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Divorce Lawyers

Thyden Gross and Callahan LLPCounselors and Attorneys at Law



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 May, 2008


Tuesday, May 27th, 2008

Even though it makes headlines when celebrities like KENNY CHESNEY and RENEE ZELLWEGER get an annulment of their four month marriage based on fraud, annulments are relatively rare.

Fraud is usually the basis for an annulment. Examples are failure to disclose a previous marriage, criminal record, infectious disease, the inability to have children, or the desire not to have children. Annulments have also been granted where a spouse mistakenly believes they have been divorced or widowed when in fact they are not, or the spouses are too closely related, or one party is underage, and did not obtain appropriate parental consent.

In Maryland, a void marriage means there is some legal defect that invalidates the marriage such as a spouse that is married to someone else at the time of the second marriage or the parties are blood relatives or one is underage. You do not need to file a petition for an annulment with the court in the case of a void marriage although it may be wise to do so anyway so that you have a court order of annulment.

A voidable marriage, on the other hand, can only be annulled by filing a petition for annulment with the court and having a judge declare the marriage not to have happened. Examples of voidable marriages are sham marriages or joke marriages where the parties did not really intend to marry, like BRITNEY SPEARS’ 55 hour marriage in Las Vegas. You can also ask the court for an annulment if you or your spouse were incapacitated at the time of marriage, as in insanity, intoxication, fraud or duress. Fraud can be hard to prove to a judge especially when the annulment is contested, so most people opt for a divorce instead. A divorce says the marriage is over. An annulment says it never happened.

Even CHESNEY and ZELLWEGER had trouble explaining fraud:

“Fraud was simply legal language and not a reflection of KENNY’s character,” said ZELLWEGER.

“The only fraud that was committed was me thinking that I knew what it was like…that I really understood what it was like to be married, and I really didn’t,” said CHESNEY.

The couple also issued a joint statement through a spokesperson in which they attributed the annulment to a “miscommunication of the objective of their marriage.”

It would be quite logical to think if a marriage is annuled, it is as if it never happened, and there will be no alimony or property division. The law, however, gives the court the right to award alimony and divide property in an annulment. This protects the party who thought the marriage was real.

Divorce Quotes

Monday, May 26th, 2008

?You will never get to the end of the journey if you stop to shy a stone at every dog that barks. — Winston Churchill

Looking for a Family Activity for the Memorial Day Weekend?

Friday, May 23rd, 2008

I ran across FamiliesOnly.Com today, which bills itself as your one-stop local resource for “everything family” in Maryland, Virginia and Washington DC. It has blogs and forums with activities for all families, including those with married, separated, divorced or single parents. Check it out.

Marriage Problems

Thursday, May 22nd, 2008

“In any group of people there are different agendas,” said my friend, who ought to know because she has a PhD in psychology.

“And different agendas mean conflict.”

Now comes the important part. “A group is any number more than one!”

So a marriage is a group. That means two different agendas. And that means conflict.

There can be many reasons for conflict in a marriage.

1. Infidelity. Infidelity is involved in about one divorce in five. Some marriages can survive infidelity. But if there is another man or woman in your life, then you are not in a committed relationship and there is a problem with your marriage.

2. Domestic Violence. Verbal or physical violence is reason for divorce. Everyone has the right to be free from unwanted touching and physical harm. Words can hurt as much or more as physical pain. Spouses can be put out of the marital home for verbal or physical violence.

3. Control. Sometimes control is the issue. A husband may find success in the business world by exerting control. He tries to run his house the same way. A wife may stifle her emotional needs for years in the hopes that things will get better. Finally she leaves. Even if he tries to change now it is too late. She does not believe him.

4. Finances. Disagreement over finances may cause conflict. Opposites attract. A wife who is a saver might marry a spender. The wife might feel like she is rescuing the husband by providing order and a budget. The husband might enjoy the structure that the wife brings. But after a while, the restrictions are too binding and the husband rebels. The wife reacts by being even more strict than she normally would be on her own. Different financial strategies and philosophies can cause conflict in a marriage.

5. Parenting. People have different approaches to parenting. One parent may feel the other is too strict with the children. Another may feel the other parent is too lenient with the children and that the children need to learn independence. One parent may feel the other is lax about the children’s weight or medical problems. The other sees that parent as overprotective and perhaps even a hypochondriac.

There are alternatives to divorce. By the time people get to the lawyer’s office, they have usually made up their minds to get a divorce. But a few change their minds, or want to give their marriage one last chance. In that case, there are a few things you can try.

It is difficult to discuss these issues with your spouse. And some couples have no communication at all. You have to get your thoughts out of your head and into your mouth and then onto paper. Sometimes all it takes is sitting down at the kitchen table and talking to each other. However, most of us think that if we talk and talk, the other person will finally be persuaded that we are right. That will not work in this situation. You both have to listen and acknowledge what the other person has said before you speak.

Mediators are trained professionals who remain neutral and will help you reach agreements. It may be possible to negotiate a post-marital agreement to resolve some of the conflicts that have arisen in your marriage. In addition to finances, you can even include such details as who will cook meals, who will carry out the trash or how frequently you will have sex.

Counseling is a good way to figure out what to do. The marriage counselor will ask questions that help you think more clearly about what is going on and what you want. The marriage counselor will help the two of you communicate better with each other and provide ways for you to resolve your conflicts. When control is the issue in a marriage, sometimes all the couple needs is a good conflict resolution mechanism.

Saying "I Divorce Thee" Three Times Doesn’t Work in Maryland

Sunday, May 18th, 2008

?Since our law offices are in a prosperous suburb of Washington, D.C., we see more than a few divorces of World Bank or International Money Fund employees. And these cases frequently involve splitting up a million dollar house and a million dollar pension.

Irfan Aleem was a World Bank Employee. He and his wife, Farah Aleem, had about two million dollars to divide in their house and pension plan. She filed for divorce in Maryland seeking half.

But Irfan and his lawyer had another idea. Irfan, a Pakistani citizen, went to the Pakistani Embassy in D.C. and performed talaq, a divorce under Islamic law. He signed a writing that said:

1. I Divorce thee, Farah Aleem.
2. I Divorce thee, Farah Aleem.
3. I Divorce thee, Farah Aleem.

Irfan then took the position that the house and the pension were his property, and he owed Farah only $2,500, an amount he had promised her at the beginning of the marriage.

The Court of Appeals of Maryland found that the talaq did not afford the same protections of due process for divorce, prenuptial agreements and division of property that Maryland law did. Therefore it would not grant comity or full faith and credit to the talaq. Farah is entitled to half of the marital property. Aleem v. Aleem, Maryland Court of Appeals, No. 108, September Term 2007, filed May 6, 2008.

Wife Sues Husband Over Lottery Ticket

Friday, May 16th, 2008

I wrote recently about how too much money can cause as many divorces as too little money. This story from the Miami Herald is a good example.

Arnim Ramdass, a 52 year old airline mechanic, married Donna Campbell, a 48 year old former model and beauty contestant, in 2005.

Then in June of this year, Arnim hit the jackpot with a winning lottery ticket he purchased in a pool of 17 co-workers. His share of the $20,000,000 prize was $600,000.

But instead of celebrating his good fortune with Donna, Arnim didn’t tell her about it and stopped coming home. Donna found out about it by Googling Arnim’s name.

She filed suit for fraud and half the money, but the case was dismissed yesterday by Circuit Judge Jennifer Bailey for failure to state why she was entitled to the money. The Judge gave Donna 20 days to file an amended complaint. I am betting the amended complaint will also ask for a divorce.

Finding Opportunities in Divorce

Monday, May 12th, 2008

“Divorce creates opportunities,” writes Michelle Odessey today in her Real Estate Investing Blog.

She is talking about the opportunity to buy a house at a bargain price because it is being sold due to a divorce. Sometimes, the parties are selling the house by agreement. Sometimes, when the parties cannot agree, a trustee will sell the house in a public auction on the courthouse steps.

“While you may not feel good about divorce in general” says Odessey, “when you’re able to keep an eye on legal notes that include divorce filings, in many cases you will find something that’s beneficial to you as a real estate investor: motivated sellers.”

“When homeowners file for divorce there is going to be a point in time in the not too distant future when they decide to act quickly and to liquidate their shared assets – and that’s when the real estate investors start to benefit. If the parties looking into a divorce are focused on splitting everything or they simply need to liquidate the property to cover the expenses associated with the divorce, it’s possible for you to jump in.”

This is what I call a “special situation”. If you look hard enough and long enough, you will find special situations. Sometimes these are the best deals around.

(Side Note: This special situation rule also applies to finding a mate. If you think all the best ones are taken, look for a special situation, like someone between marriages.)

More Divorces in a Recession?

Friday, May 9th, 2008

Does a recession result in more divorces? Correy E. Stephenson writes in her article, Breaking Up Is Even Harder to Do, in The Journal Record, that the impact of the slowing economy on divorce can be felt in the housing market. She quotes me in the article:

And James J. Gross, a partner at Thyden, Gross & Callahan, says he hasn’t seen a large change for his clientele in the wealthy suburb of Chevy Chase, Md. – at least not yet. But while he hasn’t had to work with foreclosed properties, he has noticed a shift from splitting profit to splitting debt. ‘There has been a downturn in the housing market, where we only used to see profit and houses would sell very quickly. Now we are seeing minimal gain or loss,’ Gross said.

Certainly, economic stress can put more pressure on a marriage in trouble. But I believe that macro economics has little to do with people getting divorced. If a couple has a good marriage, they will weather economic hard times together.

If they don’t have a good marriage, they will have troubles when they don’t have much money and they will have troubles when they have lots of money. I have just as many divorce clients now as I did when gas was low and the stock market was high.

Divorce Doesn’t Make Resilient Moms Poorer

Monday, May 5th, 2008

Public policy researchers at Duke University wanted to know the economic effect of divorce on mothers.

“What we found surprised us: the average mom who divorces ends up with just as much income as a similar mom who stays married,” says Professor Elizbeth Oltmans Ananat, as quoted in the Sun-Sentinel.

“Why? Divorced moms are resilient. They move in with relatives, switch from part to full-time work and, perhaps most importantly, 70 percent remarry.”

Twelve Things You Can Do to Get Over Your Divorce

Friday, May 2nd, 2008

“There is a great life that lies ahead after divorce,” claims Greg Frost at SelfHelpStation.Com. He notes that while it may be tough, you are free to start over with a completely new life. You can change jobs or move to another town. “You will find that there is a lot of hope that lies in the bounds of the aftermath,” says Frost.

Having been through divorce myself, and helped lots of others through divorce, I can guarantee that you will survive divorce. Although you may not feel like doing much except feeling sorry for yourself at first, here are a dozen things you can do to get back on your feet.

1. Join a gym.
2. Take Karate or kickboxing lessons.
3. Join a running club.
4. Take dance lessons.
5. Start a singles group.
6. Join a beach house.
7. Get some therapy.
8. Go to church.
9. Play racketball.
10. Talk to your friends.
11. Participate in politics.
12. Help someone who has more troubles than you.

Anything you can do that gets you active and gets you out of your own thoughts will move you along the path to divorce recovery whether you realize it at the time or not. Then one day, what seems like a mountain in front of you now, will be only a speed bump behind you.

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