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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.

2017 Maryland Family Law Legislative Update

The 2017 legislative session saw the introduction of relatively few family law bills, but with a surprising number passing (especially as compared with 2016).  Subject to veto by the Governor until May 30 (which is not anticipated), the following bills were passed into law and go into effect October 1, 2017:

Divorce:

HB793:  Family Law – Divorce – Restoration of Former Name revises Family Law Article §7-105  to allow a party to request restoration of a former name up to 18 months after the Judgment of Absolute Divorce/divorce decree is granted, without requiring the formal name change process of Maryland Rule 15-901.  Currently, a spouse who took on the other party’s name during the marriage may be restored to any former name if the party no longer wishes to use the name, the name change is requested in the divorce, and the request is not for any illegal, fraudulent, or immoral purpose.  Under existing law, this request must be made and granted at the time of the divorce and entry of the Judgment of Absolute divorce; not after.  HB793 merely extends the time to 18 months from the date of the divorce.  Under current and the new law, the request must be made by the party seeking the name change for her- or himself.  One spouse may not request a name change for the other spouse.  For more information about name changes, please see my other posts:  What’s in a Name, Volume 1 and Volume 2.

Types of Evaluations in Custody Cases Volume 2: Private Custody Evaluations

In contested custody cases, there are many types of evaluations that the court can order or parties can agree to undergo in order to assess the fitness of the parents and the living and decision-making arrangements that suit the best interests of the children.  These fall into two broad categories:

  1. Evaluations performed by the Court and courthouse staff or contractors; and,
  2. Evaluations performed by private professionals.  There are many different types of evaluations performed by private professionals.  For example, private custody evaluations, psychological testing or evaluations, drug/substance/alcohol evaluations or assessments and testing, psychosexual risk assessments and other evaluations of alleged and convicted sexual offenders, and so on.

Types of Evaluations in Custody Cases Volume 1: Court Evaluations

In contested custody cases, there are many types of evaluations that the court can order or parties can agree to undergo in order to assess the fitness of the parents and the living and decision-making arrangements that suit the best interests of the children.  These fall into two broad categories:

  1. Evaluations performed by the Court and courthouse staff or contractors; and,
  2. Evaluations performed by private professionals.  There are many different types of evaluations performed by private professionals.  For example, private custody evaluations, psychological testing or evaluations, drug/substance/alcohol evaluations or assessments and testing, psychosexual risk assessments and other evaluations of alleged and convicted sexual offenders, and so on.

Client FAQ's - Financial Statements

Sandra Mendez is a Senior Paralegal at DHHW.  She has worked with Dragga, Hannon, Hessler & Wills since 2012.

WHAT IS A FINANCIAL STATEMENT?

A financial statement, in sum, is a monthly overview of your expenses, income and assets and liabilities. You may have completed some version of one when you applied for a loan or a credit card. The Court’s version may look a little different and two forms are available from which to choose. One is known as the Short-Form Financial Statement, and the other one, not surprisingly, is known as the Long-Form Financial Statement. Alas, you cannot just choose the version you prefer to complete.  The circumstances of your case determine which version applies to your case.

Representing Children in Contested Custody Cases

Maryland recognizes three types of attorneys who can be appointed to represent children in contested custody, access/visitation/parenting time, and domestic violence cases.  All of these roles require that the attorney be appointed by court order to represent the child client.

Child Privilege Attorney

This is the narrowest role.  A Child Privilege Attorney (“CPA”) is charged with determining whether the child’s privilege or confidentiality with a mental health professional (such as, psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker/LCSW, licensed professional counselor, or other licensed mental health provider) should remain intact or be waived.  If privilege is not waived, a mental health professional will likely be prevented, or at least very limited, from testifying, disclosing his/her file, and sharing information about the therapy.  If privilege is waived, then the mental health professional can testify, disclose his/her file, and share such information.  Pursuant to Nagle v. Hooks, 296 Md. 123 (1983), parents in a contested custody case lose the right to decide whether or not their child(ren)’s privilege should remain intact or be waived, and so an attorney is appointed to make that decision.  In sum, the CPA is a gatekeeper.  A CPA may notify the court of his/her waiver position in a written report but does not testify.

Heather Collier and Erik Arena Recently Spoke at Part 3 of the Program on Alimony and Child Support-Related Tax Issues

On January 19, 2017, Heather Collier, Erik Arena, and tax attorney Eric Rollinger of Stein, Sperling, Bennett, De Jong, Driscoll, PC, spoke before the Family Law Section of the Bar Association for Montgomery County, Maryland, on part 3 of their 3-part series of Programs on tax issues, entitled: “Alimony and Child Support Tax Issues--The Top 5 Things Divorce Lawyers Need to Know”.  The program was well attended by local family law attorneys and covered several tax issues related to alimony, child support, and the interplay between the two, which should be on every family law attorney’s radar when structuring or advocating for a combined domestic support arrangement in their client’s best interests.  Both Heather and Erik were pleased to share with their fellow colleagues their knowledge and insights.  

Heather Collier is a Partner at Dragga, Hannon, Hessler & Wills, LLP with twelve years' experience in family law and divorce matters.

Erik Arena is a Partner at Dragga, Hannon, Hessler & Wills, LLP with twelve years’ experience in family law and divorce matters.

“Heather Collier and Erik Arena Recently Spoke at Program on Alimony and Child Support-Related Tax Issues”

On October 20, 2016, Heather Collier, Erik Arena, and tax attorney Eric Rollinger of Stein, Sperling, Bennett, De Jong, Driscoll, PC, spoke before the Family Law Section of the Bar Association for Montgomery County, Maryland, on part 2 of their 3-part series of Programs on tax issues, entitled: “Alimony and Child Support Tax Issues--The Top 5 Things Divorce Lawyers Need to Know”.  The program was well attended by local family law attorneys and covered several tax issues related to alimony, child support, and the interplay between the two, which should be on every family law attorney’s radar when structuring or advocating for a combined domestic support arrangement in their client’s best interests.  Both Heather and Erik were pleased to share with their fellow colleagues their knowledge and insights.  

Heather Collier is a Partner at Dragga, Hannon, Hessler & Wills, LLP with eleven years' experience in family law and divorce matters.

Erik Arena is an Associate Attorney at Dragga, Hannon, Hessler & Wills, LLP with eleven years’ experience in family law and divorce matters.

Heather Collier and Erik Arena Speaking on Alimony and Child Support-Related Tax Issues

On October 20, 2016, Heather Collier, Erik Arena, and tax attorney Eric Rollinger of Stein, Sperling, Bennett, De Jong, Driscoll, PC, will be speaking before the Family Law Section of the Bar Association for Montgomery County, Maryland, on part 2 of their 3-part series of Programs on tax issues, entitled: “Alimony and Child Support Tax Issues--The Top 5 Things Divorce Lawyers Need to Know”.  This program will cover a number of tax issues related to alimony, child support, and the interplay between the two, which should be on every family law attorney’s radar when structuring or advocating for a combined domestic support arrangement in their client’s best interests.  Both Heather and Erik are excited to share their insights with their fellow colleagues in October. 

Heather Collier is a Partner at Dragga, Hannon, Hessler & Wills, LLP with eleven years' experience in family law and divorce matters.

Erik Arena is an Associate Attorney at Dragga, Hannon, Hessler & Wills, LLP with eleven years’ experience in family law and divorce matters.

Resources for How to Tell the Children About the Separation

When parents separate and/or divorce, it can be difficult to know how to tell the children in age appropriate ways while feeling prepared to answer any questions children may have.  There are many resources and tools to help.

Meeting with a mental health professional (often a social worker) ahead of time is helpful to develop a plan of how, when, and what will be said, as well as who will be present.  Parents who want to tell the children together can develop a “shared narrative” for the children, so both parents and children are on the same page.  Working with a mental health professional provides age appropriate guidance about how much to share, what questions will likely be asked, and how to answer them.  There are many mental health professionals who provide such services in this area and the attorneys at DHHW can point you in the direction of professionals experienced with this.

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