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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 the ‘Marital Award’ Category

Most Expensive Divorce Ever

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

Dmitry Rybolovlev, one of the richest people in Russia, is about to set the record for most expensive divorce.  A Swiss judge has ordered Dmitry to pay his ex-wife Elena a $4.5 billion divorce settlement.  Dmitry became a billionaire by privatizing a fertilizer plant in Russia.  His net worth is estimated at $8.8 billion.

The judge also gave Elena ownership of real estate in Switzerland worth $145 million and custody of their 13 year old daughter.  Elena and Dmitry met as students and had been married since 1987.

The previous record is held by Rupert Murdoch.  Rupert paid $1.7 billion to his ex-wife Anna in 1991 in cash and Newscorp stock.

Husband Wins Prenup Challenge by Wife

Friday, October 4th, 2013

James Stewart, at age 24, was married with three children, and owned a successful construction business.  He was worth about two million dollars.  Then he met 26 year old Barbara Stewart, who worked at a day care center for minimum wage.  Her only asset was a vehicle worth about $500.  They had an affair, lived together for a year, and eventually married in 1988 after James got his divorce.

Four days before the wedding James and Barbara signed a prenuptial agreement.  Twenty one years later they divorced and Barbara challenged the agreement claiming she signed it under duress, without counsel, without full disclosure, and that the agreement was unfair.

The trial court upheld the agreement and the Maryland Court of Special Appeals affirmed.  The court said that four days was enough time to consult with a lawyer and that it was her choice not to do so.

While the agreement did not disclose an IRA worth $60,000 and it did not list values for the assets nor their total, the court found that the agreement and Barbara’s knowledge of the assets from living with James were sufficient disclosure to let her know she was giving up something significant by signing the agreement.

The court also found that she had not waived alimony nor a marital award in the prenup.  In fact, she settled the divorce for over a million dollars.  So, the court said, the prenup was not unfair.

Stewart v. Stewart, Maryland Court of Special Appeals (October 3, 2013)

A Stormy Divorce

Friday, May 31st, 2013

Some people going through divorce will find anything to argue about.  Stephen Benson, a 64 year old investment banker, settled his divorce with his wife of three years, Kim Charlton, 56, a former model.  He agreed to pay her $365,000.

But when she removed a $150 copper weather vane from the top of their $4 million mansion, he claimed she damaged the house and refused to pay her until she returned it.

Charlton lugged the bulky weather vane to court as Exhibit A.  She pointed out the four screws she hired a worker to detach.

The Judge ordered Benson to pay the $365,000 immediately and let Charlton keep the weather vane.

Putting the Fault Back in No-Fault Divorce

Friday, December 17th, 2010

Years ago Maryland and Virginia added no-fault divorce grounds to the traditional fault grounds.   DC has moved completely to no fault grounds.  However, even if you file on no-fault grounds, marital misconduct still comes into play in all three jurisdictions.

Alimony. In each jurisdiction, the law provides a list of factors the court must court must consider in determining alimony.  In Maryland and DC, one of the factors is circumstances surrounding the estrangement of the parties.  In Virginia, adultery can prevent a spouse from receiving alimony unless the court finds that would create a manifest injustice.

Property. In determining how marital property is to be equitably distributed, each jurisdiction has another list of factors the court must consider.  In Maryland, there is a catch all provision that includes any other factors that the court considers appropriate.  In Virginia, one factor is circumstances contributing to the dissolution of marriage.  In DC, it is circumstances contributing to the estrangement.

Custody. Marital misconduct does not necessarily make you a bad parent.  The test is best interest of the children.  But the parties think it is important that the judge know what a scoundrel the other parent is, especially if the other parent is slinging mud, too.

As a result, the parties spend 90% of their time in discovery and trial trying to prove fault.  While most of the judges I’ve talked to say it affects their decision by 10% or less.

Why We Hire Experts to Value Assets

Monday, August 30th, 2010

hemi
Clients complain about the costs of discovery and experts to value things like pensions, businesses and other assets.  Frequently they waive discovery and valuation and instruct us to skip it altogether.  Steve Linden, who appraises classic automobiles, tells the story of a couple getting divorced and dividing up their martial assets.

The husband had purchased a couple of cars a few years earlier.  One was a beautifully restored 1966 Plymouth Valiant convertible that the wife drove.  The other was a 1970 Plymouth convertible that the husband drove from time to time.

As Linden tells it, “As the divorce proceeded the husband casually suggested that his wife keep the 1966 Plymouth convertible and he keep the 1970 Plymouth convertible. She didn’t see any problem with this and readily agreed. Her attorney however felt that it might be wise to have both cars appraised just to make sure that the value of both cars were similar, even if not exactly the same.”

Linden valued the wife’s care at $15,000.  But the husband’s car turned out to be a very rare and very valuable Hemi Cuda convertible, worth over a million dollars.

Mother’s Gift to Couple Is Marital

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

by Michael F. Callahan

During their marriage, Mr. Smith’s mother conveyed real estate to her son and his wife, jointly.  In their divorce, we represented Mrs. Smith.  Mr. Smith contended that his mother really intended to give the property to him.  But he told her to make the deed jointly to him and his wife for convenience, so that his wife would not have to go through probate in the event of his death.  The mother was deceased at the time of the trial.

He asked the trial court to give him a monetary award based on his contribution of the real property to the marriage. Contribution to the acquisition of property titled to the parties as tenants by the entirety is a factor that the court must consider in determining whether to make a monetary award. Md. Code, Family Law Article, Sec. 8-205(b)((9).

The trial court ruled the real property was marital and ordered it sold and the proceeds divided equally.  The husband appealed.

The Maryland Court of Special Appeals held that the deed was conclusive evidence that husband’s mother gave the property to both parties.  Therefore the husband’s contribution to acquisition of this property was equal to wife’s, that is zero, and the trial court did not err in declining to grant him a monetary award.  Smith v Smith, 996 A.2d 416; 193 Md.App. 29 (2010).

Marital Debt

Monday, May 10th, 2010

I met Hank this morning at the local coffee shop next to the courthouse where all the lawyers go.  He ordered a cherry Danish and I ordered a blueberry muffin.  Hank was worried about a mediation he had that morning.  He represented the wife.

“The husband has a $100,000 pension and $100,000 in marital debt, “ Hank informed me as he blew on his coffee to cool it.  “So he is basically broke.  He’s offering to take over all the marital debt if the wife will let him keep his pension.  I’m thinking that is a fair deal but I wanted to run it by you to see what you think.”

“I have some questions about the marital debt,” I said, unwrapping my muffin.  Whose name is it in and what form is it in and what was it used to buy?”

Hank explained, “the debt is on three credit card accounts in the husband’s name and it was used for marital expenses, like rent, food and so forth.”

“It’s a good thing you represent the wife then,” I said as I sipped my coffee.

“Why?”

“Because someone is going to have to tell the husband the bad news.  Not all debts are marital.  Marital debt in Maryland means a debt directly traceable to the acquisition of marital property.  His credit card debt was used to buy consumables and there is no marital property from which to subtract it. The court can’t change who owes the credit card companies, and so the judge is going to leave that debt in the husband’s name.  And the court can still divide the pension plan because that is marital property to the extent it was earned during the marriage.”

“Wow,” said Hank.  “You’ve just given me some powerful ammunition for my mediation.  For that advice, I’ll pick up the check.  But you leave the tip.”

What Would You Do with a $54.5 Million Divorce Settlement?

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

Heather Mills got that much in her divorce settlement with Sir Paul McCartney in 2008.

“Most of it’s been given to charity, gone into ethical businesses or paid for a couple of properties for my daughter’s future security,” said Mills in an interview on Shrink Wrap.

DigitalSpy.com reports the money has all been spent.  It only took two years to spend it.  I wonder how long it took McCartney to earn it?

How to Divorce Proof Your Business

Friday, January 15th, 2010

A study commissioned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company reveals that 60 percent of business owners do not have a plan in place to divorce-proof their companies.   According to PRNewswire.com, the study involved six focus groups and 518 business owners.

“If a company is owned by a couple, a divorce can paralyze the business and create divided allegiances among employees and customers,” said Beth Wood, VP of a Mass Mutual division. “It could also jeopardize a family’s wealth and the owners’ retirements,” she said. “Often, a divorce can force the owners to sell the business, with proceeds being divided by the parties involved.”

“When owners aren’t in business with their spouses, a divorce can still hurt the firm greatly, if an ex-spouse is awarded the business in a divorce settlement, throwing ownership and decision-making into doubt, and distracting employees,” Wood said.

MassMutual suggests the following ways to create a divorce-proof plan for your business:

* Buy-sell agreements that can be triggered by certain events, such as a divorce.
* Prenuptial agreements.
* Postnuptial agreements.
* Trusts.

Court Denies Recovery of Madoff Funds from Ex

Monday, December 28th, 2009

New York City lawyer, Steven Simkin, paid his ex-wife, Laura Blank, 2.7 million dollars for her half of their investment with Bernard Madoff’s fund as a result of their marital settlement agreement.

When Simkin found out the fund was worthless earlier this year, he sued his ex to get the money back, claiming there was a “mutual mistake of fact” which gave his ex a windfall.

Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Saralee Evans refused to set aside the agreement and dismissed Simkin’s lawsuit.

Read more.

 
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