Guest Post by Brandon Bernstein

As you begin the process of looking for divorce lawyers in Maryland, there’s surely already a great deal on your mind. Therefore, it’s especially important that you get started on the right foot.

With the following tips, you’ll learn a little bit about how to choose a divorce lawyer in Maryland, and how to ensure that you get on the same page and work with that lawyer to protect your best interests as much as possible.

Choose The Right Type of Attorney: Different divorce lawyers in Maryland may specialize in different approaches to the overall process.  What type of resolution are you seeking, and in which fashion? While many family law attorneys in Maryland offer both mediation and litigation services, others specialize in just one or the other and may or may not be the best fit for your specific needs or preferences.

Avoid Shopping Around Too Much: A popular trend these days is to have a free divorce consultation with as many attorneys as you can, and therefore prevent your ex from hiring those same attorneys and firms. While that’s certainly one approach, it may benefit you to simply find the right attorney, one whom you are comfortable with and who can deliver you the results you’re looking for, and get started with preparations as quickly as possible.

Never Sign Any Agreements Without Representation: What will that quick and easy separation agreement your spouse drafted up really hurt, right? Not so fast. Do not sign any types of agreements, or try to draw one up, on your own, without qualified divorce lawyers in Maryland. You may be setting yourself up for failure, and the wrong type of language, or the exclusion of an important clause, can come back to haunt you.

Understand the Process: Be sure that your attorney is upfront and direct with you about what to expect during the process. This includes everything from timelines to fees to steps along the way, how to prepare, and so forth. When you understand what to expect, you’ll be more at ease along the way.

Don’t Conceal Information: If there’s one person in the world you need to be honest and forthcoming with right now, it’s your divorce lawyer. Don’t conceal any information which is or potentially could be relevant to your case. It only muddies the picture and makes it more difficult for your attorney to protect you.

Trust: When searching for family law attorneys in Maryland, find somebody you can really trust and depend upon. Be sure that the divorce lawyer in Maryland that you choose is honest and dependable.

With the above tips, hopefully you’ll be able to have an easier time searching for and choosing between divorce lawyers in Maryland. If you’re facing an impending separation and divorce, don’t hesitate to take action as swiftly as possible.

The Law Offices of Brandon Bernstein is located in Bethesda, Maryland, and helps clients with numerous family law issues, as well as business and civil litigation, bankruptcy and estate planning. Visit for more information.

Father’s Rights Under “Duress”

Danny Carr, Counselor and Attorney at Law, punched the button on his phone this morning to listen to messages left last night on his voice-mail.

“I need to hire you for a custody case.  This is Ken Woodard. Call me at 301-555-5555.”

Carr hit redial, and when someone answered, he said,  “Mr. Woodard, this is Danny Carr, returning your call.”

“I was forced to give up custody and visitation by my wife’s attorney by duress,” said Woodard.

“Did he hold a gun to your head? “

“No, but he told me I would lose if I didn’t agree.”

“That’s not duress.”

“OK, well then I found out I still have to pay child support.”

“Right.  Parents are obligated to support their children.”

“But if I don’t have custody or visitation, haven’t my parental rights been terminated?”

“No.  You are still the children’s father.”

“My wife accused me of neglecting and abusing the kids.  Can I file a petition to terminate my parental rights on the basis of her saying I’m an unfit parent?”

“No.  You can’t file a complaint against yourself to terminate your own parental rights.”

“That doesn’t sound right.”

“I have to go now, Mr. Woodard.  Good luck with your case.”

“I’ve worked so long and so hard to be a successful businessman and I’ve made $3 million dollars. Now you’re telling me she gets half?” said Bill to his divorce lawyer, Elliot, in the hushed suite of offices. Elliot had table lamps that gave a calming glow because he hated the overhead florescent lights.

“Maryland is an equitable property state,” said Elliot. “That means the judge can do what he or she thinks is reasonable, taking into account certain factors. It doesn’t necessarily mean an equal division of property, but in most cases, it will be equal.”

“I want you to see to it that she doesn’t get half. It’s my property. All I want is what’s fair and just.”

“Then your expectations are too high and I can’t meet them. We don’t sell fairness here. There are laws and cases that have been tried before your case and the court must follow them.”

“So what do you sell here?” asked Bill.

“Our time, advice and experience. If you want a clear, honest division of property that is more or less equal, we can help you. But if you want more than that, then we cannot help you. Divorce is not fair.”

Should gender play a role in deciding to hire a divorce attorney?  If you are a woman, do you want a male or female attorney and vice versa?  Does it make a difference if the judge in your case is male or female?

I like to have both in my law firm because I do believe men and women think differently.  As one women lawyer told me, men think like a ladder, women think like a wheel.  When you get different perspectives on problems, that can lead to better  solutions.

Today, women make up 50% of law school classes.  There were only five women in my law school class of 200.  Of those five, one became the chief judge of the highest court in the state and another became secretary of the state.

I remember a female attorney and I were in a meeting with a prospective female client once.  I am usually pretty laid back.  I try not to make promises I can’t keep.  I prefer to underpromise and overperform.  That way I can be the hero if the case happens to go my way.  The women attorney, however, was full of energy.  She was shocked that the woman’s husband treated her badly and she promised to hit him where it hurts (his wallet).  Naturally, after the meeting, the client said, “I want her to be my lawyer.”

To answer my first question, I think it is more important to get a good lawyer than a lawyer of a specific gender.  By good lawyer, I mean one who can attack their work for your case, meet deadlines, and return your calls.  Some good lawyers are men and some are women.

“What should I bring to our first meeting?” the caller said.

I said, “Bring yourself and what’s inside your head.”

At the initial conference, I usually go through a list of questions to obtain data about the parties and their children, date of marriage, date and circumstances of separation, financial information and objectives.  I also answer questions, which are usually about the process and legal fees.  The whole thing takes about an hour.

In case you want to bring some papers with you, attorney Judith H. Blumeno has compiled the following list:

  • Marriage certificate
  • Tax returns
  • Pay stubs
  • Car loans
  • Mortgage information
  • Prenuptial agreements
  • Bank account statements
  • Statements for credit card accounts
  • Deeds

We can complete the first meeting without these documents.   So don’t feel like you have to find all or any of them before you make the appointment!

Spare me the shadow lawyer.  That’s the friend of my client who works in a big securities firm downtown and has lunch with him every week.  They discuss his divorce that I am handling.

The shadow lawyer has all the answers and nothing I do is right.  He is the Monday morning quarterback who has never set foot in a courthouse.  He goads my client who then insists I take actions that don’t help his case.

This lawyer is not on the field of play.  He does not know divorce law.  He is not trying the case and he is not facing the judge.  Talk is cheap and it is easy to give advice on someone else’s case when they are doing the work and you are having lunch.  I am dealing with the shadow lawyer indirectly through my client.  This is a very poor way to run a lawsuit.

The case is over.  My client has a good result.  He does not appreciate or even know that he has dodged a bullet.  It could have been much worse.  I present my final bill.  The shadow lawyer decides that I have overcharged on an easy case and he could have achieved much more for less.  I wonder to myself, if the shadow lawyer is so good, why didn’t my client hire him instead of me?

I like authors like John LeCarre who let you figure out what happened instead of telling you what happened.  It is even more delicious when it takes a while to figure it out.  My twelve year old had to tell me what the clue was about Robin in the Dark Knight Batman movie.  I missed it entirely.

I like to think judges are the same as I am.  They don’t want to be told what to think in a pleading or an argument.  They want to form their own opinions.  So when I write a pleading, I try to lead, but not push, the judge to the conclusion I want.

I read that Hemingway was sparse with adjectives.  Yesterday I reviewed a divorce pleading that said our client married her spouse in perfectly good fath.  I deleted “perfectly”.  What is the difference between marrying in good faith and perfectly good faith?

Sometimes there is a reason for an adjective in the law.  Indefinite alimony can be granted in Maryland when the spouses have “unconscionably” disparate incomes.  I understand that means there has to be a big difference, not just a little difference.

Some adjectives are harder to grasp.  Cases can be reversed on appeal when the trial judge is “clearly” erroneous.  Why can’t the judge be reversed just for making an error?  If the error is not clear, does that mean the appeals court can’t tell if an error has been made or not?

So I say write with as few adjectives as possible and let the judge decide on his or her own whether something is patently false, obviously wrong, or woefully inadequate.

Guest Article by Myburgh Law P.C.

During an uncontested New York divorce, many couples feel the understandable desire to speed things along as quickly as possible. It’s common to fall into the trap of thinking that, because the dissolution of the marriage is quick and uncontested, they will not need the services of a lawyer. While it is true that an uncontested marital dissolution will enable both parties to go their separate ways much more quickly, there are both long term and short term reasons why hiring a qualified New York attorney is important even in an uncontested divorce.

As part of the process, both parties will have to come to a marital settlement agreement, also known as a stipulation of settlement. If there are children involved, a parenting plan has to be agreed upon as well. Thus, a mutual agreement must be reached on terms such as child custody, where the child will reside, child support, spousal support, division of debt and division of assets. Marital settlement agreements and parenting plans can quickly become confusing to someone who does not have training in family law. A lawyer with experience in family law will ensure that their client understands the terms they are agreeing to and will work to make sure that their client’s wishes are fairly represented in the final agreement.

While some people may feel that they are able to represent their own needs in an uncontested situation, it is easy to underestimate the emotional toll that the dissolution of the marriage can have. Increased levels of stress and frustration often occur during the negotiation process. While these reactions are to be expected, they sometimes prevent individuals from making decisions which are best for the long term. A momentary rash desire to just have the process be over can result in life-long consequences when it comes to assets such as retirement savings, pensions, investments, houses, and 401ks. An attorney can look after these interests for their client without the added emotional turmoil often felt by the client.

Additionally, not all uncontested divorces remain that way through the entire legal process. Unfortunately, some parties will begin negotiations and realize that they simply did not agree on as much as they previously believed they did. Child custody arrangements are often a major point of contention between the parties, as is debt division. If the negotiations do take a turn towards contested territory, it’s good to have an attorney present to help one navigate through the much trickier legal issues surrounding this type of marital dissolution.

However, the proceedings may go just as smoothly as expected. Yet if one partner has a lawyer present, the one without legal representation may feel exposed or resentful without proper counsel. In such situations, both parties having an attorney to represent them promotes an atmosphere of equality and cooperation that is necessary for a successful negotiation.

Ultimately, a divorce is a life-altering event whether it is contested or uncontested. While the dissolving of a marriage will rarely be entirely pleasant, having the proper representation can be the deciding factor in how smoothly the process will go. Having a comparatively quick, hassle-free dissolution of marriage is very possible, and choosing to use the services of an attorney familiar with all aspects of family law is the best way to reach that goal.

As usual, the young associate attorneys were lined up at Jensen’s door with their questions as soon as he came to work in the morning.  At 64, Jensen was the law firm’s senior divorce attorney.  He kept his door open and he liked helping the less experienced lawyers learn the ropes.

“Opposing counsel sent 159 document requests,” said Paul, first in line, “and the client wants to know why I only sent 20.  Should I send another request so that I have one more than the other side?”

“That’s ridiculous,” said Jensen fiddling with the chain of his pocket watch.  “We’re practicing law here, not counting document requests.  If you used our standard requests, you have covered everything.  They are written in a concise and elegant way to ask for all documents that are necessary in a divorce case.  I’m sure that opposing counsel’s list is superfluous, duplicative, and overlapping.  Many of your responses will be that no such documents exist.”

“Isn’t opposing counsel being unethical then?” Paul asked.

“Not at all,” said Jensen.  “The discovery rules don’t put a limit on document requests like they do on interrogatories.  So lawyers are free to ask for as many as they can think of and clients, who don’t know any better, are impressed.  And once you’ve copied somebody’s 159 requests into your computer, it’s easy to do it in the next case simply by pushing a button.”

“So why don’t we do that?” Paul asked.

“Because our job is not to see who can have the most document requests, but to get the documents that we need for the case, and help our clients.  And your job is not to make more document requests, but to educate our client.”

As quantum physicists prepare to announce evidence of the Higgs Bosun (“the God particle”) tomorrow on the fourth of July, my thoughts turn to other great discoveries like gravity and the theory of relativity.

It turns out, as I read in an Intellectual Property Lawyer’s Blog recently, that you can patent an invention, which is an intentional act, but not a discovery, which is accidental.  Therefore, Newton couldn’t patent gravity and Einstein couldn’t patent relativity.  Thank goodness or we might have to pay them license fees.

Just as Einstein discovered that time is not fixed, but elastic and relative to where the observer stands, so too is lawyer time.

Lawyer time expands.  Ask any judge who grants a lawyer’s request to argue for “just five more minutes.”  When a lawyer says, “I’ll call you back in five minutes,” he means a lawyer’s five minutes, which is thirty minutes or an hour or two.  If a lawyer tells you’ll get to court immediately or on an emergency basis or expeditiously, he is usually talking about three months.

Lawyer time contracts.  If you’ve been married for thirty years and you are getting divorced, the lawyer has to compress all that into a five day trial.  And figure your spouse gets half of the five days.  At the end of the trial the lawyer gets about a half an hour to sum it up and the judge gives a decision in about five minutes.

Welcome to the strange world of lawyer time.