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Annapolis Divorce Law Blog

Servicemembers face unequal fight in custody battles

Last month we discussed the plight of a U.S. Navy sailor, who while deployed, was almost held in contempt by a Michigan state family court. The sailor was embroiled in a custody case with his ex-wife. She lives in Michigan, while he and his current wife and daughter from his first marriage live in Washington State when he is not deployed on his submarine.

His daughter was the subject of the child custody hearing. His ex-wife had lost custody of the girl in 2010 when she was removed from her home by Michigan Child Protective Services and was now attempting to modify her loss of custody. The judge misunderstood why the father had failed to appear at the hearing and the judge felt she had no choice but to hold him in contempt of court.

Don't forget the retirement account in your divorce settlement

Married couples generally don't expect to have to one day divide their shared property in a divorce settlement, but this can be a primary and particularly complicated aspect of ending a marriage. Property division in Maryland is based on the principle of equitable distribution. That means marital assets and debts will be divided in a fair and not necessarily equal manner.

To protect your financial stability now and in the future, it is important to know what assets to which you are entitled, and retirement accounts are often overlooked. Some husbands and wives tell their soon-to-be ex-spouses that the retirement account can't be divided in a divorce settlement. "The money came out of my paycheck," he or she might say, "so the funds belong solely to me." Not so, however.

Study: Children of same-sex parents outrank their peers in health

One of the most discussed topics in the arena of family law these days is same-sex marriage. Even though unions for same-sex couples are legal in the state of Maryland, it is still an issue that is playing out on the national stage.

Children often become the focus of discussions surrounding LGBT marital and parental rights. Namely, some wonder how having two parents of the same sex will impact overall health, social adjustment and family strength. Interestingly enough, a recent released study found that children raised by two people of the same sex performed better than their peers on certain criteria, including general health and family cohesion.

Sailor's child custody hearing stayed until October by SCRA

Last week, we discussed a U.S. Navy sailor who was ordered by a Michigan judge to appear at a custody hearing. The difficulty was that he was currently serving on, oddly enough, the U.S.S. Michigan, a Navy submarine that was in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

His attorney claimed she had informed the court of the reason for his unavailability, and that the hearing should be continued pursuant to the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). SCRA provides protection to active duty servicermemebers, allowing them relief from court hearings during a military divorce or other proceedings when they are overseas or otherwise unavailable to appear.

Sailor facing family court contempt while serving in Pacific

In a somewhat puzzling case, a judge in Michigan has stated she will charge a U.S. Navy sailor with contempt of court for failing to appear at a child custody hearing for his daughter on Monday, despite of his being on a submarine stationed in the Pacific Ocean.

This is puzzling, because this case, based on a reading of the news story, appears to be a situation that would be covered by the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). This law was created to prevent hardship to military servicemembers who are serving overseas, and are then subjected to a state child custody proceeding, or other legal actions, where it would be impossible for them to appear.

Maybe they should have a course for married couples, too

Many states have tried to come up with ways of inhibiting couples from divorcing. Maryland, for instance, requires that a couple live apart for one year prior to being the process of ending their marriage. Oklahoma just enacted a law that will force all couples who want to divorce to first take a course, which will provide them with information on the various family relate services.

The goal, according to the legislator who sponsored the law, is to reduce the cost "broken" families place on the state's "social services, the prison population and the school system." Note the use of the pejorative, broken. While a divorce does separate the parents and "break" a unitary home in two, the term is loaded. We generally want to fix things that are broken.

A move away after a divorce is complex

During a divorce, everything is so emotional. You may decide that the best way of dealing with everything is simply packing up and leaving Maryland. You want a fresh start, and leaving seems to free you of so many problems and reminders of your marriage that has now ended.

If you have children, this calculation becomes significantly more complex. Even if you believe you have better opportunities somewhere else, there are many, many moving parts to this operation, and you need to consider very carefully how they will all come together.

There is the matter of your child custody agreement. If your final divorce settlement has been entered, you can no longer just move away. You will likely need the agreement of your former spouse, and depending on the terms of your agreement, you may need the approval of the court.

Maryland court: digital relationship is not the same as physical

We recently wrote about social media and divorce. Researchers have determined that there is a correlation between the use of social media and the rate of divorce. Married individuals are learning quickly that what they post might be used against them by their divorcing spouse.

In a recent case, a wife used a digital relationship with her husband to argue that they did not meet the requirements to even file for divorce in Maryland. In this case, the husband had chosen to file on the grounds that the couple had been separated for at least 12 months straight.

Study: Facebook users, divorce rate in states could be correlated

In this technological age, the role of social media and internet usage plays a crucial role in divorce proceedings. These factors can even spark a divorce, given the right circumstances. For example, a spouse going through a divorce could use his or her partner's Facebook activity against them. The photos they post, the statuses they make and the locations tags they use can establish a timeline for something sinister, such as an affair.

All of the information contained on social media sites can be used by splitting spouses in a divorce. The evidence contained on those profiles could be presented in court, and they could be used to substantiate a claim that one spouse is unfit for parenting, or that they should pay more in alimony or spousal support.

Same-sex couples at risk with child custody issues

Child custody is always complex, and when couples cannot agree, a family court judge here in Maryland has to make a decision as to what is in the best interests of the child. For same-sex couples in Maryland, they have the reassurance that they will be treated in the same manner as heterosexual couples when it comes to child custody issues.

But a case from Pennsylvania points to the problems and difficulties faced by same-sex couples with children in states where same-sex marriage is not recognized and a non-biological parent is viewed by the law as a third-party to the child. 

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