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2017 Maryland Pet Visitation Bill Crated

In Maryland divorce cases, pets acquired during the marriage are considered personal property.  This means that current law entitles the court to determine ownership and nothing more.  Not matters more suited to a member of the family, such as custody, visitation, financial support, or extraordinary expenses.  To many, a pet is a beloved, constant companion and family member.  The law has not kept up with the reality of the relationships between pets and their caregivers.

There are signs of progress.  In 2011, the domestic violence law changed, empowering the court to award “temporary possession of any pet” in temporary and final protective orders.  Reference to “possession”, instead of “custody”, is consistent with treatment of pets as property (as compared with “custody” used in reference to children).  While a step in the right direction, this relief is limited to domestic violence cases and unavailable (for now) in divorce.

Lindsay Parvis Published in Maryland Family Law Advocate

The April 2017 edition of the Maryland Family Law Advocate, a publication of the MSBA Family & Juvenile Law Section, features an article authored by Geraldine Welikson Hess, Esquire, and updated by Lindsay Parvis.  The article, Montgomery County: Practice and Procedure, provides an overview of the Montgomery County Circuit Court Family law procedures.  The article is reprinted here with permission of the FJLS.

What is a Qualified Domestic Relations Order?

A Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO, pronounced “qua-dro”) is an order entered by a court to direct the division of the marital property portion of a retirement interest in a divorce.  A QDRO may also be used to collect payment of child support and/or alimony.  This article focuses on division of retirement in divorce.

Retirement plans, profit sharing, Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs), pensions, 401Ks, deferred compensation plans, and Keogh plans are just several examples of an exhaustive list of retirement assets that the court may consider marital property subject to division. If the plan is defined as a “tax qualified” plan by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), then the transfer of retirement assets is done through a QDRO.

A QDRO allows the spouse who is not a retirement plan participant to be recognized as an “alternate payee” and to collect all or part of the retirement benefits which belong to the plan participant. The alternate payee may be allowed to receive current or future benefits depending on the plan and/or agreement reached by the spouses.

Lindsay Parvis Elected As A Fellow Of The Maryland Bar Foundation

On June 15, 2017, Lindsay Parvis was elected as a Fellow of the Maryland Bar Foundation at the Bar Convention in Ocean City, Maryland.  The election is in recognition that, in her professional and public career and in her private life, she has demonstrated outstanding dedication to the welfare of her community, the administration of justice, and the traditions of the profession of law.

The Maryland Bar Foundation is a non-profit charitable corporation organized in 1965, with the objective of obtaining gifts and contributions to be used for the following purposes:

  • To foster and maintain the honor and integrity of the profession of the law;
  • To improve and to facilitate the administration of justice;
  • To promote the study of the law and research therein, the diffusion of knowledge thereof, and the continuing education of lawyer.

The Foundation has carried out these purposes by making grants to organizations that work within Maryland to accomplish the goals of the Foundation.

Fewer Firearms for Those Convicted of Domestic Violence Crimes

While not overtly a domestic violence bill, HB294 revises Public Safety Article §5-101(b-1)(2)(i) so a person, who receives a probation before judgment for second degree assault that is a “domestically related crime” (as defined in Criminal Procedure Article §6-233), is disqualified from owning a firearm.  Domestically related crimes generally are crimes against a person who would be eligible for a domestic violence protective order or who had a sexual relationship with the perpetrator within 12 months of the crime.  Under existing domestic violence law (which are civil matters), the respondent/alleged abuser must relinquish any firearms while the protective order is in place.  HB294 applies to criminal cases.  Effective October 1, 2017, persons convicted of crimes arising from domestic violence will be prevented, under certain circumstances, from owning firearms.

This bill was developed as part of the Governor’s Family Violence Council.

For more information on HB294, view the bill HERE and video of the bill hearing HERE.

Lindsay Parvis is a member of the Legislative Committee of the Family & Juvenile Law Section of the Maryland State Bar Association, seeking to improve family law for families, attorneys, and the courts.

Domestic Violence Law Gets Minor - But Needed - Update

Currently, Maryland law (Family Law Article §7-301.1) makes an Interim, Temporary, or Final Protective Order granted in a domestic violence proceeding inadmissible evidence in other family law matters, such as divorce, custody, and custody modification cases. 

Additionally, §7-103.1 prevents a court from considering compliance with a protective order as grounds for a limited or absolute divorce.  This means (in theory, though not in practice as far as my experience goes) that a person who stays away from and ceases cohabitation with a spouse pursuant to a year-long protective order could stop the court from considering this a 12-month separation or 12-month desertion. 

Effective October 1, 2017, §7-103.1 will no longer be the law.  The sponsor’s and proponents’ reasoning behind HB293 is that §7-103.1 has become obsolete and may streamline or even save victims of domestic violence from relitigating the abuse.

AAML Local Chapters' Meeting

Patrick Dragga and Kevin Hessler attended the Maryland, DC. and Virginia Chapters’ May Meeting at Lansdown Resort in Northern Virginia for comradery and continuing legal education.  The retreat, which has become an annual event gives Fellows for the Tri-state area a chance to recreate and hear specialists in various subject areas opine about current issues in Family law. 

This year’s topic was a serious matter with a humorous name:  the 10 dumbest things people do to hide money.  From hiding cash in the drop ceiling to overpaying income taxes, our speaker, noted attorney, CPA, business valuator and fraud examiner, Fellow Jeff Brend of Illinois, took us through many of the tricks used for hiding money before or during a divorce proceeding.  While some vignettes were funny, efforts to disadvantage a spouse in divorce are not.  From “paper” and “electronic” trails to Bitcoins vigilance and care in discovering the marital estate are more critical than ever.  

License Suspension For Non-Payment of Child Support Refined by 2017 Maryland General Assembly

Effective October 1, 2017, changes go into effect regarding the Office of Child Support Enforcement's right to suspend different types of licenses of payors who fall behind on child support.  Specifically, these changes apply to driver’s licenses as well as business, occupation, and professional licenses. 

On driver’s licenses: 

Drivers can lose their driver's licenses for failure to pay child support.  This can apply when someone fails to pay any child support or when someone does not pay the full amount of child support.  The new law distinguishes between noncommercial and commercial driver’s licenses; current law does not.  Currently, the law allows the office of child support enforcement to notify the Motor Vehicle Administration/MVA of drivers who fall behind on their child support by 60 days' worth of payments.  This new law will set the timing at noncommercial drivers who accumulate 60 days or more of arrears and commercial drivers who accumulate 120 days or more of back child support.

When Co-Parenting Doesn’t Work…

There has been much ado online recently about successful co-parents.  Shared family vacations, shared family photos, shared holiday celebrations…even matching t-shirts.  This is the ideal when two parents, despite their differences, co-parent organically.

In my experience, there are three categories of co-parenting styles:  1) those who do it organically; 2) those who “make it work”; and, 3) those who can’t. 

Those who co-parent organically succeed at reinventing what it means to be “family” despite separate households.  They share the same beliefs about parenting, communicate well, and do not espouse the “territoriality” or “children as possessions” behavior (my time is mine…my child, my way…only I know best) that hallmarks, to varying degrees, the other two categories.  These folks are the most likely to have no parenting agreement or custody order, or if they do, it lives in a drawer and they live life doing what’s best for their children.

Patrick Dragga Attends AAML Mid-Year Meeting

Pat Dragga attended the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers mid-year meeting in Phoenix, Arizona.  The meeting provided an opportunity for Fellows from across the nation to meet and to hear a variety of presentations.  The programs focused on practical knowledge for attorneys in and out of the courtroom.  Speakers included well-respected psychologist, Dr. Sol Rappaport, who, with Fellows Sherri Evans and David Steerman, put on a presentation regarding the neuroscience and heuristics of how people make decisions. Sean Carter, a self-described Humorist at Law, spoke about ethical guidelines, pitfalls and concerns involving social media and legal marketing. 

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