The Marital Home

If the parties cannot agree on a division of property, the courts in Maryland can only order a jointly owned house to be sold and the proceeds divided equally. The court can grant up to three years use and possession by the children and custodial parent, but after that the house must be sold. By contrast, the DC courts can transfer real property from one spouse to another. A bill introduced into the Maryland Legislature, HB 452, would allow the Maryland courts to transfer title to jointly owned real property.

Virtual Visitation

Virtual visitation is visitation by camera over the Internet. Parents can agree to this in their parenting agreement or just do it without an agreement when they live far apart. If you are a long-distance dad and can afford it, buy your kids a computer and set this up. Only Utah has a statute providing for virtual visitation to be ordered by the court but other states are considering it, Virginia among them. In Maryland, DC and Virginia there is no statute regarding virtual visitation, but the court has power to order it if you ask for it.

Contributions to the Family

I have a letter from a lawyer on the other side in a divorce where she represents the mother, who is a doctor, and I represent the father, a teacher. She says that because the mother has been the primary breadwinner in the family, she should get two thirds of the assets and my client should get one third. I am writing back to ask what she would say if the situation was reversed. If the father was the doctor and the mother was the teacher, would the father then be entitled to two thirds? I don’t think so. The law says you have to consider both marital and non-marital contributions to the family.

What Makes a Marriage Work?

The more I practice divorce law for a living the more I think the most important element in a good marriage is good luck — that is finding the right person. I always say to my wife, if she ever thinks about divorcing me, just spend a day in my office and she will change her mind. It seems that divorce lawyers learn how to make a marriage work by seeing what doesn’t work. Chuck Williams gives more tips from divorce lawyers on how to make your marriage work in this Ledger-Enquirer article called Sticking Together.

Exit Strategy

If you are contemplating divorce instead of Valentine’s Day, Michelle Singletary lists some action items for your exit strategy in her Washington Post article today:

1. Make copies of joint tax returns. You can order computer transcripts for free from the IRS with form 4506-T or call 800-829-1040. Or you can get copies of the returns and W-2’s for $39 per return by filing form 4506.

2. Order your credit reports from Experian, TransUnion and Equifax.

3. Close joint accounts or ask your credit card company to convert them to individual accounts.

4. Consider selling the house.

5. Remember you may still be liable for debt to the creditor even if the divorce decree makes your spouse responsible for payment.

6. Do not assume that you will automatically get 50% of the assets. Maryland, Viriginia and DC are equitable distribution states. Equitable means fair not equal.