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Annapolis Divorce Law Blog

Servicemember's custody status protected by new law

For someone serving in the military, there are innumerable risks. Even servicemembers stationed in the U.S., far from combat zones, working with the complex, large and dangerous equipment of the military can place their lives in jeopardy every day. Working around massive machines like an Abrams tank, a Blackhawk helicopter or F-17, let alone an aircraft carrier is inherently dangerous. And with combat, that risk only increases.

But one risk servicermemebers should not face is losing their children during a custody battle while they are overseas fighting in real battles. Because of erratic deployments, men and women in the military do not get to pick and choose when they may have to leave the U.S.

Should Maryland adopt a shared custody standard?

Shared parenting is a controversial topic. A group known as the National Parent Organization (NPO) supports shared custody, and they rated the states last month in their awarding custody of children during a divorce.

According to their survey, few states performed very well. Almost half received a grade of D and two states received Fs. The NPO argues that in non-abusive marriages, the default custody order should be 50/50. 

Deployments + divorce = difficult family law issues

If you or your spouse is an active military service member then you fully understand the gravity of a deployment.  Not only is there the possibility of spending months away from your family but depending on where the deployment is taking place, there is also a risk to a person's life as well.  In a number of cases, the stress of a deployment can be enough to tear a marriage apart, leaving couples with a very unique and difficult legal situation on their hands.

Although there are a lot of things that differ between military divorces and regular divorces, we wanted to focus today's post on one particular aspect of military divorces that might be considerably more contentious: child custody and child support.

Thankful for a divorce?

During a divorce, it can be difficult to see the big picture. If you initiated the divorce, it is likely you are deeply unhappy and unsatisfied by your current situation. Your marriage is not working and you want to get out. But the Maryland family court system is complex and sometimes bewildering and the frustration with the process and your life can be overwhelming.

If your spouse walked out or filed for divorce, you are probably angry and hurt, even if you felt there were problems with your relationship and your marriage. Again, on top of your emotional feelings, you have to deal with the divorce attorneys, the courts and all of the technical requirements of a situation not of your making.

Is equal always better?

In the U.S., we like to think of equality as a good thing. We even have an equal protection clause in the Constitution. And so it is natural to think that all states should create a presumption that after a divorce, the parents should equally share custody of their children.

In some cases, that may be ideal. But not in all. While granting mother's child custody has been a traditional rule in many courts, creating a presumption of equality has consequence. One danger is that it moves the "starting point" in the discussion to one of how to divide the parent's time with their children. 

The grass is always greener, even when it's not

We work with many couples as they move through the divorce process in the Maryland family courts. It can be disorienting and painful, with the public airing of many of the personal, embarrassing and intimate elements of your marriage. And for our clients with children, we encourage them to attempt to obtain as amicable divorce as possible for the sake of their children.

Even if there are no incendiary causes of your marriage dissolution, and you do reach an amicable settlement of your relationship, you may develop some feelings of resentment after the divorce is finalized, and all the details of your child custody, child support and property division have been worked out.

Same-sex marriage ban cases receive their circuit split

Yesterday, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the same-sex marriage bans in place in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee, and created the split between the circuit courts of appeals that will likely force the U.S. Supreme Court to hear a case that could settle the issue nationwide.

A panel of three judges from the Sixth Circuit ruled 2-1 that states have the right to define marriage as they wish through the legislative process. The majority relied on the notion that the states had a rational basis to define marriage as they had, and that courts should not interfere at that level.

What is good for the goose...

Child support debates, whether in a particular divorce case, or in general, often involves a great deal of unstated premises. Much of it turns on who should be providing for the child or children. Historically, men have carried much of the burden of child support obligations, as they were the breadwinners and mothers were seen as the caregivers.

This has begun to change, and has been changing since the 1970s. As wages have eroded over the last 40 years, women were forced to go to work to help maintain a middle class standard of living. As more women obtain college degrees and climbed the corporate and professional ladder, the phenomena of a woman earning more than a man in some marriages occurred.

Take care to ensure you have "good years"

It seems like a good problem to have. And it is. But just because more women are divorcing with substantial assets does not mean that it cannot cause them difficulties. This current generation of older women is more likely to divorce and more likely to be financially savvy and, for some, their own earnings from their career.

While a so-called "gray divorce" removes some of the contentious topics from the divorce proceedings, such as child support or child custody, since the children are likely to be adults by this time, it does demand heightened attention to the potentially significant assets the couple may have accumulated.

Some of the assets may be contained in complex or sophisticated investment instruments or tied up in a family-owned business, which may create difficult valuation and property division issues. 

Chicken or egg?

Child custody is one those topics about which there is no shortage of opinions. Recently, there has been a suggestion that shared custody should be the norm in most divorces. The governor of Maryland has even created a Commission on Child Custody Decision Making, which is studying the issue.

There is much evidence to suggest that children do better with joint custody. The evidence certainly suggests that single parent children do not do as well. Nevertheless, this begs the question. Do the children do better because their parents get along and cooperate, which is why they joint custody is an available option? 

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