Waiting Too Long to Respond Proved to Be Critically Harmful to One Maryland Husband’s Divorce Case

You’ve probably heard the phrase “timing is everything.” In your divorce, timing isn’t everything, but definitely can be a crucial thing. If you wait too long to take action, that inaction could have massive negative implications for you. Don’t let it happen to you. Instead, once you’re served notice of your spouse’s divorce filing, reach out and retain a skilled Maryland divorce lawyer, who can help you make sure you’re taking the right actions at the right times.

A recent Washington County contested divorce is an example of what can happen when you wait too long to act. The wife filed and properly served notice of the divorce to the husband, but the husband never submitted a responsive filing with the court.

The court sent the husband a “notice of default” and scheduled a hearing. The husband still did nothing and so the court issued a divorce judgment in the husband’s absence.

In situations like this, the party who filed for divorce often gets most or all of the relief they asked for. The court in this couple’s case awarded the wife half of the husband’s retirement benefits, a monetary award, and attorney’s fees.

Months passed and the husband still did nothing. He didn’t file an appeal and didn’t file any post-judgment motions with the trial court. Then, 132 days after the trial judge issued the divorce judgment, the husband finally took action, filing a “Motion to Revise Based on Fraud, Mistake or Irregularity.”

The trial court denied that motion and the husband appealed. Unfortunately, time was not on the side of the husband. Many of his arguments to the appeals court regarded mistakes he asserted that the trial judge made in the divorce judgment. However, as the appeals court noted, the law only gives a party 30 days to file an appeal. Because the husband waited more than 130 days after the divorce judgment to file his appeal, he was not entitled to litigate the alleged errors in the divorce judgment.

One of the husband’s arguments — that the trial judge granted the wife relief that she never requested in her pleadings (when the court awarded her 50% of the husband’s 401(k) and pension) — is a basis upon which many appellants win their appeal cases. However, those successes come when the appealing party is directly appealing the underlying divorce. As noted above, this husband’s appeal was limited to the denial of his motion to revise for fraud, mistake, or irregularity.

What You Need to Show Fraud, a Mistake, or Irregularity

The awarding of relief that a party did not request is not fraud, a mistake, or an irregularity under the Maryland rules. In this state, fraud, mistake or irregularity means “a failure to follow required process or procedure.” While the award arguably may have been erroneous, it was not an error of process or procedure.

In the end, the things about which the rules allowed the husband to argue on appeal were not improper, and the things that arguably were improper were things that the 30-day rule prevented the husband from arguing. The husband very possibly could have obtained a much different — and much more favorable — judgment if he had taken action promptly in the divorce action and/or in appealing the divorce judgment.

When your spouse files for divorce, you are entitled to ask for certain things and make certain arguments before the judge, but not if you simply ignore your spouse’s divorce filing. Instead, get reliable and powerful legal representation from the skilled Maryland family law attorneys at Anthony A. Fatemi, LLC. Contact us at 301-519-2801 or via our online form. Get started right away so that we can begin working for you right away.

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