Uncontested divorces in Maryland are heard by a Family Law Master.  The Plaintiff needs to appear in court to testify.  The Defendant need only appear if it is what he or she wants to do.  Here’s a checklist of things you need for an uncontested divorce hearing:

  • Report of Absolute Divorce or Annulment of Marriage (the Blue Form)
  • Separation Agreement
  • A Copy of Your Marriage Certificate
  • Child Support Guidelines Worksheet
  • Corroborating Witness and Witness Information Form
  • Submission to Judgment

CHAPTER ONE – IT TAKES SO LITTLE TO DO SO MUCH

A friend of mine tells this story about one night when he was working as an assistant manager at a health club.  A young woman came in with a little girl.  She looked harried, probably from working all day, and now she was looking forward to a swim with her daughter.

“I’m sorry, ma’am , the manager said, “but the pool closes at 7:00 pm.”

“Oh,” said the woman, dejectedly, and turned to go.  Ordinarily, that would have been the end of it.  The result would be an unhappy customer.

But, as the mother was walking away, the manager said “Ma’am?”  As she turned, he said to her, “You have a beautiful little girl.”

She lit up with a great big smile and you could almost see the stress of the day melting from her as she squared her shoulders, lifted her head and stood up straight.  An unhappy customer was turned into a happy customer.

It takes so little to do so much.

We are all starved for recognition, acknowledgment and love.  So take two minutes and buy some flowers, pick up the clothes on the floor, empty the dishwasher or fill up your spouse’s car without telling them.  You get the idea.  Keeping Rule No. 1 in mind will reap large dividends for only a little effort.

Here’s a “divorce quote” from Oscar Wilde.

“Bigamy is having one wife/husband too many. Monogamy is the same.” –Oscar Wilde

THYDEN GROSS AND CALLAHAN LLP is pleased to announce that partners, James J. Gross, Michael F. Callahan and Lois R. Finklestein, have been selected as Maryland Super Lawyers and District of Columbia Super Lawyers for 2008.

The Super Lawyers selection process includes peer nominations, a blue ribbon panel review and independent research.

Only five percent of attorneys are selected each year.

How does a one time capital gain factor in to child support? Is a one time capital gain income for child support? Let me tell you a little story.

I was just ordering a cuppa joe and a muffin at the Starbucks next to the courthouse when I bumped into Ronnie, a lawyer friend of mine, who was looking kind of rumpled.

“Ronnie,” I said cheerfully, “you look like you are not having such a great day, pal.”

“Yeah, I just lost a hearing in front of Judge Wilde. I was trying to get child support increased for my client. The house just sold, under the divorce decree, and I was arguing that increased the ex-husband’s income by $100,000, the amount of his capital gains. Judge Wilde denied my motion.”

“I just can’t understand it,” said Ronnie. “The Maryland Code says capital gains are included in income. Look, I wrote it on my legal pad. FAMILY LAW § 12-202(c)(4) states:

Based on the circumstances of the case, the court may consider the following items as actual income: . . .; (ii) capital gains.”

“He mentioned some case named Tanis v. Crocker or something like that.”

“Well,” I said. “I’ve got my laptop here, and this fine establishment has free WiFi, so let’s look it up.”

In a few seconds, we were reading on Lexis about the dispute between Margaret Tanis and Michael Crocker over child support. The couple married in 1975, had two children together, and divorced in 1988. They agreed on $750 a month in child support. In 1994 Ms. Tanis decided to ask for an increase in child support, arguing among other things, that the court should include the gain from the sale of his house, about $60,000, in Mr. Crocker’s income.

Although the trial court increased child support to $1,032.10, it did not calculate or include the capital gains. Mrs. Tanis was unhappy with the result and appealed.

The Maryland Court of Special Appeals reversed the trial judge and sent the case back to him. The Court said:

There is no basis in the record for the trial court’s stated reason supporting its decision to exclude the capital gain appellee realized from his actual income. Hence, that decision was clearly wrong and an abuse of discretion….the court should reconsider computation of child support and whether to award attorney’s fees to appellant; it should determine the amount of capital gain appellee realized from the sale of the house; and, in accord with MD. CODE ANN., FAM. LAW § 12-202(c)(4), it should determine whether, “based on the circumstances of the case,” that capital gain should be included as a part of appellee’s actual income. Tanis v. Crocker, 110 Md. App. 559 (Md. Ct. Spec. App. 1996).

“So,” I said to Ronnie. “It looks like you had the right idea to try to include a one time capital gain to increase child support. But the judge has discretion based on the circumstances of the case as long as he decides whether or not to include a one time capital gain. And my guess is that most judges won’t include the house sale that is part of the divorce and a result of the divorce decree.”

Ronnie thought about this for a second, and then said, “The thing I like about being a divorce lawyer, is that you learn something new every day. Can I have some of that muffin?”

Stay at home mom

My wife and I had our annual argument last night about who has the harder job. I am a high pressure lawyer and she is a stay at home mom. I thought I would win hands down.

She came armed with some statistics, however. According to the mom pay wizard calculator at Salary.Com, the typical stay at home mom  works 40 hours at base pay and 52 hours overtime for a total of 92 hours a week.

Mothers perform ten jobs at home, namely:

  • cook
  • housekeeper
  • day care center teacher
  • laundry machine operator
  • van driver
  • facilities manager
  • janitor
  • computer operator
  • chief executive officer
  • psychologist

Salary.Com also says it would take $138,095 a year to buy those services if she did not perform them. So who has the harder job in your marriage? Leave a comment.

James J. Gross and Lois R. Finkelstein, of the law firm of Thyden Gross & Callahan in Chevy Chase, Maryland, have been selected as District of Columbia Super Lawyers for 2007. They are listed among the top 5% of lawyers in the D.C. area practicing family law as a result of a survey by Law & Politics. Gross and Finkelstein were also selected as Maryland Super Lawyers previously this year.

I can never remember which financial statement I have to file and when – the nine page long form at Rule 9-203(a), the one page short form at Rule 9-203(b) or none at all. Fortunately, the answer is provided in Maryland Rule 9-203:

(e) Financial statement – Spousal support. If spousal support is claimed by a party and either party alleges that no agreement regarding support exists, each party shall file a current financial statement in substantially the form set forth in Rule 9-203 (a). The statement shall be filed with the party’s pleading making or responding to the claim. If the claim or the denial of an agreement is made in an answer, the other party shall file a financial statement within 15 days after service of the answer.

(f) Financial statement – Child support.– If establishment or modification of child support is claimed by a party, each party shall file a current financial statement under affidavit. The statement shall be filed with the party’s pleading making or responding to the claim. If the establishment or modification of child support in accordance with the guidelines set forth in Code, Family Law Article, §§ 12-201 – 12-204 is the only support issue in the action and no party claims an amount of support outside of the guidelines, the required financial statement shall be in substantially the form set forth in Rule 9-203 (b). Otherwise, the statement shall be in substantially the form set forth in Rule 9-203 (a).

So if you are asking for alimony, file the long form with your complaint or within 15 days of filing your answer.

If you only want guidelines child support, file the short form with your complaint or answer. But if you want child support in excess of the guidelines, file the long form with the complaint or answer. It’s all in Maryland rule 9-203.

Walk Away Wife Syndrome

After you have been a divorce lawyer for as long as I have, 30 years or so, you begin to see some patterns in your cases. One is the Walk Away Wife Syndrome.

There will be about a million divorces this year. And the majority of them will be filed by women.

Men and women handle their relationships differently. A woman monitors the relationship, and if she becomes concerned about it, she tries to fix it. To a man, this may seem like complaining. A man might react to it by withdrawing. Neither party’s needs are met.

The woman may suppress her feelings, in hopes that the man will change. Finally, the wife believes she has only one choice for happiness which is separation and divorce. This is called the Walk Away Wife Syndrome.

The man is often caught unaware by this, and even if he tries to change now, it is too late.

James. J Gross is the co-author of the e-book How to File For Divorce in Maryland, available for download today on DivorceNet.Com for $19.95.

He is also the author or co-author of the following books which are available at Amazon.com:

  • Fathers’ Rights: The Best Interest of Your Child Includes You
  • File for Divorce in Maryland, Virginia and Washington DC
  • Money and Divorce

He has been selected by Washingtonian Magazine and Maryland Superlawyers as one of the region’s top divorce lawyers.

Mr. Gross is a practicing partner in the Chevy Chase, Maryland law firm Thyden Gross and Callahan. He is the author of the blogs Maryland Divorce Legal Crier, The Daily Answer Desk, and Not Just Every Other Weekend and the e-mail newsletter In the Courts.

Mr. Gross is a seasoned and experienced divorce lawyer and eminently qualified to answer your questions, provide legal assistance, and to speak with authority on divorce, child custody issues, child support, property distribution, alimony, and family law topics.

We know that you will enjoy reading his insightful commentary and thoughtful blog postings.