Articles Posted in Divorce

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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Divorce and divorce-related legal cases often involve deep-seated emotions. They are cases that intertwine the coldly legal and the intensely personal. Those truths can sometimes lead your ex-spouse to try to bring into your case things that, while perhaps important to him personally, are not important legally to resolution of the issue that brought you into court. When that happens, you need the skill and knowledge of an experienced Maryland family law attorney on your side to help you get those irrelevant things excluded from your case and, when necessary, placed under court seal.

E.O. was a Prince George’s County wife who had that kind of problem in her case. In 2018, E.O. and her husband received a divorce. The court also adjudicated issues of child custody, visitation, child support and alimony.

After the court issued the judgment of divorce, the spouses filed several post-judgment motions. On several of those, the husband included photographic “support” as attachments to his filings. Those photographs displayed dried blood stains within the couple’s home. The husband’s argument was that this blood was proof that E.O. had attempted to perform an “at-home abortion,” that this pregnancy and abortion were proof of E.O.’s adultery.

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There are an absolutely enormous number of reasons why having a skilled family law attorney representing you is better than going it alone. You can probably think of a few… or maybe several. One of the ones that may not have occurred to you is when you have a sudden emergency that prevents you from attending your regularly scheduled court hearing. If you have no attorney and you no-show, the results can be disastrous, as a recent case from Montgomery County demonstrated. On the other hand, a skilled attorney who is representing you will know the best way to go about notifying the court of your emergency and taking other essential action on your behalf, such as requesting a continuance and a rescheduled future date for the hearing, thereby saving you from the disaster of having no one present to speak for you.

S.T. and M.L., the couple in the Montgomery County case, divorced in 2013. They agreed to a voluntary separation and property settlement agreement that dictated that the husband make several payments each month. After the husband allegedly failed to make certain required payments, the wife went back to court in 2018 seeking an order holding the husband in contempt.

In late December 2018, the spouses went before a magistrate and had a merits hearing. (To give you a little background about Maryland court procedure, certain cases go before a magistrate before a judge considers them. A magistrate will hear evidence and will file a “report” in which he/she makes findings of fact and also makes a recommendation to the judge.)

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Sometimes, people assume that all of the potential complications and challenges faced by long-term committed same-sex couples ended when the U.S. Supreme Court made its decision in Obergefell v. Hodges in June 2015 that established marriage equality in all 50 states. That, of course, is far from always being true. If you’re a same-sex couple — especially if you’re a same-sex couple seeking a divorce –- there are still many potential hurdles that may be in your way. If you and your partner entered into a civil union and not a marriage, those hurdles can be even more numerous. However, with the help of an experienced Maryland family law attorney, you can get the divorce you need, whether yours was a civil union or marriage, and whether it happened in Maryland or out of state.

M.R. and S.S. were a gay couple who faced some of those exact hurdles in their divorce case recently. The men entered into a civil union in Vermont in 2003. They eventually moved to Montgomery County but, even after same-sex marriage became legal in Maryland in 2013, they never married.

By 2018, the relationship had broken down and S.S. filed for divorce in Montgomery County. S.S. sought as part of his divorce action, an award of alimony, an award of child support, property division (including a monetary award,) along with custody of the couple’s two children.

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You’ve probably signed various contractual documents in your life, including employment agreements, leases and mortgages. When reviewing those contracts, you may have taken great care to check over every paragraph before you signed and you may have sought legal advice, as well. As you’re going through the divorce process, it is important to approach a marital settlement agreement or a consent amendment in much the same way. You should engage in just as much care and caution before signing one of those as you would with, say, a contract for purchase of a house, because the agreement is just as binding and potentially just as impactful (if not more so.) To make sure that the agreement you ultimately sign is one that is fair to you, there are certain steps you should take. Start with retaining and consulting a skilled Maryland family law attorney before you sign anything.

J.S. and N.E. was a couple embroiled in litigation over an agreement signed after their divorce was finalized. Neither spouse was happy with their divorce judgment so, a few days after the entry of the judgment, the husband contacted the wife about making some modifications. Additionally, the husband proposed that the two ex-spouses work out those changes “without their respective attorneys’ involvement.”

An offer like this often should give you pause. If your spouse is proposing to modify your divorce judgment and making a point to do that without any attorneys involved, there is a distinct possibility that he is making that proposal because he believes that excluding counsel will give him an advantage in the final outcome.

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Even in this country where many prize the “separation of church and state,” there are times where religion and secular law unavoidably intermingle. Marriage is often one of those. You and your spouse’s process of becoming one married couple is a civil legal one but, for many, it’s a religious one, as well. This, of course, can lead to other marriage-related overlaps between religious and secular law, and lead you to wonder… What happens to those agreements I made as part of my faith’s pre-marital processes or wedding ceremony – are they enforceable by the civil courts? As with any question you have about an agreement tied to your impending marriage, you should make sure you consult a knowledgeable Maryland family law attorney before going through with the agreement.

For example, in Islam, the groom makes a payment, called a mahr, to the bride at the time of their Islamic marriage ceremony. A mahr is mandatory for all Islamic marriages and the mahr must be specifically stated at the time of the couple’s marriage. The property included in a mahr can be many things, such as jewelry, furniture, a house, land or cash.

So, can the Maryland courts enforce the promises a husband made about a mahr in his Islamic marriage ceremony? That question recently made its way to the Court of Special Appeals in Maryland, where that court explained that some mahr promises are enforceable by Maryland civil courts and some are not.

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When you’ve decided to make the life-changing decision to pursue a divorce, there are likely many goals you desire to accomplish. One thing you probably want is an efficient process and closure that is as swift as possible. There are several things that go into making that happen, and one of those is ensuring that you’ve filed in the right place. Choose incorrectly, and your divorce petition could get thrown out for lack of jurisdiction or for improper venue. To avoid these missteps and get your divorce as expeditiously as possible, along with accomplishing many other goals, be sure to rely on representation from an experienced Maryland divorce attorney.

As an example of how the issue of venue can derail a case, there is the recent case of one Carroll County wife. In January 2019, the wife filed for divorce in Baltimore. At the time, both spouses lived in Carroll County. The husband promptly asked the court to throw out the wife’s case due to “improper venue.” Improper venue means that the plaintiff has filed the action in the wrong location and that the case if it is to proceed, must proceed in a trial court in a different place. In this case, the husband’s argument was that Carroll County was the only proper venue for litigating the couple’s divorce.

The trial judge in Baltimore sided with the husband and granted his request for dismissal. The wife asked the court to reverse that dismissal, arguing that Baltimore was a proper location to litigate the case, as the spouses married at Baltimore’s Church of the Redeemer. Nevertheless, the judge denied the wife’s request, and the dismissal remained in effect.

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In many different types of legal or business settings, one receives the advice to “get it in writing.” Why is that? It’s because a written document carries much more weight as evidence in court than oral testimony about the contents of an oral contract. Getting “it in writing” has the potential to help either side or both sides. Additionally, thanks to something within the law called the “Statute of Frauds,” a failure to get it in writing can cost you dearly when it comes to many types of agreements.

What does this mean to you if you’re going through a divorce? It means that, whether you are creating a new marital settlement agreement or modifying an existing one, it pays to get it in written down. It also pays to have an experienced Maryland family law attorney on your side.

For an example of this concept, look at this recent ruling and you can see why it is so important to get it in writing. In 2010, A.M. and R.H. agreed to the terms of a marital settlement agreement. The agreement called for the husband to buy out the wife’s ownership interest in the couple’s marital home and for the wife, after getting paid, to relinquish her ownership rights to the property.

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When you are attempting to get divorced, some people think that it can be very simple as long as the two spouses have been separated for sufficient length of time and there is no dispute about property, spousal support or child issues. For these (mistaken) reasons, too many people try to tackle the legal process of getting a divorce on their own.

The reality is that getting a divorce, whether or not it is a contested matter, often requires careful attention to the rules and detailed knowledge of the law. You have to how to include the proper provisions in your divorce petition, you have to know how to go about serving notice of the filing on your spouse in a way that meets the law’s requirements and you have to know what to do if your spouse does not respond to your filings. Those are but three examples of things that can stymie someone not familiar with the law and the system, and all are examples of how an experienced Maryland family law attorney can help most any spouse seeking to obtain a divorce.

Here’s a recent real-life example. Q.Z. and X.H. were a Chinese couple who married in that country in 1994 and had two children in the United States, one in 2004 and one in 2006. The couple separated in 2012 and Q.Z. (the father), along with the children, returned to live in China, allegedly with no opposition from the mother. The mother remained in Maryland. The father filed for divorce in Maryland in November 2017.

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