Now Available in paperback format in addition to Kindle Ebook format
Custody Battle Checklist for Maryland Child Custody Cases:
How Lawyers and Judges Determine Custody in Frederick, Maryland
Now Available in paperback format in addition to Kindle Ebook format
With snow predicted and on everyone’s mind know this; THE COURTS RARELY CLOSE FOR WEATHER:). If you are in doubt about a weather closing for court assume it is open!
The following courts have reported closings/delays. If a court is not listed, contact the court to determine its status. See Courts Directory for contact information
Custody and Visitation Over the Christmas Holidays
The Carroll County Family Law Court and other Maryland Courts have signaled a major change in the thinking around Christmas and holiday visitation. First, one needs to know where the philosophy has been to know where it is going.
In the past the standard thinking of custody and visitation has been to alternate holidays between parents. That is nothing new and I don’t think anything new is on the horizon there. Yet some Westminster Judges and Family Law Masters have called a formerly “sacred cow” into question.
Alternating holidays translated into the alternation of Easter, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day and Halloween. Then Thanksgiving and Christmas enter the end of the years’ holiday picture. Alternate them? Treat them like the other holidays?
Well, in years past 90% plus parents and judges agreed the following is appropriate: Christmas is treated as “Christmas A” and “Christmas B.” The thinking is that parents place the premium on when the child(ren) wake up Christmas morning over all other Christmas and Thanksgiving times.
Thus it has been protocol that a parent gets Thanksgiving Day, then the other parent gets December 24th (Christmas Eve) in the afternoon until December 25th (Christmas Day) around noon through December 26th. This schedule rotates such that both parents get part of Christmas day but the one who did not get Thanksgiving gets the coveted Christmas wake up.
Sure some people make it easy and one parent always prefers Christmas Even for whatever reason. Also, some parents live so far apart the split Christmas is not feasible so something else gets set up. When that works… it’s a beautiful thing. Everybody wins, but traditionally everybody wants some time on December 25th every year. The solution has historically been the Christmas A-B split I mentioned above.
Yet, recently some judges have deemed it hectic or even dangerous to have kids driving around on Christmas Day. One Westminster Judge commented that it detracted from the kids’ Christmas; opening presents, then getting torn away from the toys to travel around.
This “don’t split Christmas Day” is thinking is something I DO NOT AGREE WITH. Yet I must confess thinking, as a child, after getting a bunch of new presents it was a bummer to pack up and go see other relatives. Yet, I think it is different when you know a whole new pile is waiting at your destination?
So, be aware a growing trend in Family Law is that one parent gets Christmas and one just does not? Forewarned is forearmed. As always, the best idea is to work it out without court or before court and just tell the judge or family law master what you agreed on before he even makes a decision.
Does the income of a spouse count in the calculation of child support? Is it voluntary impoverishment?
In Frederick County Child support and custody court, I observe people subjected to dirty tricks of all kinds. I chronical these tales for people to be informed and advised of these dirty tricks. Help describe how to spot them and how to defend against them. Forewarned is forearmed. This is not intended to be a guide to exercising such tricks on others.
One such dirty trick is “voluntary impoverishment.”
Voluntary impoverishment is artificially reducing one’s income to reduce or avoid child support and/or alimony obligations.
A party is “voluntarily impoverished” when the party has made a free and conscious choice, not compelled by factors beyond his or her control, to render himself or herself without adequate resources.
The classic tale is a one of a perennially unemployed or underemployed obligors. Everytime they come to court they have lost a job, been laid off, don’t get 40 hours per week….etc.
Yet the most sure and unforgiving way to artificially increase or decrease a parent’s child support obligation is not a game, or a sham but a simple fact of life and it’s not voluntary impoverishment. It’s the advice of every Pennsylvania Dutch mother: “Auch Heiraten.” In English: “Marry Well.”
You see, a new spouse’s income does not count in computing a parent’s child support to another parent AKA the “ex.” Soooo, if a man with a low income re-marries a woman with a very high income, his child support to the ex is still low because it is only based upon his income.
Yet if a woman with a high income marries a new husband with a low income she will still get minimal child support because it is based upon her income. Ignore the fact that she is still supporting the child(ren) as well as her new underemployed, ruggedly handsome “himbo.”
Similarly if a woman with a low income is remarried to a wealthy husband she still gets child support based upon her low income. Even if she drives the kids to school in a Rolls Royce and the dad takes a bus to work. That’s that.
A Mother in Nassau County New York took or attempted to take her…old child and fly the proverbial coup. http://www.actionnewsjax.com/news/news/local/11-year-old-boy-out-nassau-county-found/ngTt6/
I am asked the question countless times a year by both people wishing to depart the state with a child and people who fear their child will be removed from the state. The question is almost always as follows: If I (or my ex) take my child outside the state, is it kidnapping?
Worthy of note in this article is that the mother in question failed to show up for court. At that court proceeding the judge issued an order granting custody to the father. When she was advised of that but failed to turn the child over she was probably guilty of kidnapping in New York.
Most states have a different kidnapping law for a parent than for some unrelated person. In most states parental kidnapping is a misdemeanor and kidnapping by another is a felony. Yet be warned. If you are guilty of a misdemeanor versus a felony. The food at the jail is just as bad for misdemeanors and the bars are just as hard. Never do something because it’s only a misdemeanor. Besides, if you ever took your child under those sort of circumstances you would probably never get them again.
The reason I point out that the article references a hearing is because that is of utmost significance. You see most of the times I get asked if transporting a child is kidnapping the parents are not under any order at all. Sometimes I have even been asked by an unmarried father who has not been “adjudicated” to be the father at law. People under these circumstances are on dangerous ground indeed.
They have a child yet they have no order giving custody to either one. That is not to imply that until there is an order it’s “the wild west.”. A parent can get an order under those sort of off the hook emergency circumstances and then you are back to the kidnapping issue. If you must treat the children with this sort of siege approach, I encourage you to treat them more as a pop bottle than a football and follow a no deposit no return approach.
I have addressed that on my website blog in more depth but it amounts to exchanging the children for a simple note as to when you will get them back. If the other party reneged on the deal in the note it can often be a quick ticket to court. Thus you may attain the same objective in a quasi civil fashion as you might “boarded up” with the child like some hostage taker.
In my experience, the manner and timing parents follow when introducing new significant others can have great bearing upon custody and visitation cases. In any Frederick custody and visitation case the parents of the child(ren) had a previous romantic relationship, even if just for one night.
The relationship was usually something more than a one night stand, or was more than that in one of the parent’s mind. Therefore, when those parents split hurt feelings are almost always involved. Sometimes those hurt feelings are attached to only one parent . Normally they are attached to both. When those hurt feelings are aggravated by the introduction of a significant other, it can cause even reasonable parents to have a strong emotional reaction. When you compound the foregoing into a marriage or adultery situation, you have some very real and stubborn hurt feelings that just are not going away anytime soon.
In these sort of cases, the separated parents may have a good relationship regard custody and access, for months or even years. Then the other woman/man enters the picture. Parents start imagining that their ex’s new love interest is standing in their respective mommy/daddy shoes. It is a very difficult thing to think about, even when your ex is not someone you are jealous to be with. Now, compound that disturbing thought times the power of ten if you have a jealousy issue.
So when the new love of your life comes into the picture SLOW DOWN.
This is not to imply that people are fickle or impulsive, but of course they can be. It is the nature of our biology that love and passion are simply gonna give you a different point of view than everyone else including your ex. By this I mean if you think that you are going slow in the integration of your new significant other you still MIGHT be going too fast. If you think you are doing it right, you are DEFINITELY going to fast and if you think it is going too fast…..well you get the idea. It should feel like you are going…..sooooo…slooooow that it is awkward.
There is also the issue of your new love interest’s children. Yes, this could cause even a reasonable person to be concerned that you are going too fast. Another underestimated issue on this subject of other kids, is the impact or potential impact on your child. Being a kid in a broken home is not all doom and gloom, Oliver Twist and that kinda thing. It’s two birthdays, two Christmas Days and having a leg up on manipulating your parents through guilt :). Then you have another kid or kids around and it can cut into the picture. So be mindful of that too.
Introducing the new love interest and his/her family wrong, early, or not at all can hurt you in court. If you want joint custody the judge is going to look closely at that sort of thing. If you, or your children, or your relatives refer to the new significant other or spouse as “daddy” or “mommy” it is gonna be a big problem. If there is one thing that is gonna get a custody or visitation lawyer cringe it is gonna be the “daddy” “mommy” thing. If you are doing it, stop, if you haven’t done it, don’t if you can’t stop, get a prescription. It is that important!
When selecting witnesses, the first thing to bear in mind is that more is not better. Lots and lots of cases were lost by people who brought the butcher, baker and candle maker all to custody court.
It has been my experience that absent a case scheduled for 2 or more days your list of witnesses other than yourself should never exceed four and almost never exceed three. The purpose of this article is to outline how you should select the witnesses whom you do call in furtherance of your case.
I have considered: what is the matrix that the judge will apply? How should you consider which person on your potential witness list will be called?
You may note that each of these scorecard categories are effective criteria to explore with respect to witnesses you call, as well as the witnesses called against you. Remember, these rules act as both a sword and shield. Point out how your witnesses satisfy the matrix AND point out how their witnesses do not.
It seems to me that a Witness’ significance turns on 3 scorecards, axis or criteria which the judge will keep in mind as the witnesses testify.
The first axis is the witness’ Scope of Personal Knowledge. Scope of personal knowledge is the the legal equivalent of the sample size in a scientific endeavor. By that I mean simply how often, how long, how recently and under what conditions has the witness observed you with your children?
The neighbor up the street who sees you and your children twice a year; once at an annual Christmas party and once at a fourth of July picnic, is not a witness who scores well in this scorecard category. The neighbor sees you infrequently and also, when he sees you, it is at a party which is not an environment that’s a real indicator of your day in… day out …parenting.
Regarding the appropriate amount? The amount in my mind would be how often the witness sees you and the child. Then weigh this number against the character of that knowledge. Take for example your child’s daycare provider.
You see her everyday, twice a day, dropping the child off and picking the child up. It’s difficult to imagine someone who sees you and your child more often. Yet, what is the character of that exposure to the witness?
The second axis is the Actual or Implied Appearance of Bias.
So we’ve covered some basic ground, namely that any witness you call should have personal knowledge of a significant amount and of a significant character. Having met those criteria the judge will next examined the witness’ actual or implied appearance of bias.
When considering bias it is important to note that I have described bias as either “actual” bias or the “appearance” of bias. The best way to describe this contrast is as follows. True bias in fact is never going to be fully known until, and unless, some form of voice stress analyzer software becomes available to judges and the courts.
Nevertheless, actual bias can often be clear, from things the witness says and the way in which they are said. For example, if your new husband in his testimony describes your ex husband in unflattering and or vulgar terms, such as “the sperm donor” the judge will most likely consider his testimony as painted by actual bias. On the other hand, the appearance of bias is something both easy to identify and possible to overcome.
Take for example a mother who calls her parents as witnesses in her custody case.
There is an appearance of bias. This is very simple to identify. They are her parents and parents might do almost anything to further their children’s welfare, even when those children are adults.
Yet that appearance of bias may be overcome if those parents testify in such a way that they have every outward appearance of neutrality and in all respects seem free from animosity toward the other side.
The third axis is the witnesses Credentials of Discernment ( the ability to judge well)
Yes, it is only the judge’s judgment that matters in the end. Yet every wise judge relies upon the expertise and wisdom of others to assist him/her. There are witnesses known as expert witnesses and I should make clear that I do not mean expert witnesses.
I mean the witnesses wisdom relative to the subject at hand. Take for example a woman who calls her mother for a witness. The woman has bias issues but she also has eight children and thirty grandchildren. This is a woman who knows kids. In contrast take a girlfriend to the mother who has a Phd in philosophy but no children? Is she a witness with discernment?
Perhaps this is a good time to indicate that teachers are witnesses of a thermonuclear significance. Gamechangers, Tiger Tanks, call them what you will.
It is because the judge attributes these witnesses with discernment regarding children.
Teachers almost never have any apparent or implied bias.
At least not any that can be easily identified,. They see your child everyday and know him/her and you based on day in day out interaction. They also have a large cross-section of parents against which to compare you and your child.
Last there is a wildcard, a secret sauce.
The truism that :“ a good lawyer knows the law, a great lawyer knows the judge.”
It is not a reference to backdoor deals or old boy networks. It is knowing that the judge lives in a five bedroom house frequented by over a dozen grandkids before you disparage a witness who has three bedrooms and four kids. It is life, knowing WHO the judge is, relative to the witnesses.
Forewarned is forearmed. Thus I have attempted to identify some criteria that a judge will consider respecting your witnesses so that you might better select which ones to call. You might also benefit from considering these criteria in crafting cross examination of the other sides witness. Please bear in mind that many times, the best cross examination questions for a witness can be no questions at all.
|From Child Custody Attorneys for Frederick County Maryland|
19 NORTH COURT STREET FREDERICK MARYLAND 21701
You should know them by heart and plan your case around them. Here is how you find them.
The way laws work is that they originate from two principle sources. The first is statutory law. An example of statutory law is where someone might point to a citation and say it is located in the Maryland Annotated Code section XYZ etc. This citation is a section of a book, within a set of books, that spells out a particular law. It is a pretty simple matter for a person to go to a law library, sit down with the book and read it.
The other type of law is called “common law” or “case law.” That means there may not be a particle statute in a particular law book. Instead, there is a court decision which sets forth the law or the principal in question.
An example of common law would be if someone says that (insert a case name) supports their desired position. Citation of such common law is Smith v. Jones, XXX Md. XXX 19XX for example. In the case of the Taylor factors, the case citation is Taylor v. Taylor, 306 Md. 290 (1986)
It is a little bit of a challenge for non lawyers to locate cases or case law. It is also a very tricky matter to make sure that the case you locate is still the most up to date decision on the subject or principal you wish to argue. For example, Taylor has been followed up upon exhaustively but is still valid. Not all cases are.
This brings us to the Taylor factors. The Taylor factors are custody factors that Maryland says a judge needs to consider before rendering a custody or visitation decision. Now that you know about case law versus statutory law they are sometimes the same.
For example, in an alimony decision the Maryland Family Law Courts are presented both statutory prerequisites (or factors) as well as scads of cases. The chicken or the egg comes to mind because the statutory factors have been supplemented over the years. Sometimes, the legislature adds something because they like the latest court decisions. Sometimes, the legislature adds something because they don’t.
The following link will take you to Taylor v. Taylor: http://www.leagle.com/decision/1986596306Md290_1578.xml/TAYLOR%20v.%20TAYLOR
Remember there are important cases in addition to Taylor like Montgomery County vs. Sanders, 38 Md. App. 406 (1977) The Taylor factors taken in conjunction with Sanders are known as the Taylor Factors.
|From Frederick County Maryland|
1) Capacity of the parents to communicate and to reach share decisions affecting the child’s welfare
2) Willingness of the parents to share custody
3) Fitness of the parents
4) Relationship established between the child and each parent
5) Preferences of the child
6) Potential disruption of the child’s social and school life
7) Geographic proximity of the parental homes
8) Demands of parental employment
9) Age and the number of the children
10) Sincerity the parents request
11) Financial status of the parents
12) Impact on state or federal assistance
13) Benefit to parents and
14) Other factors
Montgomery County v. Sanders Factors:
1) Fitness of the parents.
2) Character and reputation of the parties
3) Desire of the natural parents and agreement between the parties.
4) Potential of maintaining natural family relations.
5) Preference of the child.
6) Material opportunities affecting the future life of the child.
7) Age health and sex of the child.
8) Residence of parents and opportunity for visitation.
9) Length of separation from natural parents.
10) Prior voluntary abandonment or surrender of the child or a child
So now that you know the factors the judge must consider you can prepare your case accordingly. If you have a lawyer, you can save money, and look really smart, by knowing the Taylor factors. If your lawyer does not know what the Taylor factors are, you might want to help him/her out.
|From Child Custody Attorneys for Frederick County Maryland|
I almost called this article: “Tape Everything” but “Tape” is not even a verb anymore. Besides, voice recording or eavesdropping in Maryland is illegal (Google: “Linda Tripp”).
Before we talk about what to do, let’s talk about what not to do.
It is a crime in Maryland to record a conversation or a phone call without the agreement/assent of all the parties to the conversation. Because of that, even if you obtain a recording by those criminal means it cannot be used in a custody case.
In this article, I am talking principally about video recording which is not subject of the above law. In the custody world phone or other “conversations” are not generally at the core of the case anyway. Video on the other hand, can be very, very helpful.
Parents commonly lament that when they are exchange a child or children with the other parent “there are tears….screaming….he/she cries not to go…etc….etc”
Judges and custody lawyers tend to dismiss this contention and those complaints usually wind up as just a yawn. Judges who have become immune to such testimony might need a wake up call. Video can help.
It is one thing to describe that your two year old “cries” when mother tries to collect her back from dad. It is another to see a child on video screaming themselves blue, with veins popping out of their head and the camera lens starting to crack from the shrill crescendo . It makes your point more pointed.
Video of exchanges can be evidence of threatening or provoking behavior by the other parent. Telling people they are being recorded takes a lot of wind out of their ravings and threats. Yes, exchanges at a public place are helpful too but that means the recordings are in the control of Sheetz or some other business which has no interest in your case.
If you are not concerned about your safety you still may want to inconspicuously video record exchanges.
More often than not, it is a critical piece of evidence if your ex claims you are abusive.
As it goes with all manner of things in the human condition video can be too much of a good thing. If two parents go to court with recordings that show they were so busy recording one another that they ignored the effect on the child, that will not be good.
|From Child Custody Attorneys for Frederick County Maryland|