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.
The court appointed a best interest attorney for the kids. That attorney asked questions of the wife that resulted in testimony about the screaming matches between husband and wife and how the wife had sought therapy.
The husband also testified that the marriage had deteriorated but denied he had a girlfriend. He also testified he thought he was the children’s primary caregiver because he had family barbeques, took them on vacations and enrolled them in baseball. He testified he thought his wife had bipolar disorder and that she was the one who would yell and scream. He admitted the dysfunction had to end but believed it was in his children’s best interest to be in his custody.
The children’s attorney presented the argument that the children were living in chaos. Both parents loved them. He noted that one of the sons clearly favored his mother and that the other son really wanted to be with his brother. He argued the court should recognize the kids’ preferences because of their age.
The circuit court entered a pendente lite to address issues while the divorce was pending. This order gave the woman sole legal and physical custody of the couple’s two young sons. The husband was given reasonable visitation on alternate weekends, plus four weeks during summer vacation, and 50% of holidays through the year. Both parties were ordered not to make negative comments regarding the other party in the presence of the children. The husband had to pay child support, alimony and attorneys’ fees. The wife was allowed sole use and possession of the marital home. They shared medical expenses.
The husband appealed, arguing the trial court shouldn’t have given the woman pendente lite use of the marital home, the trial court shouldn’t have given her pendente lite custody of the kids, that it shouldn’t have ordered her to pay pendente lite alimony.
Among other things, the husband argued that the wife had misrepresented herself as the primary caretaker. He argued that she had not prepared most of the kids’ meals as she claimed and suggested she was unfit because she lied in an application for a protective order.
The appellate court explained that the most important thing was the best interests of the child and what would promote that interest. The appellate court affirmed the lower court’s decision, which had found that both parents would be suitable custodial parents, but the children wanted to stay together and the younger child strongly preferred to be with the mother.
As you can see, divorce and child custody issues can be very contentious. When dealing with sensitive and difficult family law issues, contact an experienced Maryland family law attorney for representation.
Corporal Punishment in Maryland Family Law, Maryland Divorce Lawyer Blog, January 26, 2013
Untimely Objections in Maryland Family Law, Maryland Divorce Lawyer Blog, January 10, 2013