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.)
After the magistrate makes that report and before the judge enters a final order, there’s a period of time during which the law allows you to challenge the magistrate’s report. This is called filing “exceptions” to the magistrate’s report. In S.T.’s case, he filed exceptions, arguing that the magistrate wrongfully failed to consider certain additional evidence like “bank records, 1099s, mortgage and rental payment documentation.”
The case was scheduled for a hearing before a circuit court judge about the exceptions the husband raised. The wife and her attorney appeared. The husband did not appear, and no one appeared on his behalf. Furthermore, the husband did not contact the judge or the wife to indicate where he was.
The husband’s absence triggered a disastrous outcome for him
The judge made findings that the husband received proper notice of the hearing and then proceeded with just the wife and her attorney. The judge asked the wife if she wished to make any motions, at which point the wife’s attorney wisely made a motion that the husband’s “exceptions be overruled and that the recommendations of the special magistrate be adopted.”
Because the husband was a no-show and had no attorney to speak for him, the judge granted the wife’s request. And, just like that, one of the last lines of opposition the husband had was wiped away. Perhaps the husband had very strong arguments in his favor as to why the exceptions should have been granted and the magistrate’s report not adopted. Because the husband did not attend the hearing and, more importantly, did not have legal representation, any powerful arguments he had in his exceptions went for naught.
Don’t let that happen to you. Be sure you have the legal representation you need throughout your entire divorce (and post-divorce) process, especially if issues arise concerning your voluntary separation and property settlement agreement . Count on the diligent Maryland family law attorneys at Anthony A. Fatemi, LLC for the thorough and effective representation you need. To learn more about how we can help you, contact us at 301-519-2801 or via our online form.