlooked? Your family is too important, which is why you should be sure you retain a knowledgeable Maryland family law attorney to handle your case.

How can your case go very wrong on your own? A recent dispute addressed by the Court of Special Appeals offers a useful example. O.K. was a father in a dispute with E.L., his children’s mother. On a temporary basis, the court gave the mother sole legal and physical custody.

Continue reading →

When it comes to setting up a child custody schedule in Maryland as part of a divorce, small differences have the potential to have massive impacts. A difference of just a few overnights can greatly alter what will owe in child support. Potentially, one or two extra overnights may mean owing hundreds, or even thousands, less in child support every month if those extra nights give you shared custody. In other words, it pays to exercise great care when it comes to a custody schedule in a marital settlement agreement. And it pays to have an experienced Maryland child support lawyer on your side who knows this and other nuances of the law keenly well, to get you the best outcome possible.

So, how can just a slight alteration of a custody schedule make such a big difference in child support? As a recent case illustrated, the key lies in Maryland’s definition of shared custody versus sole custody. In this state, the dividing line is 35%, or roughly 128 overnights. If you have fewer than that, then the other parent has sole physical custody. If you have more than that, then you and the children’s other parent have shared physical custody.

That recent case involved a father who had visitation on alternating weekends, alternating Wednesday evenings, some federal holidays and part of the summer break. He was also required to pay $2,620 per month in child support but later asked the judge to reduce his obligation. He argued that his support obligation was being calculated as if the mother had sole physical custody but, based on the number of overnights the children had with him, the parents shared joint physical custody.

When your marriage comes to an end, there are many things that must be resolved, one of which is custody of the children. In the past, you may have worked full-time outside the home to provide for the family financially while your spouse was a stay-at-home caregiver. Just because your spouse was the primary caregiver prior to the marriage’s end, that does not automatically mean that she is legally entitled to be the primary physical custodian after the divorce. The court must decide custody based on the best interest of the children and there is large list of legal factors the judge must look at, with past arrangements being only one factor among many.

In other words, if you desire to be your children’s primary physical custodian, do not despair just because your ex was a stay-at-home parent prior to the divorce. Instead, consult with an experienced Maryland family law attorney and learn more about how to pursue your goals in your case.

As an example of a case where the “stay-at-home” parent didn’t receive primary physical custody after the divorce, there’s the case of A.P. and J.P., who began divorce proceedings in 2017. The husband had been an active member of the U.S. Navy for more than a decade. The wife was very briefly employed during that time, but mostly stayed home to care for the children.

Sometimes, family court cases may require a heavy focus on the facts in order to resolve. However, that is not always the case. Some family court cases can turn on a party’s knowledge – or lack thereof – of the rules of court procedure. To be sure you’re in the best position possible, be prepared with representation from a skilled Maryland family law attorney.

As an example, there’s the recent case between C.C. and A.S. The pair were reportedly in an intense dispute regarding custody of their two daughters. The dispute escalated after the mother placed an app on each of the daughters’ cell phones that allowed her to monitor from a remote location the girls’ texts and social media posts in real time.

When the parents went to court in Queen Anne’s County, the mother was prepared to offer evidence regarding the content of certain texts between the father and the daughters. The father argued that the mother had violated Maryland’s Wiretap and Electronic Surveillance Act and asked the judge to exclude all of this text-message evidence. The trial judge sided with the father and kept all of the text-related evidence out of the trial.

A recent child custody case ruling made by the Court of Special Appeals offers parents in custody disputes several very important pieces of information. One, the ruling explains many of the legal standards that judges use to resolve custody disputes. Two, as the court stated, in “custody disputes, the ‘overarching consideration’ is the best interest of the child.” This, of course, is as it should be. When it comes to advocating for your child and your relationship with that child in a legal custody matter, be sure you are protecting that relationship by securing legal representation from a knowledgeable Maryland family law attorney.

That recent case involved the custody of a girl named K.T. From the time that K.T. was born until she was almost 9, her parents lived together with her in Prince George’s County. In 2016, however, a fight between the mother and the daughter escalated to an altercation between the two parents and ended with the mother receiving a protective order and the father being ordered to leave the home. Eventually, the courts decided that the parents should, on a temporary basis, share joint legal custody and have equal physical custody on a week-on-week-off basis.

The court assigned a custody evaluator to the case. The evaluator concluded that both parents were fit, that both homes were appropriate for custody and visitation, and that both parents communicated with each other effectively in matters regarding K.T. The father was open to a 50-50 custody arrangement; the mother less so. Based on the evaluator’s evaluation and other evidence, the trial court ordered that the parents share joint legal custody and share physical custody on a 50-50 basis. The mother appealed, but the appeals court upheld what the trial court ordered.

Going to court in a family law case can be a very stressful time for many parents and spouses, even when things go the way you expect them to. Now imagine going to court where the judge addresses an issue and makes a ruling that you totally did not expect and for which you were completely unprepared. That would probably be exponentially more stressful. Would you know what you could, or should, do in that situation? Circumstances like this, which do happen in real life, are examples of why it pays to have representation from an experienced Maryland family law attorney on your side.

A recent case illustrating this scenario was the custody dispute between M.M. and J.S. For the first few months after the couple divorced, the parents temporarily shared joint physical and legal custody. The father lived in Maryland. The mother lived out of state and was pregnant. The day before the couple’s three-day custody hearing was to begin, the wife’s lawyer informed the court that the wife was experiencing pregnancy complications and could not travel from Illinois to Maryland until after the new baby’s birth, which was still six weeks away.

The wife provided that information as part of an emergency request for postponement of the custody hearing. The judge held a hearing on the postponement request and ultimately postponed the custody hearing. The judge, however, also modified custody, giving the father temporary sole custody. The wife appealed that custody modification and she won. She won because the trial judge’s action violated her constitutional rights.

As a parent in a custody case, there are several hurdles you have to clear. Obviously, the first one is achieving success in the trial court. Once you’ve done that, though, you may still have some hurdles ahead of you. The other parent may decide to appeal the ruling. If you find yourself in the role of the “Appellee” (which means that you were successful in the trial court and are asking the appeals court to affirm what the trial judge ordered) it is important to understand that there can be multiple ways to get the outcome you need, which is a ruling of “Affirmed.” To get the representation you need to get that positive result, be sure you have an experienced Maryland family law attorney on your side.

As an example of how this legal process can play out, there’s the case of K.M. and C.D. The two were the parents of two children, a son and a daughter, the younger of whom was born in December 2010. In 2013, the father, who had never been married to the mother, filed for custody. The mother appeared in the case and counterclaimed for custody.

One of the issues in this couple’s case was the mother’s alleged lack of stability, including a history of mental health problems and substance abuse. In her arguments, the mother asserted that she was in treatment for anxiety and depression, that she had begun refraining from drinking, that she had acquired a proper home for overnight visits and that she’d been gainfully employed for more than 12 months.

A lot of parents may struggle with communication with their child’s other parent in the aftermath of the end of the parents’ relationship. It is always of paramount importance to make every possible effort to work together collaboratively with your child’s other parent when it comes to matters regarding the child. First and foremost, you should do that because it is generally what’s best for the child. Additionally, though, you should try to work with the other parent because if you go to court and tell the judge that absolutely cannot co-parent with the other parent, the judge is going to award one of you sole legal and physical custody–and it may not be you. For thoughtful advice about how to pursue your child custody case, be sure to talk to an experienced Maryland family law attorney.

As an example that illustrates the above point, there was the recent case of J.W. and A.J. The pair had a son together, born in April 2015. The parents were never married. Shortly after the boy turned two, the father asked a Baltimore judge to award him sole legal and physical custody of the child. The mother filed her own court papers, indicating that the child had resided with her his whole life and asking the judge to award her sole legal and physical custody. Just a few days later, the judge entered a temporary order that gave each parent joint legal and physical custody of the child, with exchanges to take place at a Baltimore police station.

Many parents, after a relationship’s end, struggle with high acrimony between them. These parents’ case was a somewhat extreme, however. Each parent took the witness stand in court and testified in the custody hearing that he/she could not communication or co-parent with the other in an effective way. At the hearing’s end, the judge considered the testimony of the father, the mother and the mother’s two witnesses and determined that the mother offered a more stable home environment and, as a result, should receive sole legal and physical custody.

Almost any divorce is a stressful event, especially if children are involved. You, as a spouse and a parent, work hard to achieve an outcome in your case that you believe is workable for you and your family. But what do you do when you discover in the weeks and months after the judgment was entered that your ex-spouse is not cooperating with you and does not intend to do what the judge ordered? That’s just one of many reasons why you need a knowledgeable Maryland family law attorney beside you every step of the way. Your skilled counsel can help you achieve a divorce resolution that is fair and functional and then, if necessary, help you fight in the aftermath of the divorce to obtain the proper enforcement of what the judge ordered.

One example of a couple that did not achieve resolution after the entry of the divorce judgment was the case of Z.M. and M.M. The pair married in the summer of 2014. One month later, they welcomed a daughter. 13 months after that, the wife filed for divorce. The mother received primary physical custody of the child, but the court gave both parents joint legal custody.

The court gave the mother tie-breaking authority. Maryland law allows judges to award one parent the authority to make a final decision in the event that the parents are hopelessly deadlocked in terms of resolving an important decision-making issue regarding the child. The law also allows the courts to put conditions on the exercise of that tie-breaking authority. In Z.M. and M.M.’s case, the court demanded that the mother only use her tie-breaker power after she had made a good faith effort to inform the father and engage in a decision-making dialogue with him (except in emergency cases).

Contact Information