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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.

Posts Tagged ‘visitation’

Children Jailed by Michigan Judge for Refusal to Visit Dad

Friday, July 10th, 2015

The cases where the children refuse to visit a parent are among the most frustrating for parents, divorce lawyers, judges and therapists.

I’ve seen judges order months of reconciliation therapy. I’ve had one judge tell me, “I can’t send a crane to pickup the child and one house and drop them off at the other house.” Another judge said “A 15 year old can go almost anywhere they want on their own. A 15 year old can go to the bus station and buy a ticket.” None of these solutions are usually very satisfying to either parent.

Now one judge in Michigan has come up with a different idea. She is holding the children, ages 9, 10 and 15, in contempt for refusing to have lunch with their father and putting them in a juvenile detention center until they change their mind. The mother’s attorney has filed a writ of habeas corpus to free the children which is scheduled for July 15, 2015.

Read more about this case.

Paternity Tests Ordered in Cleveland Kidnapping

Friday, May 10th, 2013

Police have ordered DNA tests to determine whether Ariel Castro is the father of Amanda Berry’s 6 year old daughter.  He is accused of kidnapping and raping Berry and two other women and holding them captive in his Cleveland home for years.

Many will find it hard to believe that a person convicted of such awful crimes would be able to assert any parental rights such as custody and visitation.

But Maryland, DC and Virginia are among the majority of jurisdictions that do not have laws terminating parental rights upon conviction of rape of the birth mother. So is Ohio.  If Castro sues for custody and visitation, the judge will have to decide based on what’s in the best interest of the child.

What Is An Uncontested Divorce?

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

Divorce cases are either contested or uncontested.  If the Answer to the Complaint denies one or more of the statements contained in the Complaint, then you have a contested case.

A case is uncontested if you have a comprehensive Separation Agreement, in writing that is signed by both parties.  In other words, to have an uncontested case, you and your spouse must be in agreement on grounds, custody, child support, alimony and property distribution and every other issue in your divorce.

Sometimes a client will tell us they have an uncontested case, but when we ask they have no Separation Agreement.  They may tell us the have everything worked out, but once we get into the details of visitation, debt division, valuing pensions and the like we find that they are not in agreement.  Following a lot of negotiation, we finally come to terms and sign the negotiated agreement.  Then we can file a Complaint for an uncontested divorce.

Divorce Law Indiana has a good post on this topic called “Uncontested Divorces — Do They Exist?”

Notice of Intent to Relocate with Children

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

Section 9-106 of the Family Law Article of the Maryland Code provides that the Court may, in any custody or visitation proceeding, include a notice provision for intent to relocate in its order.  It is not automatic.  You have to ask for it.

The provision is so that the non-custodial parent has a chance to go to court and seek a change in custody or visitation.

The problem up to now has been that the notice period is 45 days and that has not been enough time to obtain a hearing date.  So the move usually has already happened by the time you get in front of a judge.  The home has been sold.  The kids have been enrolled in a new school.

So Section 9-106 has been revised, effective October 1 of this year, to provide for a 90 day notice period.  And if you file a petition within 20 days of receiving notice, the court will give you an expedited hearing.

Felix the Cat and His Magic Bag of Tricks

Thursday, August 13th, 2009

The first image broadcast by network television was a picture of Felix the Cat.  I remember watching Felix on tv when I was a kid.  He had a Magic Bag of Tricks and whenever he got stumped by a problem, he would reach into his bag and pull out some tool or device that would help him solve the problem.

I wish I had a Magic Bag of Tricks in real life.  A lawyer can do a lot of things, but sometimes the tools in my toolbox are limited.  Clients look to their lawyers to solve all sorts of problems.  But first you have to have a problem that the law recognizes as a problem.  For example, I wrote recently that not every marital agreement is recognized by law as an enforceable contract.

The law does not provide a remedy for every wrong.  There is no legal tool that will turn your difficult spouse into a nicer, more reasonable and responsible person.   I can get alimony and child support and property, but I probably cannot recover damages for the hurt you felt during your marriage.  The court can give you a visitation schedule, but it can’t make your child want to visit with you.  I can’t make your spouse settle on your terms and I can’t make opposing counsel return my calls if they don’t want to.

As a mediator said to one of my clients, “I only have a pen, not a magic wand.”

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)

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.

How to File for Divorce

Wednesday, February 13th, 2008

The first step in a divorce proceeding is the preparation and filing of a Complaint. The legal document that starts the proceeding is entitled “Complaint for Divorce”. The Complaint states the grounds for divorce and the vital statistics of the parties and the marriage. You file the Complaint at the Clerk’s Office at the Courthouse.

The Complaint also covers certain technical matters and asks the court for anything you might want. If you and your spouse cannot agree on something (support, custody, visitation, property division, attorney’s fees, court costs) then you must ask the court for it in the petition or the court cannot give it to you. If the list seems long, or if it includes more than you want, think of it as a wish list.

If the wording seems strange, remember that it is a formal legal document and much of the wording is required by law. If your spouse has already filed, you can file a Countercomplaint for Divorce with your Answer.

How to Get a Divorce

Friday, February 1st, 2008

Only the court can give you a divorce. The first step in a divorce proceeding is the preparation and filing of a Complaint. The legal document that starts the proceeding is entitled “Complaint for Absolute Divorce”. The Complaint states the grounds for divorce and the vital statistics of the parties and the marriage.

It also covers certain technical matters and asks the court for anything you might want. If you and your spouse cannot agree on something (support, custody, visitation, property division, attorney’s fees, court costs) then you must ask the court for it in the petition or the court cannot give it to you. If the list seems long, or if it includes more than you want, think of it as a wish list.

If the wording seems strange, remember that it is a formal legal document and much of the wording is required by law. Here is a Maryland Complaint for Absolute Divorce in PDF format.

 
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