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Divorce Lawyers

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 February, 2008

Divorce Advice for Women — 11 Things to Do Now

Saturday, February 23rd, 2008

? Once you decide you are going to get a divorce, there are some things you can do to get ready for it.

1. Start a War Chest. You are going to need your own money for a divorce. You will have to be able to maintain yourself and your children for a while if you are dependent on your spouse and your spouse decides to cut off support. You will also probably need funds to hire a lawyer. If there is anyway to start a separate account to guard against future financial contingencies, now is the time to do it. If you have to borrow money from a relative or friend, be sure to sign a promissory note so the court will look at this as a loan that you have to repay and not as a gift.

2. Keep a Divorce Calendar. If you are currently using a desk calendar or day planner, you will now need to include your divorce events. There will be meetings with your lawyer and court deadlines to keep track of. It may be helpful to keep track of discussions with your spouse. It may be used as evidence in your case when your spouse did not keep an appointment or violated an agreement or court order in some fashion. Visitation dates with children need to be calendared. You will also want to keep track of appointments with your children’s teachers, doctors, coaches and tutors. This may become evidence of your participation in your children’s lives in your divorce.

3. Make a To Do List. You will need to stay organized and set your priorities during a divorce. This is the easiest way to do it. List all the items you have to accomplish and mark them off as you go through them.

4. Prepare a Divorce Notebook. A divorce produces a lot of paperwork. It comes at you in a blizzard. The simplest way to keep track of all these papers is with a three ring binder and a three hole punch. Put papers in chronological order and make an index.

5. Set up a Divorce File. You may prefer to set up individual files for various categories of divorce papers. Some examples are correspondence with your attorney, drafts of agreements, financial information and pleadings. Files with brads and a two hole punch will help you keep papers neat and organized.

6. Cut Expenses. If you have debt in your name, like credit cards or student loans, you will want to pay those debts down as much as possible before a divorce. If your family is like most American families, you have been spending close to your entire income, if not more, and when one household becomes two, there will not be enough money to pay the expenses of both unless something changes. You may have to cut expense, sell the car and get a less expensive model, or maybe sell the house. If your spouse does not voluntarily support you and the children, your remedy is to ask the Court to order support. You will not have a good prediction of any of this and you will not know the answers for sure until the agreement is signed or the judge makes a ruling. But the point is to think about it, and identify problems and possible solutions. Then take the actions that you can take and avoid missteps.

7. Stick to a Routine. It will help if you try to keep things as normal as possible in your life. Do not skip meals or change sleeping habits. Positive routines like using your to do list and calendar will help you keep focus. Exercise is always a great way to relief stress. Try not to isolate yourself from your friends.

8. Be Constructive. Try to maintain a positive outlook and do not let yourself be lured into needless conflicts with your spouse. You will need his signature on a settlement agreement before your divorce is over. You will still be parents together for years after the divorce.

9. Make a Plan. Take it one day at a time. Focus on the present and not the past. Try to control only those things within your control. Many things in a divorce are outside of your control. Try not to blow those things out of proportion. Make a plan. Then keep working your plan. That is how you will take control of your divorce and not let it take control of you.

10. Gather Financial Information. The more you can organize your own financial documents, the more you will reduce your attorney fees and improve your chances of success. You are going to have to gather and organize a lot of information for your attorney or your case. A good way of organizing the information you find is a financial statement which can be used as a checklist. Many courts have a form financial statement available at the court clerk’s office and sometimes online. If you can obtain this form and fill it out, it will help you gather and organize your financial information. Give it to your lawyer at the first meeting to save time and expense.

11. Do Your Research. It is valuable for you to learn everything you can about divorce early in the process. If you know little or nothing about the process, you may not make the best decisions or choices. Most people are uncomfortable with the unknown. You can raise your comfort level and your odds of success by finding out what is going to happen before it happens. The Internet is a convenient way to obtain summary and detailed information about divorce. Of course there are other ways to research the subject. You can start your research at a library or book store. There are seminars and support groups. Talk to friends who have been through divorce. But keep in mind that every divorce is different. It’s a good idea to learn about the basics of divorce law in your state early in the process. You can learn about divorce law by looking up your state’s statutes on the Internet or checking attorney’s websites or other helpful sites.

Divorce Advice for Men — 11 Things to Do Now

Friday, February 22nd, 2008

There are a lot of important actions that men can take to protect themselves in a divorce. Some things for you to consider regarding specific financial matters include the following.

1. Documents. Move your documents, records and other papers somewhere else, like a friend’s house or your attorney’s office. You can expect that your children’s mother will be going through your desk, briefcase, automobile, telephone records, bills, and computer, looking for financial information and other evidence to use against you.

2. Bank Accounts. Go to the bank and divide the joint bank accounts in half and deposit your half in your own name. You can also put them all in your name, but sometimes this will make the judge angry with you. However, it is often easier to give money back than to get it back. If you are the breadwinner do not put your children and their mother out in the cold without some money to get by on. This will aggravate the judge who will make you pay anyway. Make arrangements so that bills will be covered. Let your children’s mother know what you have done, but not before you have done it. You do not want her to clean out the account first.

3. Stock. Call your broker and divide any stock, bonds or mutual funds that are held jointly with your children’s mother. While this is not a taxable event, you will have to take future taxes into account if you want to be fair. Therefore, ask your broker to make sure the tax basis is equalized as well.

4. Credit Cards. You do not want to wake up one morning and discover that your children’s mother has charged $5,000 on your joint credit card on a spending spree. You may be responsible for paying part or all of that $5,000. Close all joint credit or loan accounts and notify the banks, charge cards, and others by a certified, return receipt letter that you are no longer responsible for the expenses of your children’s mother. You may ask the company to reopen an account in your own name. This is a good time to request it. Let your children’s mother know so she is not caught by surprise at the gas pump when the credit card no longer works. If your she has already started her spending spree, report the card as stolen. If she has charged her attorney fees on the card, you can dispute the charges with the company.

5. Insurance. If you cover your spouse or children on your insurance, do not drop them from the policy at least until the divorce is final. You are probably responsible for their medical bills until then anyway. Even after the divorce, the employed spouse may want to keep the spouse and children covered. If you are paying child support, a large unexpected medical expense for the child could be assessed against the noncustodial parent as additional child support. The same could happen with alimony and an ex-spouse. Federal law allows most employees to cover their spouses for up to thirty six months after a divorce for a small additional premium. However, the employer must be notified prior to the final divorce decree.

6. Expenses. Two cannot live as cheaply as one, especially if they are separated and trying to maintain two households. It is time to cut costs as much as possible. Cancel anything you do not need like extra telephone lines or cable television. If there is any personal property you do not want or need, sell it. However, do not cut off the utilities on your children and their mother without giving them plenty of notice. Make sure you can prove this notice to the court because leaving your children and their mother home without heat or light in December seldom sits well
with the judge.

7. Pensions. Retirement funds acquired during a marriage are marital assets that can be divided by the divorce court. So chances are good that your wife will share in anything you contribute now to your pension plan at work or your Individual Retirement Account (IRA). Fill out the paperwork to have your employer stop your contributions to your 401(k) account or other pension plan. Do not make contributions this year to your IRA. This will keep your spouse from getting part of it and chances are you will be needing the money soon.

8. Inventory. Make a list of everything in the house. Take pictures or video tape everything if you wish. Be sure to date your inventory. Include furniture, furnishings, appliances, clothing and jewelry. Then you will know if something turns up missing, and you will have evidence of it.

9. Valuables. Move any valuables, like collections, jewelry, artwork, firearms, cash, and heirlooms out of the house to a safe place. Anything with significant or sentimental value to you ought to be secured from your children’s mother. You are not trying to hide things. But you do not want to come home from work and find that your valuables have been sold at a yard sale.

10. Safe Deposit Box. You can establish a safe deposit box to store your valuables away from the house. If you already have a safe deposit box, and your children’s mother has access to it, you will want to remove your items and store them somewhere else. Make a list or take a picture or video tape of whatever is left in the box for proof later. The same goes for any storage unit you may have.

11. Get a Lawyer. Find a good family lawyer and set up an appointment right away. Some lawyers charge for an initial consultation and some do not. In the initial meeting, you will be able to get some good advice and strategy for your particular facts and circumstances. You will also be able to assess the attorney to see if it’s a good fit for you. During this meeting, the attorney will discuss costs with you. But be aware that any estimate by an attorney is the roughest of all guesses and depends upon what your spouse and her attorney do. Your attorney will probably tell you not to sign anything before he or she reviews it. Your attorney will also advise you about other matters you will need to consider during this change in your life, for example executing a new will and changing any powers of attorney.

Subprime Mortgages and Divorce

Sunday, February 17th, 2008

Will subprime mortgage rate resets result in more divorces? That’s the prediction of Christopher S. Penn who uses this chart from Credit Suisse that shows the first big wave of resets hitting the United States next month. Penn says he guesses this will lead to more divorces and broken homes about a month later.

Date a Millionaire

Friday, February 15th, 2008

Valentine’s day has come and gone, but if you are still single, have no fear. If you are looking for a high-net-worth mate, there are a plethora of dating sites offer an inventory of men who say they earn at least six figures annually according to Forbes.com.

To find those deep pockets, you can troll sites such as

MillionaireMatch.com,
Sugardaddie.com,
DateAMillionaire.com or even
Marry-An-Ugly-Millionaire-Online-Dating-Agency.com.

How to File for Divorce

Wednesday, February 13th, 2008

The first step in a divorce proceeding is the preparation and filing of a Complaint. The legal document that starts the proceeding is entitled “Complaint for Divorce”. The Complaint states the grounds for divorce and the vital statistics of the parties and the marriage. You file the Complaint at the Clerk’s Office at the Courthouse.

The Complaint also covers certain technical matters and asks the court for anything you might want. If you and your spouse cannot agree on something (support, custody, visitation, property division, attorney’s fees, court costs) then you must ask the court for it in the petition or the court cannot give it to you. If the list seems long, or if it includes more than you want, think of it as a wish list.

If the wording seems strange, remember that it is a formal legal document and much of the wording is required by law. If your spouse has already filed, you can file a Countercomplaint for Divorce with your Answer.

IRS Audits Catch More Alimony Errors

Tuesday, February 12th, 2008

The IRS said audits for last year rose 7 percent for individuals, 14 percent for taxpayers earning more than $100,000, and 30 percent for those making $200,000 or more according to this article. Millionaires had a 1 in 11 chance of losing at audit roulette.

A test to see if divorced couples were correctly reporting alimony in California concluded that 40 percent of the taxpayers flubbed it, usually over several years. On average, they owed the state an additional $5,800 — and that was just tab before the IRS was notified.

Auditors commonly found recipients of alimony and family support failed to report it as income. Meanwhile, the spouses cutting checks often wrote off alimony that the divorce decree stipulated was neither taxable nor deductible, or erroneously deducted child-support payments.

Marital Award

Friday, February 8th, 2008

You know what they say. Get three lawyers in a room and you will get four different opinions.

Yesterday, my partners and I were discussing whether the judge uses a marital award to adjust the equities and rights of the parties in their marital property. Or whether it is to adjust the equities in all of their property, marital and non-marital as well.

After about a non-billable hour of arguing, we decided to read the manual, in this case the Code of Maryland.

Section 8-205(a) of the Family Law Article of the Maryland Code authorizes the court to grant a monetary award “as an adjustment of the equities and rights of the parties concerning marital property”.

Subsection (b) of that Code provision, however, provides ten factors that the Court must consider in determining the amount of the award. Factor 2 is the value of all property interests of the parties, factor 8 is how and when marital and non-marital property was acquired, and factor 10 is any other factor the court considers necessary or appropriate.

So the right answer is that the monetary award is an adjustment of the equities in marital property, taking into consideration both non-marital and marital property, and how and when it was acquired. Got that? Don’t worry, even judges get it wrong from time to time.

Is There Life After Divorce?

Saturday, February 2nd, 2008

You bet.

Clients come to me in misery, despair and self-doubt.

I have the pleasure of watching them become better, stronger and happier people.

Yesterday, a client stopped by my office to pay her final bill and to show me her dazzlingly new engagement ring.

Tonight my wife and I are going to dinner with a divorce client and his new wife who are celebrating their second anniversary.

Divorce is awful, but it is also survivable. It is just one of those “personal growth experiences” that life throws at you to make you stronger.

Here are a few tips by South Carolina lawyer Ben Stevens for Dating After Divorce.

How to Get a Divorce

Friday, February 1st, 2008

Only the court can give you a divorce. The first step in a divorce proceeding is the preparation and filing of a Complaint. The legal document that starts the proceeding is entitled “Complaint for Absolute Divorce”. The Complaint states the grounds for divorce and the vital statistics of the parties and the marriage.

It also covers certain technical matters and asks the court for anything you might want. If you and your spouse cannot agree on something (support, custody, visitation, property division, attorney’s fees, court costs) then you must ask the court for it in the petition or the court cannot give it to you. If the list seems long, or if it includes more than you want, think of it as a wish list.

If the wording seems strange, remember that it is a formal legal document and much of the wording is required by law. Here is a Maryland Complaint for Absolute Divorce in PDF format.

 
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