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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.

Archive for October, 2007

Changes in Child Support Calculation

Friday, October 26th, 2007

Effective October 1, 2007, the Maryland legislature has changed the way children’s health insurance is handled under the Maryland Child Support Guidelines.

Under the old law, the health insurance premium was deducted from the income of the party who paid for the insurance. Then child support was calculated based on the percentage of the adjusted gross incomes of the parents. That did not result in a one dollar decrease in child support for every dollar paid for health insurance.

Other child costs, like work-related day care, travel and extraordinary expenses, are treated differently. They are added to the basic child support obligation and divided between the parents in proportion to their incomes.

The new law treats health insurance premiums like the other costs. It is no longer a deduction from income, but now an addition to the basic child support obligation which is divided between the parents in proportion to income. As a result, the payor gets a greater reduction in child support and the cost of health insurance is divided more fairly between the parents.

Attorney Stuart Grozbean is the creator of SASI-CALC which is the software that lawyers and judges use to calculate child support. He has met with the Maryland Rules Committee and made recommendations regarding the new calculations which have been adopted. His software incorporates the latest changes.

The Best Place to Be in a Fight

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2007

“Where is the best place to be in a fight?” my son’s Karate Teacher asks the class.

After his students give various positions, he tells them the correct answer.

“Not in the fight.”

He teaches them courtesy, integrity and self-discipline. You must use your skills for defense and for good. When you know Karate, it is not necessary to engage in every fight. However, if you are forced to fight, and some fights are unavoidable, then you fight with extreme skill and power.

In some ways, this is like being a lawyer. I carry a big invisible sledge hammer over my shoulder. I speak softly and ask you to do the right thing. If you don’t, I sue you.

There is no reason for me to be rude to you or impolite. There is no reason for me to yell, chastise, berate, insult or criticize you. Some lawyers still don’t get this. Courtesy, integrity and self-discipline.

Taking the Low Road

Monday, October 22nd, 2007

by Michael F. Callahan

Today’s Washington Post has an article by David Segal about the Schaife (rhymes with safe) mega-rich divorce in Pittsburgh called “Low Road to Splitsville”.

The case involves adultery, an assault, a night in jail, dog snatching and money. Lots of money.

Richard “Dickie” Scaife, a Mellon heir, benefactor of many conservative causes, and recipient of $45 million per year in trust income, married his second wife, Margaret “Ritchie” Scaife, without a prenuptial agreement.

  • She peeked in the window and saw him with his mistress.
  • He had her arrested and locked up for the night.
  • He kidnapped the dog from her house.
  • She assaulted his employees trying to get it back.
  • They spent the early legal skirmishes battling over the existence, value and ownership of personal property.
  • His mistresses’ daughter filed criminal harassment charges against her.
  • His lawyers succeeded in having the divorce record sealed and, as luck would have it, a court employee accidentally put some of the record on the Court’s web site.

It appears from what has become public that the Scaifes’ divorce is far from over. Although we don’t have many billionaires as clients, we see people fighting like this every day, over infidelity, children and possessions. You can fight like this and take the low road like the Scaife’s.

Or you can sit down at the table and work things out like adults in a couple of hours.

What’s it going to be?

The Low Cost Appeal – In Banc Review

Friday, October 19th, 2007

by Kenneth P. Barnhart

Appealing the decision of a trial court can be expensive and time consuming. Typically, an appeal requires paying a filing fee, transcribing the trial testimony, assembling a record extract, and preparing a lengthy brief. Maryland courts, however, offer an alternative that is less expensive and time consuming and for that reason it is sometimes referred to as the Poor Person’s Appeal.

The Maryland Declaration of Rights, which is part of the Maryland Constitution, allows for a procedure called an in banc review. Article 4, §22. Instead of going to an appeals court, an in banc review is done by a panel of three judges from the same Circuit Court as the one that made the decision under review. The legal role of the in banc panel is the same as that of an appellate court. Both the panel and an appeals court only consider whether the decision of the trial court was legally wrong. This means that neither of them reviews the facts to see if they would have made the same decision. If there is any substantial evidence to support the decision and the decision is legally correct, it will be affirmed.

The big difference between an appeal and in banc review is that the process for in banc review less expensive and less time consuming. The rules for in banc review are contained in Maryland Rule 2-551. All that is needed to begin the process is a notice filed within ten days of the decision to be reviewed. The moving party must file a memorandum within thirty days, and the opposition can file an opposing memorandum fifteen days later. Then the panel holds a hearing and makes its decision. Of course, more complicated cases can require additional steps, but in every instance the in banc process is less onerous than taking an appeal.

Why doesn’t everyone take advantage of this procedure? When someone decides to use in banc review, that person gives up the right to further review by an appellate court. In some cases, that can be a major detriment.

Maryland Divorce Blog Gets Noticed

Sunday, October 14th, 2007

?1. Caryn Tamber, Legal Affairs Writer for the Maryland Daily Record writes:

James Gross at the Maryland Divorce Legal Crier has a Mickey Spillane-esque (“I knew she was in trouble the minute she walked into my law office”) post on filing a claim for dissipation.

(I thought it was kind of Dashiell Hammett-esque myself, but I like Mickey Spillane, too.)

2. PrenuptialAgreement.Org names the Maryland Divorce Legal Crier as one of the Top Family Law Blogs and says:

James Gross. An excellent blogger who manages to turn information about family law into interesting stories that are enjoyable to read. The author also blogs about father’s rights in his Fathers’ Rights Law blog. Recent posts include discussions about spouses spending money on mistresses, legal fees and four way meetings.

3. The American Bar Association Journal reports:

The Maryland Divorce Legal Crier has 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. Author James Gross is a divorce lawyer in Chevy Chase, Md.

No Voluntary Impoverishment by Moving

Friday, October 12th, 2007

Kevin Moore, an auto mechanic in Baltimore, was paying his ex-wife, Kathryn Tseronis, $600 a month in child support for three children after his divorce in 1990. By 1993, he was remarried and making $37,488 a year. But his new wife, a lawyer who was staying at home with her two children, wanted to move back to her home in Garrett County. So he did.

The only job Kevin found work as an auto mechanic at a gas station in Garrett County. But it only paid $16,120 a year. He fell behind in his child support, couldn’t pay his household bills and had to file for bankruptcy. He petitioned the Court to reduce his child support based on his new income.

Kathryn’s attorney argued that child support should not be reduced because Kevin had voluntarily impoverished himself and the Court should use his potential income in Baltimore and not his actual income in Garrett County to calculate child support.

The child support guidelines set forth in FL § 12-201 et seq. say that the Court may use potential income when a parent voluntarily impoverishes himself or herself.

For the purposes of the child support guidelines, a parent shall be considered “voluntarily impoverished” whenever the parent has made the free and conscious choice, not compelled by factors beyond his or her control, to render himself or herself without adequate resource. Goldberger v. Goldberger, 96 Md. App. 313, 323-24, 624 A.2d 1328 (1993)

Goldberger went on to say the Court must look at ten factors to determine voluntary impoverishment:

1. his or her current physical condition;

2. his or her respective level of education;

3. the timing of any change in employment or financial circumstances relative to the divorce proceedings;

4. the relationship of the parties prior to the divorce proceedings;

5. his or her efforts to find and retain employment;

6. his or her efforts to secure retraining if that is needed;

7. whether he or she has ever withheld support;

8. his or her past work history;

9. the area in which the parties live and the status of the job market there; and

10. any other considerations presented by either party.

So how would you rule if you were the judge? For Kevin or Kathryn? If you ruled for Kathryn because Kevin voluntarily impoverished himself, you would have reached the same conclusion of the Special Master and the Circuit Court. But you would be overturned by the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, which said:

We do not believe, however, that a court can restrict a parent’s choice of residence in order to insure that he or she remains in or moves to the highest wage earning area. While a parent must take into consideration his or her child support obligation when making job and location choices, such considerations should not be immobilizing. Moore v. Tseronis, 106 Md. App. 275, 664 A.2d 427 (1995).

 
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