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Lindsay Parvis Published in Maryland State Bar Association’s February Bar Bulletin

The Maryland State Bar Association’s February Bar Bulletin featured a 2016 Family Law Legislative
Preview by Lindsay Parvis, which appears below and can also be viewed on the MSBA’s website (http://www.msba.org/Bar_Bulletin/2016/01_-_January/2016_Family_Law_Legislative_Preview.aspx):

On January 13, 2016, the Maryland General Assembly begins its 2016 legislative session. Each session, the Family and Juvenile Law Section Council's ("FJLSC") Legislative Committee actively monitors all family law and related legislation, testifies in Annapolis, meets with legislators, and educates Section members. Here is a brief preview of some anticipated family law and related bills in the coming session:

Divorce

In the recent 2015 session, the Legislature enacted a new ground for divorce - Mutual Consent. At present, the Mutual Consent ground (Fam. Law Art., §7-103(8)) is limited to couples who do not have minor children in common. While there may not be an attempt in the 2016 session to expand this new ground to all couples, such an effort is anticipated to occur at some point in the not-too-distant future. Meanwhile, §7-103(8)(ii) (2)'s reference to §8-208 regarding use and possession is an artifact of the original draft of the
bill (which did not exclude couples with minor children in common), which may result in a corrective bill in the upcoming session, or it may remain in the current version of the law until future attempts to expand the ground to include couples with minor children are undertaken.

In the meantime, the Mutual Consent ground has resulted in inconsistent procedures throughout Maryland regarding corroborating witnesses. Some jurisdictions require a third party corroborating witness, while others do not. This issue invites potential updates to two existing laws in the Family Law Article:

1) §7-101(b), which requires corroboration of grounds testimony; and,

2) §8-104, under which a separation agreement is corroboration of the ground of voluntary separation.

First, clarity is needed about whether third party corroboration is required for the Mutual Consent ground. It is also time to reexamine whether third party corroboration should be eliminated altogether. If so, this invites the question of whether the requirement of corroboration should be eliminated in all cases or just uncontested cases.

Second, with the elimination of "voluntary separation" in the 2011 session, §8-104 of the Family Law Article is no longer applicable. It is time either to eliminate it or update it to correspond to the new Mutual
Consent ground.

Lindsay Parvis testifies at the Maryland General Assembly

On February 18, 2016, Lindsay Parvis testified on behalf of the Family & Juvenile Law Section of the MSBA at a Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee Hearing in support of the following bills:

SB358: Family Law – Divorce on Grounds of Mutual Consent – Parties with Minor Children

Bill: http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/2016RS/bills/sb/sb0358F.pdf

Synopsis: Authorizing a court to decree an absolute divorce on the grounds of mutual consent if the parties have minor children, under specified circumstances; requiring a specified settlement agreement to provide for the care, custody, access, and support of minor or dependent children; requiring specified parties to attach a completed child support guidelines worksheet to a specified settlement agreement; etc.

SB359: Family Law – Divorce – Corroboration of Testimony and Filing Procedures

Bill: http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/2016RS/bills/sb/sb0359F.pdf

Synopsis: Repealing the prohibition on a court entering a decree of divorce on the uncorroborated testimony of the party seeking the divorce; requiring parties to jointly file a complaint for absolute
divorce in order to initiate proceedings for an absolute divorce on the grounds of mutual consent; and requiring the Court of Appeals, by rule, to establish a specified joint complaint form and procedures for filing specified joint complaints.

Lindsay serves as the Legislative Committee Co-Chair of the Family & Juvenile Law Section Council (FJLSC), which is the formal representative of the Family & Juvenile Law Section (Section) of the MSBA. The FJLSC and Section promote the objectives of the MSBA by improving the administration of justice in the
field of family and juvenile law and, at the same time, tries to bring together the members of the MSBA who are concerned with family and juvenile laws and in reforms and improvements in such laws through legislation or otherwise. The FJLSC is charged with the general supervision and control of the affairs of the Section and authorized to act for the Section in any way in which the Section itself could act. The Section has over 1,300 attorney members.

A New Year – a New Legislative Session!

Volume 2

Since Lindsay Parvis's February 5, 2016 legislative update, many more family bills have been introduced this session. Of note:

HB259: Family Law – Child Support – Custody and Visitation Determinations

Bill: http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/2016RS/bills/hb/hb0259F.pdf

Synopsis: Requiring the court, in any case in which the court determines child support, to also consider custody and visitation of the child; and requiring the Child Support Enforcement Administration to refer the parties to the court for purposes of considering custody and visitation of the child when the Administration establishes a child support obligation.

HB271: Child Support – Extraordinary Medical Expenses

Bill: http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/2016RS/bills/hb/hb0271F.pdf

Synopsis: Altering the definition of "extraordinary medical expenses" under the child support guidelines.

SB358: Family Law – Divorce on Grounds of Mutual Consent – Parties with Minor Children

Bill: http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/2016RS/bills/sb/sb0358F.pdf

Synopsis: Authorizing a court to decree an absolute divorce on the grounds of mutual consent if the parties have minor children, under specified circumstances; requiring a specified settlement agreement to provide for the care, custody, access, and support of minor or dependent children; requiring specified parties
to attach a completed child support guidelines worksheet to a specified settlement agreement; etc.

SB359: Family Law – Divorce – Corroboration of Testimony and Filing Procedures

Bill: http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/2016RS/bills/sb/sb0359F.pdf

Synopsis: Repealing the prohibition on a court entering a decree of divorce on the uncorroborated testimony of the party seeking the divorce; requiring parties to jointly file a complaint for absolute divorce in order to initiate proceedings for an absolute divorce on the grounds of mutual consent; and requiring the Court of Appeals, by rule, to establish a specified joint complaint form and procedures for filing specified joint complaints.

HB421/SB1019: Family Law – Grandparent Visitation

Bill: http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/2016RS/bills/hb/hb0421F.pdf

Synopsis: Altering the circumstances under which an equity court may grant visitation rights to a grandparent of a child.

Vincent M. Wills published in the Maryland State Bar Association’s February Bar Bulletin

The Maryland State Bar Association’s February Bar Bulletin featured an article by Vince Wills titled,
“Hot Tips in Family Law”. Vince’s article appears below and can also be viewed on the MSBA’s website (http://www.msba.org/Bar_Bulletin/2016/01_-_January/Hot_Tips_in_Family_Law.aspx):

Hot off the press, here are some 'hot tips' in light of recent Rule changes and caselaw:

1. Effective January 1, 2016, section (b)(b)(A)(iv) is added to Maryland Rule 5-803 pertaining to hearsay exceptions where the unavailability of the declarant is not required. The change adds a new exception under paragraph (b) (8) - Public Records and Reports. The change permits the court, at a final protective order hearing, to accept the factual findings reported to a court pursuant to Family Law 4-505 (report of local department pertaining to abuse of a child or vulnerable adult), provided that the parties have had a fair opportunity to review the report. The committee note states that the court may be required to continue the final protective order hearing to provide the parties a fair opportunity to review the report
and to prepare for the hearing.

2. Effective January 1, 2016, Maryland Rule 9-205.3 goes into effect. This Rule pertains to the appointment or approval of a person to perform an assessment in a case that involves child custody or visitation.
Assessment includes a custody evaluation, home study, mental health evaluation, and a specific issue evaluation. The Rule sets requirements for custody evaluators, establishes mandatory elements that a custody evaluation must have, and contains requirements for the court order appointing or approving a person to perform a custody evaluation. The Rule further requires the custody evaluator to prepare a report, which may be oral, made on the record at a pretrial or settlement conference, or written. The Rule further sets parameters for copying and/or dissemination of the report. The Rule provides that the
court may receive access to a report only if the report has been admitted into evidence. (There are exceptions for access to the report upon stipulation of the parties or to a settlement judge or magistrate.) Finally, there are provisions pertaining to discovery, subpoena, and admission of the report without the presence of the assessor. The Rule also dictates that the Court is required to establish a maximum fee schedule for custody evaluations.

A New Year – a New Legislative Session!

Volume 1

January 13, 2016 ushered in the new legislative session. Lindsay Parvis is the Co-Chair of the Legislative Committee for the Family and Juvenile Law Section of the MSBA. Below are some of the noteworthy family law bills pending this session:

HB191: Child Support – Adjusted Actual Income – Multifamily Adjustment

Bill: http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/2016RS/bills/hb/hb0191F.pdf

Synopsis: Altering the definition of "adjusted actual income" under the State child support guidelines; providing for the calculation of a specified allowance required to be deducted from adjusted actual income under the child support guidelines; requiring that the amount of a specified allowance be subtracted from a parent's actual income before the court determines the amount of a child support award; etc.

HB259: Family Law – Child Support – Custody and Visitation Determinations

Bill: http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/2016RS/bills/hb/hb0259F.pdf

Synopsis: Requiring the court, in any case in which the court determines child support, to also consider custody and visitation of the child; and requiring the Child Support Enforcement Administration to refer the parties to the court for purposes of considering custody and visitation of the child when the Administration
establishes a child support obligation.

Lindsay Parvis testifies at the Maryland General Assembly

On February 4, 2016, Lindsay Parvis testified on behalf of the Family & Juvenile Law Section of the MSBA at a House Judiciary Committee Hearing in support of the following bills:

HB191: Child Support – Adjusted Actual Income – Multifamily Adjustment

Bill: http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/2016RS/bills/hb/hb0191F.pdf

Synopsis: Altering the definition of "adjusted actual income" under the State child support guidelines;
providing for the calculation of a specified allowance required to be deducted from adjusted actual income under the child support guidelines; requiring that the amount of a specified allowance be subtracted from a parent's actual income before the court determines the amount of a child support award; etc.

For a video of Ms. Parvis’s testimony, please click the following link: http://mgahouse.maryland.gov/mga/play/2efc791a-0652-47c8-a5dd-97f10fa9bb9f/?catalog/03e481c7-8a42-4438-a7da-93ff74bdaa4c

HB155: Criminal Law – Stalking and Harassment

Bill: http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/2016RS/bills/hb/hb0155F.pdf

Synopsis: Repealing the requirement that specified conduct be malicious in order to be prohibited conduct applicable to crimes related to stalking, harassment, and misuse of electronic communications or interactive computer services; and prohibiting a person from engaging in a course of conduct where the person intends to cause or knows or reasonably should have known that the conduct would cause serious emotional distress to another.

Vincent M. Wills to speak at the MSBA’s 2016 Hot Tips in Family Law CLE

Vincent M. Wills, a parter at the law firm, will speak at the MSBA’s 2016 Hot Tips in Family Law CLE scheduled for February 4, 2016 from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Sheraton Hotel in Columbia, MD. Vince’s presentation concerns “Electronically Stored Information (ESI) – What family law practitioners should know”. For more information about this continuing legal education program, please visit the MSBA’s website.

MSBA Website

Lindsay Parvis co-authors article published in Maryland Association for Justice’s Trial Reporter

P. Lindsay Parvis, a partner in the firm, along with Heather Sweren, a partner at Brodsky Renehan Pearlstein & Bouquet, Chartered, recently authored an article titled “Developments in Family Law in 2015” published in the Winter 2015 publication of the Maryland Association for Justice’s Trial Reporter. Highlights of the article include a discussion of family law legislation and rules of civil procedure that went into effect in 2015, new rules going into effect in 2016, and appellate and attorney general opinions issued in 2015.

To read the full article, please click the following link:

Trial Reporter Article

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