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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 April, 2008

Divorce Quote of the Day

Wednesday, April 30th, 2008

My parents only had one argument in forty-five years. It lasted forty-three years.

Cathy Ladman

Spousal Support

Tuesday, April 29th, 2008

Spousal support, also known as alimony, is supposed to be temporary and “rehabilitative.” Rehabilitative means to an economic functioning level, i.e. earning a reasonable living. The public policy is to assist the former spouse to be self supporting.

If temporary spousal support cannot bring about rehabilitation, then the court can, in proper circumstances, order spousal support on a long-term or indefinite basis. Indefinite spousal support is granted less often these days.

Technically, husbands can get spousal support from wives, but it rarely happens. Spousal support is based upon the relative needs and resources of the parties. The legislature has set out certain criteria for the courts to consider and they include the following:

Maryland

Virginia
District of Columbia

Indefinite spousal support can be raised or lowered over time if there is a change of circumstances. If you do not get spousal support at the time of the divorce, you cannot get alimony later on.

Living with someone after the divorce, regardless of whether you have sex or not, may cause spousal support to be lowered or stopped. Death of one of the persons paying or receiving spousal support, or marriage of the person receiving spousal support, will terminate alimony unless the divorce settlement agreement provides otherwise. The court can require a bond or put a lien on property to ensure the payment of spousal support.

Divorce Grounds

Monday, April 28th, 2008

If you are filing for divorce, you need to have grounds before you file. We don’t mean coffee grounds. Grounds are reasons for a divorce. In Maryland and Virginia, there are both fault grounds and no-fault grounds. DC has only no-fault grounds.

All divorces require proof of grounds. If you cannot prove your grounds for divorce, accusing your spouse of these grounds may be grounds for the award of legal fees to your spouse. Pending the final divorce you should not do anything to give your spouse any grounds for divorce because it can probably be used against you.

The grounds for a final divorce are as follows:

Maryland
Virginia
District of Columbia

Note that in Maryland you cannot be living separate and apart under the same roof if you want to file under voluntary or involuntary separation grounds. Virginia and the District of Columbia provide for separation while living under the same roof but this may be difficult to prove.

Court Awards Damages for Interference with Visitation

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008

by Michael F. Callahan

Michael Shannon and Nermeen Khalifa Shannon had two sons Adam Osama Shannon, born February 9, 1997, and Jason Osama Shannon, born January 10, 2001. Mr. Shannon had been awarded physical custody of Adam and visitation with Jason. Ms. Khalifa’s mother, Afaf Nassar Khalifa, visited from Egypt and Mr. Shannon agreed that both boys could travel to New York to visit a cousin. Nermeen and her mother promptly, and by pre-arrangement, flew with the boys to Egypt where they remain. Mr. Shannon has not seen his sons since.

Michael sued Nermeen, his former wife, her mother, Ms. Khalifa, and her sister. A jury awarded Michael compensatory damages of $500,000 from the defendants and punitive damages of $1,100,000 against Nermeen and $900,000 against her mother.

The Maryland Court of Appeals in Khalifa v Shannon, 2008 Md. Lexis 182, upheld the awards after an extensive review of Maryland law on abduction, enticement and other old theories of recovery for legal wrongs. The Court held that its prior cases recognized a tort of interference with parent-child relations, including interference with visitation, so long as such interference was substantial, as it clearly was in this case. The Court also upheld the punitive damages award. A concurring opinion differed with the majority saying that the Court was recognizing a new tort (a theory of recovery for legal harm) but agreeing with the result.

The Court was writing in broad stokes in this case saying that interference with custody or visitation is something a parent can sue over. It will left for future, less egregious cases, to define the limits of the tort of interference with parent-child relations. There will be many questions such as how much interference is enough (or rather too much) what defenses can be raised, and how damages will be determined.

Country Songs We Wish We’d Written

Thursday, April 17th, 2008

We’ve been educated.
We got liberated.
And had complicating matters with men.

Oh, we’ve said “I do”
And we’ve signed “I don’t”
And we’ve sworn we’d never do that again.

80’s Ladies by K. T. Oslin

How Much Alimony Will I Get?

Wednesday, April 16th, 2008

That is one of the two hardest questions for a divorce lawyer to answer. The other one is, “How much alimony will I have to pay?” The real answer is “I don’t know.” But no lawyer wants to say that to a client.

The reason we don’t know is that alimony is left up to the discretion of the judge, based on several factors (like age, health, income, length of the marriage, etc.) set forth by the legislature. The Court of Appeals, in Whittington v. Whittington, (CSA No. 06-32, January 4, 2007), has said that we don’t use a statistical approach to determine alimony.

The results vary widely from case of case. They bewilder anyone who has tried to plot alimony against incomes and marriage duration. There seems to be little rhyme or reason. By way of example, I was in a class recently with other attorneys, where we were given hypothetical facts and asked to write out an alimony award. There were 34 attorneys in that class and 34 different alimony awards.

Comes now the Kaufman Alimony Guidelines Calculator, a free web based computer program from the Women’s Law Center’s Bruce A. Kaufman Center for Family Law. The program asks for age, education level, number of children and health expenses. The program then uses a formula (developed by a lawyer in Michigan from “thousands of cases”) to recommend an amount and duration for alimony.

It is important to note that these guidelines are not binding on the court, and if a court relied on them alone, it would be reversible error. But at least one judge says he uses the guidelines as a starting point for analyzing cases. Certainly they will be used by attorneys in settlement negotiations. Most importantly, lawyers will now be able to give at least a preliminary answer to those “how much” alimony questions.

Thanks to Caryn Tamber at the Daily Record who brought this to my attention.

Pakistani Divorce Not Valid in Maryland

Sunday, April 13th, 2008

?28 years ago, Irfan Aleem of Pakistan was 29 years old and studying for his Ph.D. at Oxford. In an arranged marriage, he wed Farah, who was 18 at the time and had just graduated from high school. The premarital agreement provided that Irfan would pay Farah $2,500 in the event of a divorce.

Irfan and Farah lived together in London, then moved to Maryland in 1985. They had two children, both born in the United States, who are now 19 and 22 years old. Irfan works at the World Bank.

Unfortunately, they did not live happily ever after. Farah filed for a divorce from Irfan in March of 2003 in the Circuit Court of Montgomery County, Maryland. Irfan filed for divorce in Pakistan through the Pakistan embassy. The Pakistani divorce was completed before the Maryland divorce, and Farah was denied a share of Irfan’s World Bank pension.

The Maryland Court finished its divorce proceedings in June 2006, finding the Pakistani decree invalid, and ordered Irfan to share his pension with Farah.

Irfan appealed to the Court of Appeals of Maryland.

Irfan claims that the Maryland courts must abide by international comity and defer to the Pakistani decree. His lawyer argued that denying a pension share to an ex-wife is not so fundamentally contrary to Maryland’s laws and policy so as to render the foreign decree invalid. He noted that Maryland courts have upheld divorce decrees from other states that have denied one ex-spouse a share of the other’s income.

But Judge Lynne A. Battaglia said Maryland courts are by no means bound by a foreign country’s family-law decisions. The principle of international comity, under which deference to foreign rulings is generally given, is not absolute and may be suspended when the overseas ruling profoundly contradicts a state’s policy, Battaglia said. The judge said the duty of one state to give full faith and credit to the divorce decree of a fellow state is rooted in the Constitution, but the principle of international comity is a diplomatic gesture not binding on other countries.

Divorce Quotes

Saturday, April 12th, 2008

When I married Mr. Right, I didn’t know his first name was Always. — Anon.

What Once Was Ethan Allen Is Now Just Sticks N Stuff

Tuesday, April 8th, 2008

Dividing up the furniture and furnishings can be a difficult task in a divorce. But this is the tail wagging the dog. Most of the value of the marital estate is in the house and the pension. Furnishing and furniture might account for 5% or less.

Sometimes when everything else is agreed upon, folks get stuck on dividing the china, crystal, silverware, jewelry or the frequent flyer miles. Whenever this happens, and it is not logical or profitable, I usually think that they are hanging on to the marriage or the fight instead of the property.

If you want a reality check, jewelry is worth one third of what you paid for it, the minute you walk out of the store. Look at the classifieds and you can find used diamonds, which in truth are not one molecule different from new diamonds, going for as little as $500 a carot. Gold may be selling for more than $800 an ounce, but your jewelry is measured in grams, and the pawn shop will give you around five dollars or so a gram for it.

Furniture depreciates around 20% a year, so if it is five or more years old, it is essentially worthless until it becomes an antique. And if you don’t believe me, go to an auction or a used furniture store.

The Kelley Blue Book is online to tell you what your automobile is worth. Don’t forget to subtract the car loan.

Each spouse can hire an appraiser to value the real estate at $400 or $500 each, then if they disagree they can appoint a third appraiser. Or you can ask a realtor. Or you can simply agree on the value of the house. Zillow.Com will give you a value for free. If you still want to fight about it, Zillow also gives you a range of values or you can fiddle with the assumptions and comparables to get a new value.

I mention all this so that you can weigh the value of what you are fighting for, against the legal fees that it is going to cost to get it.

 
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