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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 July, 2010

Set the Right Tone

Friday, July 30th, 2010

593689_cigars_3When Harry Truman got mad and fired off a letter, he would put it in a drawer in his desk and let it cool off for a day.  Most of those letters were never sent.  What would he have done with email?

Now there is a new product called ToneCheck, reports the ABA Journal, that will scan your outgoing email before you send it and point out phrases that have unintended emotional charge.  Tone Check then suggest alternative language.  For example, if you write something is “annoying or troubling” you will be prompted to substitute “It has been concerning me for some time”.

Of course if it completely edits tone, some of the emails I get from opposing counsel will be totally blank.

The Divorce Lawyer’s Handbook for Staying Married

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

CHAPTER SIX — FIGHT FAIRLY

279226_boxing_gloves_and_dumbells_1Arguing, fighting, bickering and nagging are ways of expressing disagreement with your spouse, that can become destructive and turn into insults, bottled up anger, storming off and the silent treatment.  We learned to fight from our parents who taught us that success means winning an argument.  And the longer the conflict stews, the more we mull it over, and the bigger and scarier it becomes.

Dr. Howard Markman, University of Denver Professor and author of “Fighting for Your Marriage”, tells the Wall Street Journal that it’s not that we fight, but how we fight, that’s important in keeping couples happy and together.  He says that each person needs to know that they are being listened to and getting their point across. Dr. Markman has developed the “speaker-listener technique” to teach couples how to fight fairly and resolve their conflicts more successfully.

He says call a 15 minute meeting to discuss the issue.  Do not be intent on finding a solution.  The meeting is just to talk and listen about the problem.  Flip a coin to see who goes first.

The winner of the coin toss explains his or her position first in two or three sentences.  The other party (1) listens and (2) repeats what he or she heard to acknowledge the other person’s position and show that he or she understands it.  Then the same spouse gets to elaborate with two or three more statements.  Next the roles are reversed and the parties go through the process again.  Dr. Markman says a solution may become obvious by the end of the exercise.  “A lot of times, all you need is to be listened to,” says Dr. Markman.

Maryland Attorneys May Use Alimony Guidelines

Friday, July 23rd, 2010

Alimony in Maryland is decided by considering twelve factors set forth in Family Law Section 11-106.  There is nothing in the statute that quantifies the dollar amount or duration of alimony.

Alimony guidelines have been in existence for some time.  The American  Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers publishes alimony guidelines and the Women’s Law Center has a program called the Kaufman Alimony Guidelines Calculator.  Even though the twelfth alimony factor is “anything else the court wants to consider”, it was not clear whether that included alimony guidelines or not.

The Maryland Court of Appeals ruled recently that the guidelines may be used by the judge as an aid so long as they do not replace the twelve factors or frustrate them.  So now divorce lawyers in Maryland will be presenting guidelines in settlement discussions, mediation and court.  Boemio v. Boemio, CA No. 57, September Term, 2009, May 11, 2010.

Dividing Up Debt, Part 2

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

by Michael F. Callahan

What if all the marital debt is in one party’s name?

Suppose divorcing parties have no substantial assets, no children, both are employed and they have substantial debt spent for marital purposes which is all in one party’s name.  What can the divorce court do?  It depends on the jurisdiction.

In D.C. and Virginia, the Court can allocate the debt and order each party to pay particular debts or portions of debts.

In Maryland, the court has no such authority and, in the foregoing example, the court could not do justice by considering marital debt in distributing marital property because there is no marital property.   In the absence of an agreement, the debt-laden spouse would be stuck with all of the debt if this  case were heard in Maryland.  The court would not have authority to divide the debt or order each party to pay certain debts.

Dividing Up Debt

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

by Michael F. Callahan

In previous blogs, I discussed the differences in property distribution in a divorce in Maryland, Virginia and DC.  Another area where the law of our three local jurisdictions is not the same is allocation of debt in a divorce.

In the District of Columbia and in Virginia, the divorce court has authority to allocate debt between the parties in a divorce case.  D.C. Code Sec. 16-910(b); Va. Code Sec, 20-107.3.E.7, Turonis v Turonis, 2003 Va. App. LEXIS 130.

In Maryland there is no such general authority to allocate marital debt, although the court may consider the debts of the parties along with other economic circumstances in dividing marital property.  MD Code, Family Law Article 8-205(b)(3). Maryland courts can allocate responsibility for debt related to the family home in connection with use and possession orders, Md. Code Sec. 8-208(c), or orders transferring title to the principal residence of the parties.  Md. Code Sec. 8-205(a)(2)(iii).

$36 Million in Legal Fees and Still Fighting

Friday, July 9th, 2010

A divorce in Australia, reports the ABA Journal, has been going on for five years and cost over 36 million dollars in legal fees.  The husband has been charged $26 million and the wife has paid $10.5 million so far.

The wife is complaining about her latest bill of $4.3 million and has hired new lawyers to sue her old lawyers.  She says it is unfair and unreasonable although she admits her divorce is extremely complex and she seeks a multimillion dollar settlement.

The law firm denies her allegations and says she wanted to “maximise the chance of a successful outcome” of her divorce. She was therefore charged for “the level of legal resources needed to conduct the matter thoroughly”.

Post Divorce Checklist

Thursday, July 8th, 2010
  • Notify your Pension Plan administrator of the divorce.
  • Send a copy of the Divorce Decree and Pension Order to the Plan Administrator.
  • Change the beneficiary on your Pension Plan.
  • Cancel joint credit cards.
  • Change life insurance beneficiary.
  • Get a new will.
  • Put utility bills in the right person’s name.
  • Remove ex’s country club and sports club privileges.
  • Transfer titles on homes and vehicles.
  • Set up estimated tax payments if receiving alimony.

Build a Wall in the Middle of the House

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

Edmund DeMarche from the New York Post reports that a Judge has ordered a divorcing couple in Brooklyn, New York to build a wall down the middle of the family home.

The Judge has given them two weeks to decide where the wall should go, or he will decide it for them.

The wife will get more than half of the residence because she has primary custody of the children.

Now that the recession is keeping warring spouses from moving out, perhaps this idea will catch on.

 
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