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.
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.
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.
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.
Since my last post on this subject, in the 2017 legislative session, the Maryland General Assembly passed into law an update to existing law on restoration to a former name in a 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 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. So, one spouse may not request a name change for the other. The remaining requirements of §7-105 will still apply.
This change in the law goes into effect October 1, 2017.
Lindsay Parvis is a Partner at Dragga, Hannon, Hessler & Wills, LLP. She represents parties in contested and uncontested divorce and other family law matters.
Kevin G. Hessler is a member of the Montgomery County Maryland American Inn of Court. The American Inns of Court actively involve more than 25,000 attorneys, legal scholars, judges (state, federal, and administrative), and law students. Membership is composed of the following categories:
Masters of the Bench — judges, experienced lawyers, and law professors
Barristers — lawyers with some experience who do not meet the minimum requirements for Masters
Associates — lawyers who do not meet the minimum requirement for Barristers
Pupils — law students.
Kevin, has reached the level of Master of the Bench.
The American Inns of Court is an association of legal professionals from all levels and backgrounds who share a passion for professional excellence. As stated on their website, “In this collegial environment, outside the courtroom and pressure of daily practice, members discuss legal practice, principles, and methods. Academicians, specialized practitioners, and complementing generalists provide a mix of skill, theory, experience, and passion. This fluid, side-by-side approach allows seasoned judges and attorneys to help shape students and newer lawyers with practical guidance in serving the law and seeking justice.”
Click here to read more about the Vision and Mission for the Inns of Court.
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:
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.
Ok, so now you’ve made it to the courtroom. What next?
After your case is called by the clerk, you will approach the appropriate table (either Plaintiff or Defendant) and wait for the Magistrate to address you. You will identify yourself for the record when prompted, by stating your name and confirming that you are the Plaintiff or Defendant, and then await the Magistrate’s instructions.
You’ve now received in the mail a “Notice of Scheduling Hearing and Order of Court”. It Orders you to appear in court for a Scheduling Hearing before a Family Division Magistrate on a date and time certain. What should you expect? How, if at all, should you prepare?
Generally speaking, the Scheduling Hearing is your and the Court’s opportunity to:
- Identify the issues in dispute in the case;
- Initiate court-sponsored services such as mediation/alternative dispute resolution or custody-related services (e.g. court custody evaluations; custody mediation; attorneys for children); and
- Develop a schedule of future hearing dates and filing and discovery deadlines that will govern the progression of your case.