Articles Posted in Division of Property

In many walks of life, it is said that “timing is everything.” In the law, timing isn’t everything, but it definitely can be a crucial thing. Get your timing wrong in carrying out some procedural step in your case and that incorrect timing may have disastrous consequences. This is just another one (among the countless) reasons why, when your divorce is going through the legal process, you need a skilled Maryland divorce lawyer from beginning to end.

As a cautionary tale of what can go wrong when your timing is not correct, there’s this recent divorce case that originated in Prince George’s County. The couple litigated their divorce in 2020 and, on Jan. 7, 2021, the judge granted an absolute divorce. The divorce judgment also covered the marital home (ordering the wife to transfer her interest to the husband,) child custody, and child support.

The judgment did not, however, say how much child support the wife was required to pay the husband each month.

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For many Marylanders going through a divorce, resolving issues through a separation agreement may seem like a good idea and, indeed, it very often is. It is not enough, though, simply to create an agreement; you need to be sure the agreement you get is the right agreement for you, and you need to be sure you are positioned to receive the benefits of the terms you negotiated. To do all of these things, you need an experienced Maryland divorce lawyer by your side every step of the way.

Cases from the courts in this state clearly highlight how, even after you’ve negotiated and executed a good agreement, your work may not yet be done. Take a look at this real-life divorce dispute from Baltimore County. The husband, an equine veterinarian, and the wife, a horseback riding instructor/polo coach, owned a farm in Freeland. When the horse-loving couple divorced, they executed a “Separation and Property Settlement Agreement,” which established several terms to which the spouses agreed.

Concerning the distribution of the farm they jointly owned, the contract set out four possible options, in order: (1) the wife buys out the husband, (2) if the wife declines, the husband could buy out the wife’s interest, (3) if both spouses decline, then the property could be sold by a real estate agent, or (4) the farm would be sold via a judicial sale.

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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.

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If you read enough appeals court decisions (and who doesn’t, right?) you’ll eventually come across the phrase ”abuse of discretion.” This generally means that an appeals court is bound to uphold what a trial court decided unless the trial judge committed some sort of blatant error. What you can take away from this quick lesson in “legalese” is that it is often very difficult to get a trial court’s judgment overturned on appeal. That’s why it pays to have a skilled Maryland divorce lawyer by your side from the very start, making sure your presentation to the trial court is the strongest it can be.

A recent divorce case from Montgomery County is a good example of what we mean. B.N. and his brother bought a home in Silver Spring in September 1997. Four years later, the brother deeded his interest in the home to B.N., making B.N. the sole owner.

One day later, B.N. married S.F. At the time the spouses married, the home had a value of $245,000 with $74,000 in equity.

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Lawyers, of course, keep up with new rulings from the courts all the time to make certain they are up-to-date on the law in the areas where they practice. That’s important because, when you are working with the right Maryland divorce attorney, you have the benefit of a legal advocate who possesses a thorough, complete, and up-to-date knowledge of the law in this state.

Many court rulings, however, also have information that can be really useful for most anyone facing a particular circumstance, like going through a divorce. Take, as an example, this divorce case from Baltimore.

The wife filed for divorce in 2019 after 17 years of marriage. Each spouse accused the other of financial misconduct.

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One of the things that makes divorce different than many other legal matters is something fundamental to many marriages. For lots of people, marriage (and, by extension, divorce) is a place where the secular and the sacred meet… where man’s laws intersect with God’s laws. Whatever your religion teaches about marriage and/or divorce, it is vitally important, if you are going through a divorce in Maryland, to understand how the civil laws of Maryland will view your situation. To get the answers about these kinds of issues, as well all the other issues your divorce case presents, look to an experienced Maryland family law attorney, who can offer you customized advice based on your specific situation.

Last year, this blog discussed a case involving two Islamic couples divorcing in Maryland. Both that case and a much newer divorce case recently decided by the Court of Special Appeals are illustrative of the problems that can arise for these couples in terms of interpreting the agreements they made during their religious marriage.

If you are someone going through a Maryland divorce after having gone through an Islamic marriage process (or some other religious marriage process with similar procedures), the most important thing to understand is not how your religion views those marital processes, but how the Maryland courts will see them.

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A comedic TV commercial series features disgruntled car buyers hiding their identities behind masks and disguises. They are mortified because they found out, only after they made their purchase, that they ended up “paying too much” for their used car. There’s a little bit of a legal lesson in this, which is: be absolutely certain before you sign a contract on the bottom line because, once you do, it is generally very difficult to avoid the promises you made in that document. That’s true of a marital settlement agreement, as well, which is why you definitely should consult an experienced Maryland divorce attorney before signing one of those documents.

K.J. was a spouse whose divorce case was a clear example of “post-execution regret.” In 2011, with his marriage broken down, he signed a marital settlement agreement with his wife. One of the terms in that contract, “Paragraph 20,” stated that the husband would pay the wife 1/3 of any settlement or judgment he received from a personal injury lawsuit that was pending at the time of the divorce.

The injury case in question was not your ordinary case, though. It was a lawsuit arising from injuries the husband suffered in the Beirut barracks bombings of 1983, the defendant was the government of Iran, and the claim for damages was extremely large.

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Most contested divorces are fact-intensive. They revolve around who did or didn’t do something, when a spouse purchased an asset (and what assets were used to make that purchase,) the amount of money a spouse did or did not earn, and so forth. However, issues of law can also impact your divorce case, and a substantial change in the law can significantly influence how your divorce case is litigated. That’s one of the many places where having an experienced and diligent Maryland divorce attorney can benefit you, as your legal advocate will be up on the new laws and what you’ll need to succeed.

One of the bigger changes in Maryland law in 2020 was not something specific to divorce law. Maryland’s highest court, in a ruling related to a personal injury case about lead paint exposure, announced that Maryland was adopting a new standard for deciding whether or not expert testimony is admissible. That standard, called the Daubert standard (based upon the 1993 U.S. Supreme Court case of Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals) lays out several criteria a judge should use to decide whether an expert’s evidence should be admitted or excluded.

At this point, you may find yourself thinking, what does this have to do with my divorce case? Aren’t experts usually just a part of criminal cases, malpractice cases and personal injury lawsuits?

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In a divorce where there are no minor children, possibly the biggest single thing that you’ll need to address is the marital home. One spouse may desire to stay in the home, but that can be challenging if the home isn’t paid off. Certainly, you don’t want to be liable for a mortgage loan securing a home that the court distributed to your ex-spouse. These things point out an important fact: in a divorce, it’s not just getting the assets you deserve, it also about escaping liabilities that you shouldn’t have. When it comes to doing these things, a skilled Maryland divorce attorney can help you protect yourself.

The courts, as we can see in a recent divorce case from Howard County, have substantial discretion in customizing an order dividing up a divorcing couple’s property and debts. The judge is free to award the marital home to one spouse but also to command that spouse, if the house is not paid off, to refinance or otherwise remove the other spouse’s name from the mortgage loan on the property.

So, what happens if s/he gets the house but then doesn’t refinance it? Typically, the court will, within its order, provide specific instructions about the refinancing. The order will give her a deadline by which s/he has to get your name off the loan, and will state what happens if s/he doesn’t act or doesn’t get the task completed by the deadline.

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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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