Despite the courts having been closed for nearly two months, state laws are still being reviewed, revised, and passed in order to continue bettering the legal system. To its credit, the Maryland legislature has been quite busy of late, to include the passing of new laws related to family court issues aimed at providing parties more protections.
As courts begin to reopen, this is a good time to take a look at some of the legal updates to family law that have recently been passed and others that are in the works.
New laws passed in 2020
- House Bill 946. This new law that passed in mid-March authorizes the court to determine whether it would be unjust or inappropriate to require parties to adhere to the child support guidelines when the child support calculation would cause the obligor (paying parent) to fall 110% below the 2019 federal poverty level. This new law appears to provide the court with the authority to deviate from the child support guidelines under certain circumstances.
- House Bill 269. Also passed in mid-March, this law will begin applying to cases filed on or after October 1, 2020, and addresses a growing problem with child custody and child support. It allows for the establishment of a formula under the child support guidelines to calculate child support payments under a shared physical custody agreement when one parent keeps the child or children overnight over 25% of the year (at least 92 overnights), but less than 30% (not exceeding 109 overnights). This is good news for parents seeking child support based on the other parent failing to maintain a more equal share of parenting responsibilities.
- House Bill 250. This law offers a measure of added security to those who have been the victim of domestic violence and found it necessary to seek a protective order. Victims who file a motion to extend the term of a final protective order and a hearing is not held before the order expires, it will be automatically extended until the hearing takes place. This leaves no time gaps in protection for those who would have otherwise had their protective order extended.
Legislation still under consideration
- Senate Bill 924. This proposed law has been titled the “Maryland Child Abduction Prevention Act.” The aim of this law is to preempt international abductions of children caught in the middle of custody battles. In essence, the court would be authorized to require a parent intending to travel outside the United States with his or her child to provide advanced written notice of the travel plans. The court would also be empowered to order child abduction prevention measures in certain child custody proceedings. Additionally, the law would establish who can petition the court for these measures to be activated, and the court would have the authority to retroactively apply the Act. It appears the intent of this law would be to give a parent more legal backing to protect against international parental kidnapping and to fight to have his or her child returned should something go awry.
- Senate Bill 230. This law is long overdue for spouses who are dealing with extreme domestic violence. Should it pass, this effect of this law would allow a spouse who commits rape or certain sexual offenses against his or her spouse to be prosecuted. The victim and attacker will need to be legally married for this law to apply if it makes it into the statutes.
- House Bill 80. This proposed law has gone through some changes. While it initially was intended to eliminate the requirement of the parties physically living under separate roofs to obtain a divorce, that idea seems to have been tossed aside. As a compromise, the separation period has been reduced from 12 to 6 months based on certain circumstances. Other possible additions to the law include altering certain grounds for a limited divorce and an absolute divorce.
New laws that have been enacted will offer new, and in some cases, better protections for certain child custody, child support, and domestic violence matters brought before the court. Our knowledgeable attorneys keep up to date on new laws that can better serve our clients and we believe in educating prospective clients so that they feel more empowered and in control over their situation.
If you need legal help with a family law matter, seek out the resourceful and caring attorneys with the Columbia family law firm at McCabe Russell, P.A. To schedule your consultation please call us at 443-917-3347, or we invite you to reach out to us through our contact form. We also maintain offices in Fulton, Rockville, and Bethesda.