Divorce and divorce-related legal cases often involve deep-seated emotions. They are cases that intertwine the coldly legal and the intensely personal. Those truths can sometimes lead your ex-spouse to try to bring into your case things that, while perhaps important to him personally, are not important legally to resolution of the issue that brought you into court. When that happens, you need the skill and knowledge of an experienced Maryland family law attorney on your side to help you get those irrelevant things excluded from your case and, when necessary, placed under court seal.
E.O. was a Prince George’s County wife who had that kind of problem in her case. In 2018, E.O. and her husband received a divorce. The court also adjudicated issues of child custody, visitation, child support and alimony.
After the court issued the judgment of divorce, the spouses filed several post-judgment motions. On several of those, the husband included photographic “support” as attachments to his filings. Those photographs displayed dried blood stains within the couple’s home. The husband’s argument was that this blood was proof that E.O. had attempted to perform an “at-home abortion,” that this pregnancy and abortion were proof of E.O.’s adultery.
As a bit of background, Maryland law allows you to pursue divorce on no-fault grounds or a fault-based divorce. No-fault bases include mutual consent or a separation of 12-months or more. There are seven fault-based grounds for divorce, including adultery, cruelty and desertion among others.
The issue of adultery had already been tried, considered and rejected by the court
The husband had a major legal problem, which was that his photos were immaterial to the matters still pending. They related to adultery and the issue of adultery was what the law calls “moot.” Something is “moot” under Maryland law if it has already been decided and is final. In this case, the issue of the wife’s adultery was moot because the sides litigated the issue and the wife’s legal team successfully defeated the husband’s adultery case. When the trial court entered its order of divorce, it explicitly rejected adultery as a basis for granting a divorce. (The court ordered the divorce on the basis of separation.)
The law, of course, does permit a spouse to file a post-judgment motion with the trial court, which would have prevented the adultery issue from being moot. This husband, however, didn’t do that within the timeframe allowed by the court rules.
Additionally, the law also allows a spouse to appeal a trial court’s finding on adultery, which would have prevented the issue from being moot. This husband didn’t do that either, though. He did file an appeal, but his appeal documents only contested the trial court’s findings on child custody and child support, and never raised any challenge to the adultery findings.
All of that meant that, under Maryland law, the issue of adultery had already received a final ruling that was no longer contestable, or what the law calls “final and enrolled.” Any continued litigation of adultery was not allowed based on mootness, so the wife was entitled to have the pictures excluded and placed under seal.
When you have an ex-spouse who is trying to use the court system to litigate personal grievances rather than legal issues, or to carry out an emotional vendetta instead of seeking justice, you need to protect yourself with the right legal representation in your alimony or other family law matter. Rely on the diligent attorneys at Anthony A. Fatemi, LLC for the effective representation you need. To learn more about how we can help you, contact us at 301-519-2801 or via our online form.