How Procedural Filing Deadline Requirements Can Make All of the Difference in Your Maryland Divorce Case

As we have discussed in this blog before, succeeding in your family law case is about more than just the facts, the evidence, and the law. Having all of these things on your side won’t help you at all if you are not in compliance with rules of procedure. One recent example of this was a case originally from Montgomery County, where a husband received a very unfavorable outcome in his divorce case. Since the husband waited too long to file his appeal challenging the trial judge’s decisions, he lost without the Court of Special Appeals ever even considering the merits of his arguments.

The husband, Johnny, and his wife, Jamie, separated in 2014 after 27 years of marriage. At that time, the couple had two minor children (and four adult children). The trial court entered the final divorce judgment in December 2015. That order stated the wife received sole legal custody of the minor children, was entitled to $500 per month in permanent alimony, and was also entitled to a monetary award of just less than $90,000. The order additionally found the husband in contempt for having failed to pay agreed-upon alimony during the period when the divorce case was ongoing and found that he owed an arrearage of more than $15,000.

The order also imposed a child support obligation on the husband.

The father filed several post-judgment motions in the trial court, asking the trial judge to alter or amend the terms of the order. He argued, among other things, that the combined amounts of his alimony and child support obligations were more than his actual income.

Over the next several months, the husband and the trial court exchanged a volley of post-trial motions and orders denying those motions. Finally, in August 2016, the husband filed an appeal in his case. The father’s appeal papers challenged several actions the trial court took, but all of these issues related to aspects of the trial court’s rulings within the original divorce and contempt order. Nothing in the appeal took issue with the trial judge’s post-judgment motion denials.

This fact proved to be a major problem for the husband. Maryland law says that, generally, you have 30 days “after the entry of the judgment or order” to file your appeal. The law does create certain circumstances in which that period can be longer, though. If you file a motion to alter or amend a judge’s order under Rule 2-534 in a timely fashion, the law will allow you to appeal for up to 30 days after the trial court denies your motion to alter or amend. The law does not, however, allow you to keep extending the deadline by filing one Rule 2-534 motion after another after another.

What all that meant in this case was that the husband’s appeal was too late. The trial court issued the divorce and contempt order on Dec. 22, 2015. The trial court ruled on the husband’s first motion to alter or amend on Feb. 29, 2016. That meant that the husband’s deadline for appealing was March 29. By not filing until Aug. 1, the husband was too late to appeal, and the trial court’s decision stood without the appeals court ever looking at the content of the husband’s arguments.

There are many hurdles that you have to clear in order to achieve a successful outcome in your family law case. These include the facts, the law, and the rules of procedure. To make sure you are giving yourself a solid chance of success in every area, contact experienced Maryland alimony attorney Anthony A. Fatemi. This office has helped many families across many years seek out workable solutions to their divorce and other family law issues. To find out how this office can assist you, contact us at 301-519-2801 or via our online form.

More blog posts:

Dealing with Discovery Violations in Your Maryland Divorce Litigation, Maryland Divorce Lawyer Blog, April 19, 2017

New Law Simplifies the Process for Some Couples in Getting Divorced in Maryland, Maryland Divorce Lawyer Blog, Jan. 20, 2017

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