Thursday, January 27, 2011

Support for Shared Parenting in Maryland?!?!

Judiciary committee member, Delegate Jill Carter, has been a great friend of Shared Parenting and last year introduced House Bill 925 calling for a presumption of equal physical placement and joint legal custody.  She is reintroducing the bill this year (it will have a different bill number but the language will be substantively the same).  It should be filed sometime next week. 

Shared parenting or joint custody, which would include joint legal custody and joint physical custody, is the common term used to describe a family arrangement after separation or divorce, in which the care of the children is substantially shared between the father and mother, leading to a situation where the child knows that both of his/her parent's are involved in his/her upbringing.

Research and studies that are over a quarter century old show the significant benefits for children of shared parenting or joint physical custody (see Shared Parenting - Fact and Fiction).

Monday, January 3, 2011

Dondi West on Military Divorce in Maryland

A Maryland military divorce creates several unique issues as compared to a typical civilian divorce, which is why specific state and federal laws and rules will apply.

Military Protection From Maryland Divorce Proceedings
There are laws set up to protect active duty military members against being held in "default" from failing to respond to a divorce action. These laws were enacted to protect active military from being divorced without knowing it.

Under the Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act, 50 UCS section 521 and in the discretion of the local Maryland court, the divorce proceeding may be postponed for the entire time the active service member is on duty and for up to 60 days thereafter (This is typically the case when the active member is serving in a war). Also, this right to have the divorce proceedings postponed can be waived by any active duty member should he or she wish to get the divorce.

Serving an Active Military Spouse
The active duty spouse must be personally served with a summons and a copy of the divorce action in order for a Maryland court to have jurisdiction over the active military member. In an uncontested case, the active duty spouse may not have to be served as long as he or she signs and files a waiver affidavit acknowledging the divorce action.

Residency and Filing Requirements
The typical military divorce filing requirements are as follows:
- You or your spouse must reside in Maryland
- You or your spouse must be stationed in Maryland

Grounds for Maryland Military Divorce
The grounds for a military divorce in Maryland are the same as a civilian divorce.

Dividing the Property
Along with the normal Maryland property division laws, the federal government has enacted the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA) that governs how military retirement benefits are calculated and divided upon divorce. The USFSPA is the governing body that authorizes a direct payment of a portion of a military retirees pay to the former spouse.

The federal laws will not divide and distribute any of the military members retirement to the spouse unless they have been married 10 years or longer while the member has been active duty military.

Child Support and Spousal Support
In Maryland, both child support and spousal support/alimony awards may not exceed 60% of a military member’s pay and allowances. The normal Maryland child support guidelines, worksheets and schedules are used to determine the proper amount of child support to be paid.

Dondi West
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