There are many things that can impact your relationship with your child. Certainly, one major factor is geography. For many parents, the event that leads to litigation is one parent’s choice to relocate far away. In a recent case decided by the Court of Special Appeals, however, the event was a father’s moving back, going from 3,000 miles away to being a half-hour drive from his daughter’s home. In this ruling, the court explained that a move like this clearly impacts parental access to the child, which means that it is a material change in circumstances for the purposes of modifying an order of custody and visitation.
The law in Maryland allows the courts to award spouses various types of alimony. One of these types is rehabilitative alimony. In Maryland, the basis for awarding rehabilitative alimony is a specific one. If, as occurred in one recent case decided by the Court of Special Appeals, the evidence brought to the trial court offers no proof of how the recipient spouse will enhance, through training or education, her ability to find suitable employment at the end of the award period, an award of rehabilitative alimony must be reversed.
Family dynamics can be unique and complicated. Sometimes these complex sets of facts can create difficulty for the courts in meeting such goals as “the best interest of the child” while also complying with the statutes. In an important recent ruling from the Court of Special Appeals, that body determined that the courts could rule on a father’s request for modification of child custody, even if the child’s mother resided with him temporarily.
Each state has its own peculiarities when it comes to the minimum standard a married couple must meet to pursue a divorce. Some requirements in some states can be cumbersome, awkward, or embarrassing for the parties involved. In an effort to do away with some of these problems, Maryland lawmakers recently changed the divorce laws here. Under the modified statute, some divorces that previously required a third-party witness to testify as to the length of the spouses’ separation may now go forward without this third-party witness testimony.
In child support cases, the supporting parent’s income is often one the most essential pieces of evidence in determining how much support he or she should pay. Sometimes, though, that parent may engage in actions to try to dodge paying child support. One of these actions is voluntary impoverishment. As a recent Maryland Court of Special Appeals decision reminds us, when the recipient parent gives the court proof of voluntary impoverishment, and the supporting parent does nothing to rebut that proof, it is proper for the trial court to impute additional income to the supporting parent and calculate child support based upon that higher figure.
In many child custody disputes, the facts related to a parent’s behavior can be complicated. Each parents has his or her reasons for acting in a manner that the parent thinks is best for the child. As you go to court in your home state seeking assistance, it is important to keep in mind that, just because one parent may have failed to follow a court order in the past does not necessarily mean that the law will not favor that parent. This was the result in one recent Maryland Court of Special Appeals case, which ruled in favor of a mother who had unilaterally taken the couple’s child and relocated out of the country. The mother won because Maryland was not the child’s “home state,” and Maryland courts lacked jurisdiction over the dispute.
A recent case of grandparent custody offers some useful information regarding how that process can work. In an opinion issued this month by the Court of Special Appeals, that court upheld a trial judge’s giving custody of a child to his paternal grandparents over either parent because, even though the law has a presumption in favor of parental custody, that can be overcome when the parents are unfit, and exceptional circumstances exist. The appeals court also upheld the child support order, concluding that the child support guidelines applied regardless of whether the custodian was a parent or a third party.
In any court case, including family law matters, it is important to follow the orders handed down by the judge. If orders are not followed, it is also important to understand the consequences that can flow from noncompliance, such as contempt of court. In a recent decision by the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, the court upheld a trial court’s decision finding a husband in contempt, ordering him to pay $12,000 to purge the contempt and threatening the man with jail if he didn’t pay the $12,000 within 60 days. The appeals court acknowledged that a party cannot go to jail for failing to pay an amount he lacked the financial ability to pay, but the man’s appeal of the threat of jail in this case was premature.
In a case arising from a somewhat unusual marital settlement agreement, the Court of Special Appeals recently threw out a summary judgment order in favor of a husband who had persuaded the trial court that he had substantially complied with his financial obligations spelled out in that agreement. However, since the wife had presented enough evidence to raise a potentially triable case regarding whether a check she received from her husband was a payment under the agreement or a gift, the trial court should not have granted a summary judgment in favor of the husband.
Trials and court hearings, in some ways, can be like sporting competitions. Both litigation and sports have their own sets of rules. Some of these rules may seem excessively technical and unnecessary, but they are the rules, and you overlook them at your peril. For example, the rules of civil cases say that generally, if you want the judge to order a particular outcome, you must expressly ask for it in your court pleading documents (meaning your complaint if you are the petitioner or your answer or counter-complaint if you are the respondent). In the case of one Maryland husband, his failure to follow this rule cost him the opportunity to obtain his part of the marital portion of his wife’s retirement benefits, according to a Court of Special Appeals decision.