When it comes to the well-being of a child, most parents will do everything in their power to give their children the best of all available opportunities. This can be especially true when it comes to education. When where you live is the subject of a custody order or agreement, things can be more complicated. In one recent case involving a mother’s desire for her children to attend school in D.C., the Court of Special Appeals determined that the children’s “thriving” in school was not a material change of circumstances that allowed the courts to modify an existing custody agreement.
An old adage warns the reader to “be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.” The adage is a reference to the notion that many outcomes, even ones we desire strongly, may come with unintended consequences. This arguably was the case for a Maryland mother who lost a custody case with the man she named as her child’s father on the child’s birth certificate. A recent ruling by the Court of Special Appeals upheld that custody determination, even in the absence of a paternity test.
When you go to court in your divorce case, you may think that the key in your case is your factual proof, whether it is proof related to the value or nature of your spouse’s and your assets, the amount of income your spouse and you make (for the purposes of alimony or child support), or how the court should adjudicate child custody and visitation. But there is much more to most cases, including complying with the procedural rules related to how you get your factual evidence before the court. Knowing how to submit evidence in a compliant manner, as well as knowing how to respond when your spouse doesn’t follow the rules, can be as important a part of your case as the facts themselves.
In a recent case involving two parents who disagreed regarding where their daughter should attend kindergarten, the outcome of the case is an important reminder of the importance of achieving success at the trial level, due to the deference given to trial courts in child custody cases. Despite finding that the child would derive some benefit from going to the school that would maintain continuity, the trial judge awarded tie-breaking authority on educational decisions to the mother, even though that inevitably meant that the child would attend the school that did not maintain continuity. Nevertheless, the Court of Special Appeals upheld the decision, concluding that the trial court’s decision was not so completely in defiance of logic and the facts of the case as to constitute an “abuse of discretion” and trigger a reversal.
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.