Pasternak & Fidis Reporter

October 18, 2017

Changes to Maryland Law Increase Ease, Efficiency, and Consistency in Family Law

The Maryland General Assembly recently took several actions impacting domestic relations that will increase ease, efficiency, and consistency for those navigating the family court system.

Domestic Violence Orders Admissible in Maryland Divorce Suits

Protective orders (a form of domestic violence order) are designed to end and prevent abuse between family or household members.  Current or former spouses, people who have lived together in an intimate relationship for at least 90 days during the past year, people who have been in a sexual relationship within the past year, people who share children together, people who are in a caretaker-vulnerable adult relationship, and family members can file for a protective order 24 hours a day in Maryland.  In a protective order, a judge can order the abuser to: stop the abuse, stay away from and cease contact with the victim, leave a shared home, grant temporary custody of children shared with the abuser, and award temporary possession of the victim’s pets.

As of October 1, parties seeking a divorce in Maryland will be able to use a court-issued domestic violence order as evidence in their cases.  Previously, domestic violence orders were not admissible in divorce cases because “there was concern that protective orders would be used as grounds for divorce,” said Delegate Kathleen Dumais (D-Montgomery), who sponsored the bill.  The prohibition on using a domestic violence order as evidence in divorce cases has now been repealed, lifting an artificial veil from the court’s ability to conduct a full review of the case before it.  Repeal will streamline the divorce process as a domestic violence order can be particularly useful in proving the date the parties separated.  In addition, allowing a domestic violence order into evidence will protect domestic violence victims from having to re-litigate an abuse claim because the domestic violence order itself will help prove the conduct.

 Time for Name Change Upon Divorce Extended

The General Assembly has also made it easier to obtain a name change after divorce.  Previously, a party seeking to change his or her name back to a former name upon divorce had to request that the court order the name change in the final judgment of absolute divorce.  Now, parties will have 18 months after divorce to decide, and to file the name change request in the divorce file without going through a separate, formal name change process.

 “Health Insurance” Defined for Child Support Obligation

Finally, the legislature defined “health insurance” for the purposes of calculating a child support obligation.  Previously, the term went undefined, leaving various jurisdictions around the state to determine for themselves what constituted health insurance.  The General Assembly has now defined health insurance to include medical, dental, and vision insurance and prescription drug coverage.  This update will provide statewide consistency in determining child support under the child support guidelines.


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October 17, 2017

“To my descendants, per stirpes…” (or… How do we pass the Packers’ tickets to our grandkids?)

Years ago, I described to a close friend (let’s call her Cathy) the difference between a division among descendants per stirpes and a division among the same descendants per capita at each generation.  In the midst of my explanation, Cathy suddenly exclaimed, “Oh!  You mean like the Packers’ tickets?”  This was a Eureka! moment; yes, it’s exactly like the Packers’ tickets.

One very important lesson I learned attending college in Wisconsin is that Packers’ tickets are a sacred thing.  The population of Green Bay is 105,000.  After recent expansions, Lambeau Field now seats 81,435, but season tickets are still very hard to come by.  For many, the surest way to get them is to inherit them.

Back in the days of Bart Starr and Vince… MORE >

June 20, 2017

Premarital Agreements and the Migratory Couple

A premarital agreement is a contract between persons intending to marry.  It determines spousal rights when the marriage ends by death or dissolution.  All states enforce properly made premarital agreements.  However, laws governing validity vary among the states.  What if a couple signs a premarital agreement in Virginia and later moves to Maryland?  Will a Maryland court enforce the agreement even though Maryland law of validity imposes a higher standard than Virginia law?

Contract law permits the premarital agreement to choose the law that will govern a dispute about validity of the agreement or enforceability of a specific provision even when the dispute must be resolved in another state’s courts.  Can the couple rest easy, knowing the law chosen in the contract—Virginia law in the… MORE >

May 26, 2017

On your way to the altar . . ., don’t forget to get married!

The trend in recent years has been toward greater creativity in marriage ceremonies, including locations, vows, and officiants. In personalizing the ceremony, it is important to keep in mind that the legal requirements for marriage are set forth in the laws of each jurisdiction, both as to the qualifications for a person to marry and the legal steps necessary to ensure that the marriage is valid.

Historically, marriage has been subject to the control of state legislatures (in the District of Columbia, the City Council). Statutes set forth the requirements for who is allowed to marry, the required procedure to marry, and the legal effects of marriage.  Spouses who marry in religious or other ceremonies that do not comply with the statutory requirements may be… MORE >

May 25, 2017

Form I-864, the Sponsored-Immigrant Spouse and Death and Divorce

In the modern world it is increasingly common for an American citizen to marry a foreign national. In some situations, the United States citizen spouse or permanent resident may sponsor the other for permanent resident status (often referred to as a “green card” for the color that the physical document was at one time).  The decision to do so can have lasting consequences in the event the marriage ends.

A sponsoring spouse must fill out an Affidavit of Support under Section 213A of the Immigration and Naturalization Act – commonly referred to as a Form I-864. A Form I-864 is a contract between the sponsor and the United States government that requires the sponsor to support the immigrant if the need arises.  Spouses commonly sign… MORE >

May 24, 2017

How Divorce Affects Your Estate Planning Documents

After a divorce, the last thing on most people’s minds is contacting their estate planning attorney. However, if you fail to revise your estate planning documents after your divorce, your former spouse might still be a beneficiary of your estate and may continue to be a fiduciary under your will, revocable trust, power of attorney, or advance health care directive. Below is a table that summarizes how divorce affects these documents under D.C., Maryland, and Virginia law.

  D.C. Maryland Virginia Wills Divorce and final property settlement revokes the entire will. If the testator does not execute a new will, or republish his or her old will, he or she will die intestate. Divorce revokes all provisions of a will relating to the former spouse,… MORE >