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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 June, 2008

Getting a Judgment Is Not the Same as Getting Cash

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

It all started over dinner at the Isla Del Sol yachting club in St. Petersburg, Florida, according to John Barry at TampaBay.Com. Bob Luzenberg was having dinner with his second wife. Marlene Forand was their waiter. Bob came back a few nights later without the wife, said he was soon to be divorced. He told her he was an inventor with patents. Marlene was a licensed practical nurse, but she said if he could make something, she could market it. Bob Luzenberg and Marlene Forand got married in 1984.

Their businesses together prospered, but their marriage did not. Their divorce started in 1995. They’re still fighting over the money in court. They’ve run through 10 judges and 16 lawyers and their courthouse files fill 13 volumes.

The Florida divorce judge ordered Bob to pay Marlene a lump sum of $240,000, permanent alimony of $6,000 a month, medical insurance of $500 a month, 29 percent of Bob’s interest in a company called World Drink USA, and half of Bob’s interest in seven other companies, half interest in all of Bob’s patents, and all of Marlene’s attorney’s fees.

But Bob moved to Alabama, and when Marlene finally got him to pay over $200,000 in 2003, she netted only $80,000 after attorney fees. She has now fired her attorneys and is representing herself.

As Marlene has discovered the hard way, getting a judgment is not the same as getting the cash. You become a judgment creditor and can use the tools of the court to collect your judgment like attachment of assets and garnishment of wages. But if your spouse is unemployed or without assets, he is said to be judgment proof and you can’t collect. I wish I had a nickel for every noncollectable judgment in my file cabinet.

Cindy McCain and the Maryland Divorce Lawyer

Thursday, June 19th, 2008

A false internet rumor got started yesterday that Cindy McCain was having an affair with a Maryland divorce lawyer. Google Trends will tell you the keywords for the day that people are searching for and talking about on the Internet. A blogger named Corey Palmer may have put the hot key phrases “Cindy McCain” and “Maryland Divorce Lawyer” in a silly, made-up story to draw searchers to his blog, Corey’s Hijinks. In the article called “Cindy McCain’s Affair”, Palmer stated:

“Looks like some dirt has just some out of the woodwork — a Cindy McCain affair? It doesn’t take an Maryland divorce lawyer to know what is going to happen next if this is true. A Maryland divorce lawyer (why that state? I don’t know, first one I thought of LOL). There not even from that state are they?

C’mon….I don’t think there has been an affair of any kind. Sorry, Mr. Maryland divorce lawyer, nothing to see here. But what would have happened if there was? I think people like to start these stories of husbands and wives not getting along, cheating on each other and everything else.

It’s sad all the stories that come out at these times. And it is sad to be teasing any of the Maryland divorce lawyers into thinking that there is a marriage being split up! Leave these families alone!”

In spite of the fact that this was obviously a bogus story, other blogs picked it up as true, and it gained a momentum all its own.

Staying Together for the Sake of the House

Wednesday, June 18th, 2008

We sometimes say the legal fees in a divorce are as much as a new car. But whether you buy a Volkswagon or a Mercedes depends on whether you and your spouse can cooperate or have to fight about who gets what.

As if that weren’t bad enough, along comes a troubled economy.

Slumping real estate prices are adding a new complication to dividing marital assets. The house is usually the largest asset in the divorce. Not so long ago, even couples in short marriages that bought a house together, could sell and divide hundreds of thousands of dollars in the affluent neighborhoods where we practice law.

Now, a sale can take months and people are delaying the sale of the marital residence for better times. Sometimes, they enter into joint ventures in their settlement agreements to own and manage the property after the divorce.

Read more about “Divorce a Luxury in a Bad Economy” by Susan Todd.

Combative Lawyers

Tuesday, June 17th, 2008

I particularly like Mistake #3 from Financial Planner Lee Slater’s article on Dr. Judith Gerhart’s blog yesterday, entitled, “Hiring a Combative Lawyer as Punishment”. Lee says,

“This is a very bad idea for two reasons. First, except in extremely egregious cases, divorce settlements are determined by equitable distribution laws and courts will not punish your ex-spouse financially for being a bad person. Second, your attorney assumes carte blanche to increase hours spent on your case. High divorce costs mean less money will be leftover for living. Treat divorce as a business arrangement and get your revenge by living well post-divorce.”

I keep trying to educate the world about this, but it is hard sailing against the wind. Combative lawyers continue to have lots of clients. But all that combative style is for client entertainment, and a costly detour from the straight path of resolving your legal case. Take it from me. What you really need is a lawyer that is a technician, someone who quietly gets the work done, meets deadlines and returns your calls.

No Visitation for De Facto Parent

Thursday, June 12th, 2008

By Jill H. Breslau

Janice and Margaret were in a committed same-sex relationship for 18 years. When they decided to end it, they were unable to come to an agreement about “their” daughter, Maya.

Both had been equally involved in her care as moms. But their status as parents was far from equal in the eyes of the law. Maya had been adopted from a country which does not permit same-sex couples to adopt but does allow single women to adopt. Therefore only Janice had legally adopted Maya.

After the break-up of the couple, Margaret wanted to maintain her relationship with Maya; but Janice resisted. After a trial, the court found that Margaret was entitled to visitation as a parent in fact, if not in law, and that it would be in the best interest of the child to permit visitation.

Court of Appeals

But the Maryland Court of Appeals reversed. Under Maryland law, said the court, there is no such thing as a “de facto parent”. Margaret was just a third party seeking visitation against a legal parent who did not want it. A legal parent possesses the constitutional rights to govern the care, custody and control of his or her child. A putative de facto parent who seeks visitation rights over the objection of a legal parent is a third party, and, as is required of other third parties w ho seek visitation rights, must demonstrate exceptional circumstances as a prerequisite to a court’s consideration of the best interests of the child. The court would only grant visitation to Margaret if Janice was unfit, or if sufficient “exceptional circumstances” existed that would justify awarding visitation.

If you think that all of this could be avoided simply by having both partners adopt the child, even that is not clear. Whether same-sex couples may adopt in Maryland remains unsettled. Once again we are struck by the difference in the real world and the legal world. This decision seems to be very technically and legally reasoned. But it lacks the feelings of real world experience of children and alternative families. The opinion cites the law correctly but what about the child’s best interest in losing access to one of her moms?

The Dissent

“One thing is clear: the Maryland legislature is silent when it comes to the question of visitation with children when a non-traditional family is involved,” said the dissenting judge.

He points to Wisconsin as having a test he finds appropriate:

  1. the biological or adoptive parent must have consented to, and fostered, the petitioner’s formation of a parent-like relationship;
  2. the petitioner and the child must have lived together in the same household;
  3. the petitioner must have assumed the obligations of parenthood by taking significant responsibility for the child’s care, education, and development, including contributing to the child’s support, without expectation of financial compensation (a petitioner’s contribution to a child’s support need not be monetary); and
  4. the petitioner must have been in a parental role for a length of time sufficient to have established with the child a bonded, dependent relationship parental in nature.

The dissent said, “A party who has demonstrated that he or she is a child’s de facto parent should be entitled to visitation rights if such a result is in the best interest of the child.”

Janice M. v. Margaret K., No. 122, Sept. Term, 2006 (Maryland Court of Appeals, May 19, 2008)

The Divorce Diet

Wednesday, June 11th, 2008

Stephanie Becker writes on MSNBC’s Allday Blog.

“For motivation I turn to my favorite skinny-me photo snapped 13 years ago. I was on the divorce diet plan. When my marriage failed, I spent the first week eating big tubs of gooey rice pudding. But once out of the comfort-food phase I just couldn’t get up the energy to chew. So I didn’t eat for three months. I lost 195 pounds of flab and 175 pounds belonged to my ex.”

The Divorce Diet really works. Who else has lost weight on it? Leave a comment.

Fresh Start After Divorce

Monday, June 9th, 2008

After dealing with issues like adultery, cruelty and abandonment all week, it is good to run across a positive and constructive website like FreshStartAfterDivorce.Com by Jolie Winberg.

She has a lot of good ideas for dealing with divorce like making every Wednesday an empowering day.

Yesterday, she had Dr. Terri Levine, a guest coach, present ten ways to get more out of your life.

Winberg is a good example of someone who has turned a bad experience like divorce into something helpful and inspirational for others.

Divorce Advice

Thursday, June 5th, 2008

Divorce is difficult and costly. Avoid it if possible.

Sometimes you have no choice. It takes two people to get married, but only one to get divorced. If your spouse wants a divorce, then you can slow it down, but you cannot prevent it altogether. Someone determined to get a divorce is allowed by law to get one even if one of the parties does not want a divorce. Or maybe you just made a mistake in marrying the person you did, and you need to correct it and get on with your life.

If you do have a choice in the matter, then the first question you have to ask yourself is do you really want a divorce. The answer may not be clear to you right now. The decision to stay in your marriage or leave it is a significant one. It frequently takes time, sometimes years, to make this decision. So it is alright to stay in the inquiry stage for a while. Here are some of the things you need to think about before you decide to get a divorce.

Sometimes the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know. Although you may not get along with your spouse, you may dislike being alone even more. Eating by yourself, watching television alone and sleeping by yourself can be difficult.

If you have been away from the singles scene for awhile during your marriage, you may find it to be an uncomfortable situation. You are older now. You may have children to deal with.

Two may be able to live as cheaply as one when they are married. But in a divorce you are trying to pay for two separate households with the same money that previously supported one. This usually means there is not enough blanket to cover the cot. Sacrifices must be made and your standard of living might go down.

Divorces involving custody fights over children are the worst of all. The stakes are the highest they can be. The children are right in the middle of conflict between their parents. Children usually bounce back from divorce with time. But that does not mean the bounce does not hurt. Children experience regret, blame, depression, anxiety, guilt and anger during a divorce. Their lives will change forever. The family is breaking up. The family home may be sold. Visitation and child support have to be established.

The decision to obtain a divorce is a difficult one. There are more decisions to make as you move through the process. Some will be hard to make. While these decisions are important, you will survive your divorce and move on with your life.

The Process of Divorce

Wednesday, June 4th, 2008

Most people think of divorce as an event. Actually it is more like a process. If you cannot reach an agreement with your spouse on various issues like children, alimony and property division, then you can ask a judge to hold a trial and make a decision. This is called litigation. You begin litigation by filing a complaint for divorce at the county courthouse. Filing a lawsuit does not have to stop settlement negotiations. Litigation and settlement often proceed on parallel tracks.

THE THREE PHASES OF A DIVORCE

A divorce has a beginning, middle and end, or three phases.

Phase One – Preliminary Legal Procedures

The beginning of your case consists of preliminary legal procedures. These include meeting threshold requirements, filing your pleadings, giving notice to the other side, appearing at a Scheduling Conference and other various conferences and hearings.

Phase Two – Discovery

Discovery, which is Phase Two, consists of rules and methods by which you discover information about your spouse’s case, and vice versa. The purpose of discovery is to avoid surprises at trial and to encourage settlements.

Phase Three – Trial

The trial, which is Phase Three, is the dramatic climax of a lawsuit.

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE?

It takes about a year or more to litigate a case to completion. Add another six months if there is an appeal.

 
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