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Annapolis Divorce Law Blog

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? 

More states to join Maryland by allowing same-sex marriage

The U.S. Supreme Court has the ability to choose which cases it hears. With the exception of some constitutionally required original jurisdiction lawsuits between the states, it only has to hear arguments in cases that that the justices agree to hear.

It exercised that discretion this week, when it refused to hear cases from U.S. courts of appeals involving the issue of same-sex marriage bans. With difficult and controversial cases, the Court often prefers to allow cases to percolate within the federal district and appellate courts. 

Rock, hard place, child support guidelines

While there is an ongoing debate regarding child support and child custody, there seems to be little consensus as to what should be done to improve the system used in most states.

While we have all heard stories or known individuals who claim they have suffered injustice at the hands of their state's family courts and child support guidelines, it is often difficult to identify what solution would "fix" the problem.

While some fathers complain that the courts are against them and deny them equal custody for their children. This then creates large child support obligations because of the way the guidelines are tied to custody. At the same time, statistics show children in single-mother households have poverty rates double that of single-father households.  

Child custody factors in Maryland

There are few topics that can be more complex than the determination of child custody or visitation during a divorce proceeding. For a couple with children in Maryland, few issues are likely to be more important, as the decision will govern their interaction with their children and the other parent for many years if the children are young.

Maryland, like most states, uses the concept of the child's best interest and the guiding principle for this child custody determination. "Best interests" is a broad concept and because the determination is done on an individualized basis in each divorce, there is no simple, one-size-fits-all solution. 

Maryland may revoke your licenses for child support arrears

It is important to remember that the obligation that a parent supports their child arises when a child is born. This obligation attaches at birth and is not affected by whether the child's parents are married, although discussions of child support are often a significant element of a divorce proceeding.

Sadly, during a divorce, many parents will consider a child support obligation a means of punishing the other parent, and will consistently pay less than the agreed amount, make late payments or refuse to pay altogether. 

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