February 2010 Archives

February 22, 2010

Rehablitative Alimony, An Opportunity To Become Self Supporting

Maryland divorce attorneys practicing in high income regions such as Howard County, Anne Arundel County and Baltimore County know that when things go wrong, a couple who could afford the luxury of a "stay at home mom" may find themselves in battle over alimony. In a prior posting, I have discussed issues relating to indefinite alimony. However, Maryland law enacted in 1980 adopted the concept of rehabilitative alimony that is intended to give the dependent spouse an opportunity to become economically self supporting.

If a spouse is unable to support her or himself and if the other spouse is able to pay, the court may award alimony. In deciding whether to make an award as well as the amount and the duration of alimony, the court will consider twelve statutory factors. These include the ability of the party requesting alimony to be wholly or partly self supporting, the time necessary to become self supporting, the standard of living during the divorce, duration of the marriage, contributions (both monetary and nonmonetary) of each party to the well being of the family, circumstances that contributed to the break up, age of each party, physical and mental condition of each party, the ability of the party from whom alimony is sought to meet both his or her needs and the other party's, and the financial needs and resources of each party. If the award is rehabilitative, it will end on a date set by the court.

Unless the parties have entered into an agreement that makes alimony non-modifiable, the court may extend the time during which alimony is paid if circumstances arise that would lead to a harsh and inequitable result without an extension. However, the petition for an extension must be filed during the original period. The amount of alimony may also be modified "as circumstances and justice may required"

February 14, 2010

Enforcing Custody and Visitation Orders Using Contempt Powers

In a previous post, I have provided an overview of custody and visitation. As a Maryland Custody Lawyer I'd like to provide some information about how disputes over willful denial of visitation can be resolved. One approach is filing a motion for contempt of court. Civil contempt is a process by which private rights such as visitation can enforced. It utilizes the power of the court to incarcerate as a leverage to gain compliance with a court order. Howard County, Baltimore County and Anne Arundel County are a few of the Maryland counties that employ full time Masters for Domestic Relations. This posting will outline the contempt process in counties with full or part time Masters.

The civil contempt process can be used to gain compliance from either the custodial parent or the non-custodial parent. However for sake of this discussion I will assume that a custodial parent is allegedly violating a non custodial parents visitation rights.

The process is initiated by a petition by the non custodial parent asking that the custodial parent be held in contempt. Unless the petition is frivolous on its face, the judge will issue a show cause order. The contents of this order are prescribed by Rule 15-206 . A summons, order and petition are served on the custodial parent who is commanded to come to court and defend against the claim for contempt.

The custodial parent is given an opportunity to file a written response and to appear at an evidentiary hearing on the allegations. At the hearing both parties will be given an opportunity to present evidence and arguments. Following the hearing the Master will prepare in writing recommendations which shall include his findings. He will also include a proposed order. Either party may file exceptions to the Master's findings and recommendations. The dispute then goes to a judge who must make an independent decision giving substantial deference to the Master's findings of fact. If an order is entered, there must be an opportunity for the custodial parent to purge the contempt. In other words, the custodial parent will be given a direct order by the court. If the custodial parent complies the threat of incarceration is lifted.