How Knowing — or Not Knowing — the Rules of Trial Procedure Can Possibly Make or Break Your Maryland Family Law Case

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.

The mother’s attorney proceeded with putting on her case without that evidence and the court eventually decided to give each parent sole legal custody of one of the girls.

The mother, believing the outcome of the trial was not a fair one, appealed. A key part of her appeal was an argument that the trial judge incorrectly excluded her text message evidence. The appeals court agreed that the evidence offered by the father regarding the mother’s surveillance of the daughter’s texts was likely inadequate to show that the mother had violated the wiretap law, but the appeals court nevertheless upheld the lower court’s ruling.

“How could that be?” you may wonder. The answer was in the actions taken (and not taken) by the mother after the judge disallowed her text message evidence. The issue arose after the father made something called a “motion in limine” to exclude the evidence. When your opponent makes such a motion and wins, the correct response, according to the appeals court, is to make what the law calls a “proffer” of evidence. When you do that, you essentially present to the judge the content of the evidence that you would have admitted had the judge not ruled to exclude it.

This might reasonably sound peculiar to a non-lawyer, but it is a necessary step if you have to appeal your case. If you don’t do this step, then in many cases, the appeals court will rule that you have not “preserved” that argument for appeal, which means you automatically lose that argument in your appellate case.

That probably all sounds like a lot of “legalese” and very technical, and it should. It highlights that, even though many family law cases focus heavily on the facts, there are still many issues of law and procedure involved, and they can make all the difference between success and failure.

For understandable advice and reliable representation, contact skilled Maryland family law attorney Anthony A. Fatemi, who has been diligently representing mothers, fathers, wives, husbands and others in Maryland family litigation cases for many years. To learn more, contact us at 301-519-2801 or via our online form.

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