Recently in Enforcement of Marital Property And Attorney Fees Awards Category

March 31, 2010

Guidance On Enforcing Marital Awards

A dispute between the Baltimore County Orphans Court and decedent's former wife was recently resolved by Maryland's highest court. The ruling by the Court of Appeal's highlights for Maryland Divorce Lawyers and their clients, a point made in one of my prior postings. Whenever, a party obtains an award under the marital property law incident to a divorce, it should be reduced to a judgment and perfected as a lien in any county where the debtor's real property is located. This should be done as soon as possible. In Elder vs.Smith, the former wife of Colonel Percy Elder received a marital award of $31,500 when the parties were divorced in 2002 following 26 years of marriage. Unfortunately the former Mrs. Elder waited until after the Colonel's death in 2005 to obtain a court order reducing the award to a judgment. She used that 2005 order to attempt to bloc the sale of a home in Anne Arundel County, the sole asset of the Colonel's estate and to claim the proceeds of that sale. The Orphan's Court that had ordered the sale issued an order against Ms. Elder to remove her lien. Over two

If Ms Beale had obtained an order reducing her award to a judgment and properly indexed and recorded in the land records of Anne Arundel County, in timely manner, it would have constituted a lien against the Colonel's real estate. Her claim would have trumped his other creditors. The Court ruled that after the Colonel died, no such lien could be established. Lacking the status of a lien holder, she was lumped in with the other creditors some of which may have had precedent over her. Examples of prior claims include funeral expenses, compensation to the personal representative, taxes and medical. The Court of Appeals apparently granted certiorari because there is a split of authority amongst the various states. This case resolves the issue in Maryland bringing it in line with the majority of states.

March 23, 2010

Garnishment of Federal Wages to Enforce of Marital Property and Attorney Fees Awards

In Howard County, Anne Arundel County, Montgomery County and Baltimore County, Maryland Divorce Lawyers encounter many issues relating to federal employment. How to garnish federal wages to collect a debt owed or payments due on account of child support, alimony and other judgments is one such issue. Child support and alimony can also be enforced by using the contempt of court powers. (For information on enforcement using the court's contempt powers in a different context, interested readers should refer to my prior posting on this subject). However garnishment may be the only tool available for collection for other debts such as an award under the marital property law or for attorney's fees. This posting will focus on the use of garnishment for this purpose. It should come as no surprise that the enforcement process is more onerous when the employer is the Federal Government. .

The writ of garnishment is issued by the clerk of the Circuit Court. It orders the employer to withhold wages subject to state and federal limitations on the amount that can be taken out of someone's paycheck. Serving this writ on the employer is ordinarily sufficient. However the Federal Government additionally mandates the service of an application for commercial garnishment.

Federal Law requires sufficient information to enable employing agencies to identify the employee/obligor. Federal Agencies may refuse to process the document without a social security number on the writ and application. Return phone number and fax number should be included. Service of the writ and application must be made on the agent designated by the employing agency. This can be found in 5 CFR parts 581 and 582. Service must be made by registered or certified mail return receipt requested. However, some agencies are accepting service by fax.

Members of active duty military are not subject to garnishment using this procedure. However, their pay can be attached using the military involuntary allotment process using form DD 2653