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Thyden Gross and Callahan LLPCounselors and Attorneys at Law

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Maryland Divorce Legal Crier

News and comments about divorce, child support, child custody, alimony, equitable property distribution, father’s rights, mother’s rights, family law, laws on divorce and other legal information in Maryland.

Texter Beware

April 11th, 2014

Louis J. Billittier Jr. bought a diamond engagement ring for his fiancé. It was almost 3 carats and it cost him over $50,000.

Then he broke off the engagement by text message. And he followed it up with another one, possibly trying to calm her down, which he now wishes he had never sent.

He said, “Plus you get a $50,000 parting ring. Enough for a down payment on a house.”

Under New York law, the man usually gets the engagement ring back if there is no wedding. But when Louis decided he wanted the ring back, Judge Russell P. Busglia found “The text messages … have persuaded this court that it is highly probable that a valid gift was given to her after the engagement was terminated.” She gets to keep the ring.

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Blame It on the Boomers

March 31st, 2014

Divorce is on the rise among baby boomers. A study analyzing divorce rates for different age groups finds the divorce rate has risen by 40% since the 1980s.

“The Baby Boom generation was responsible for the extraordinary rise in marital instability after 1970,” the study says. “They are now middle-aged, but their pattern of high marital instability continues.”

Younger Americans, on the other hand, tend to have a much lower divorce rate than the boomers. One reason is that they are waiting longer to get married and are more likely to live together longer before marriage.

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Conscious Uncoupling

March 28th, 2014

Actress Gwyneth Paltrow and musician Chris Martin, announced their conscious uncoupling this week in a joint post on Goop, Paltrow’s lifestyle website

Conscious Uncoupling is a five step program by LA therapist and author, Katherine Woodward Thomas, available online, to “release the trauma of a breakup, reclaim your power and reinvent your life.”

Most marriage counselors work with couples to repair a marriage but some will help them untie the knot. One blogger called it her unengagement from marriage.  See How to Decathect.

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Seven Tips for Prenuptial Agreements

March 27th, 2014

Guest post by Brandon A. Bernstein, an experienced divorce lawyer in Maryland, who helps clients with a wide range of family law issues, including divorce, prenuptial and separation agreements, child support and custody, and more. Mr. Bernstein was named to the 2014 Super Lawyers Rising Stars list in Maryland. His practice, the Law Offices of Brandon Bernstein, is based in Bethesda.

Prenuptial agreements may be regarded as taboo or unapproachable for some people, especially those who consider themselves to be in happy, positive and lifelong relationships.  However, prenuptial agreements have their place, and they serve an important role.  Here are a few top ideas to remember that will help you understand prenuptial agreements and their roles and benefits more clearly.

1. Prenups aren’t just for unhappy people who may be expecting to get a divorce one day but are going through with the marriage for the time being. You can be perfectly content in your relationship, but still want to take certain precautions and measures should anything change in the future. Many couples with prenuptial agreements in place remain happily married for many decades, including until the end of their lives. As such, it’s certainly not a guaranteed precursor, or plan, for divorce.

2. Prenups aren’t just for the wealthy, either. Bringing a great deal of wealth into a new marriage from either your family or your business pursuits, or anything else, may indeed be one reason why a prenup is desirable. That said, it’s certainly not the only situation, either. The financial circumstances of both halves of a relationship, their family finances, their current and potential future jobs and salaries, and much more, should all be taken into account. Even then, they only represent a portion of what may be set into order with such an agreement.

3. Prenuptial agreements may actually financially protect your partner heading into a marriage. In this case, if you have a substantial amount of debt heading into a marriage, a prenuptial agreement could limit the spouse’s financial responsibility or liability for those prior debts.

4. A prenup may also define specific financial aspects of a marriage, including how you handle certain financial responsibilities and circumstances, or other household issues. For example, a mandate to put aside a savings account for a child’s college.

5. What a prenuptial agreement cannot define or dictate are non-financial matters related to a marriage. For instance, you can’t make your partner sign that he or she will always want to live on the East Coast, never get more than two cats, or pursue a new skydiving hobby.

6. Verbal or handshake deals don’t count as legally binding prenuptial agreements. So, you may have agreed in principle on certain points while you were dating or married, i.e., you get the dog and I keep the boat, but you can’t legally hold the other person to that when the time comes. If you want to make a real agreement about something and have that locked in place, it needs to be written and signed in order to be legally enforceable.

7. Maryland courts operating under equitable distribution will provide the easiest, most hassle-free resolution to any divorce when a prior, proper agreement has been made and remains valid. A prenuptial agreement offers an “end” which is as straightforward and smooth as possible, often enabling a more amicable ending as well.

Of course, there are many other considerations as well. For instance, if you enter a marriage with a child from a previous relationship, there are more complexities should this marriage end badly.  The most important thing to remember and the biggest tip of all is that prenuptial agreements may apply to many more couples than many people think, they aren’t a signal of doom, and they serve a variety of important functions.

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You Are What You Watch

March 12th, 2014

Exponential Interactive says it has determined from analyzing online behavior that fans of The Bachelor tv show are 14.5 times more likely to be interested in divorce.

“When we say they are 14.5 times more likely to be interested in divorce, it means that our Bachelor fan is 14.5 times more interested in divorce-related topics than the average Internet user across our network,” says Byran Melmed, Director of Insights at Exponential.

The analysis showed that Bachelor fans share other characteristics as well.

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Deadlines

March 6th, 2014

“The international situation–desperate, as usual.” – Tom Robbins, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues

I saw on the news that NATO representatives are talking about giving Putin a deadline to withdraw from Crimea or they will impose sanctions. Commentators say Putin doesn’t like to be pushed around and will likely ignore the deadline.

It reminded me of those clients who want me to give their spouse a deadline for responding to a settlement offer in divorce negotiations. One you are in litigation, the court issues a Scheduling Order which contains various deadlines. But a deadline imposed by one lawyer or the other is an amateur way to negotiate.

What do you do if the deadline is ignored? Unlike NATO, I have no sanctions to impose. Lawyer deadlines are unenforceable. You have damaged your credibility. Your opponent doesn’t want to be pushed around. It is easier to settle with someone you like than someone you don’t like. I prefer to ask when I might expect a response rather than giving a deadline I have no way of enforcing.

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Teen Sues Parents for College Money

March 4th, 2014

by Nelson Garcia

An 18 year old teenager from Lincoln Park, New Jersey has filed suit against her mother and father.

She claims they tossed her out of their home and cut her off financially.

She is suing for immediate support, current private-school fees and future college tuition.

She would not have a case in Maryland and Virginia, where parents are obligated to support children until age 18 unless they are still in high school, in which case it’s to 19 or graduation from high school, whichever comes first.  But that would be it.  In DC child support is to age 21.

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Crawford Credits

February 21st, 2014

During their ten year marriage, Robert and Alice Crawford bought a house together as tenants by the entireties (a legal term for joint ownership by a married couple).

They separated in 1977. Robert left the house and Alice stayed. She paid the mortgage, real estate taxes and insurance until the house was sold three years later. The net sales proceeds were put into a bank account.

Robert sued for divorce and asked for half the bank account. Alice answered and said she was entitled to a contribution from Robert for the payments she had made on the house.

The trial court found that there was a presumption that the payments made by Alice were a gift to Robert and it divided the bank account equally.

The Court of Appeals said the presumption of gift doctrine should not apply when the parties are separated and that the trial court should consider whether Alice was entitled to some contribution for the payments she made.

When lawyers today ask for “Crawford Credits”, they mean contributions for mortgage, real estate taxes and insurance paid by one spouse for the marital residence after separation.

Crawford v. Crawford, 293 Md. 307 (1982)

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Divorce Quotes

February 20th, 2014

I dance
I fall down
I get up again
I go on dancing

– Hopi saying

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Watching Movies Together May Reduce Risk of Divorce

February 19th, 2014

I told my wife, Holly, this morning, about a study last year that concluded couples who watched movies together, and then had a conversation about what they saw, were 50 percent less likely to divorce.

Now Professor Ronald Rogge is conducting a new study in which he is asking couples to watch five movies in one month and then discuss them. Couples will pick their own movie or select one from a list of pre-selected films, then talk about the movie, guided by questions provided to them. The questions are about subjects like conflict resolution and providing support to each other during stressful times.

I said the movies were probably “chick flicks”. Holly asked me if they had done any studies on divorces by couples where the wife was forced to watch bad science fiction movies with the husband.

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