Family Law Blog

Discovery: How to prepare yourself for the inevitable

To most, discovery production is without question the most daunting phase of the litigation process for divorce and other family law matters.  It is invasive, it is onerous and utterly time-consuming.  Without which, however, your attorney has no ability to facilitate/navigate settlement negotiations, nor to adequately litigate your case.  Unless you and your adversary have already resolved all issues resulting from your case prior to retaining counsel, then it is highly likely that you will be engaging in the discovery process. 

If you take the following necessary steps in anticipation of litigation, then you will find that discovery is actually quite doable:

  1. Begin to back up your text messages.  More likely than not, you will be asked to produce text messages between yourself and your adversary or any other third-party.  Please be aware that incomplete screenshots are not acceptable.  In order to produce a complete, time and date-stamped record, which will be admissible at any trial, then you must purchase/download certain cell phone applications, such as PhoneView for iPhone or Mac users, and SMS to Text for Android users.
  2. Gather financial documents.  If your case involves financial issues (child support, alimony, division of marital property, etc.), then you should gather the following statements from the past two-three years through the present date: tax returns; bank statements for each account titled in your sole or joint name; retirement statements for any account in which you have any interest; statements reflecting any stock or investment assets titled in your name; pay statements from your employer; a benefits and/or policy statement reflecting health, life, or disability insurance benefits; credit card statements, student loan statements, mortgage statements, and any documents reflecting any liabilities for which you are solely or jointly responsible.
  3. Organize electronic mail communications.  Similar to text message production, you will most likely be asked to produce communications between yourself and your adversary or any other third party.  Start to save your e-mail communications in PDF format.  Make sure to save them in chronological order, and if necessary (in custody matters), separate and/or categorize them based upon subject matter.
  4. Fill out a Financial Statement.  This can be obtained from the Family Law Forms Index on the Maryland Courts website: http://www.mdcourts.gov/family/formsindex.html .  Though your attorney will most likely revise/edit your financial statement, it is always very helpful when clients provide a draft, as you know your monthly expenses, liabilities, and financial assets better than anyone else does. 

Of course, this is just a start, and once the discovery process commences, there will be additional items (not mentioned above) that you will be asked to gather/produce.  However, by completing the above-mentioned steps, you will find that you are already ten steps ahead before your case even begins. 

McCabe Russell, PA Welcomes New Associate Samantha B. Posner, Esq.

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We are thrilled to announce that attorney Samantha B. Posner has joined the firm.  An experienced trial attorney, mediator, and Best Interest Attorney, Samantha is the complete family law attorney. Samantha graduated from the University of Baltimore School of Law in 2012. Over the past five years Samantha has set herself apart from her peers, establishing herself as a top tier family law attorney in Maryland.  We look forward to working with Samantha as she continues to focus her practice exclusively on divorce, child custody and support matters at McCabe Russell, PA.

Tips for Divorcing a Spouse with a Drug or Alcohol Problem

Being married can be hard.  Being married to someone with a substance abuse problem is often unsustainable, especially when children are involved.  Once you have made the decision that you can no longer remain in the marriage with your spouse and his or her addiction there are steps you can take to protect yourself and your children during a divorce.

Is alcoholism or drug addiction a ground for divorce?

Alcoholism or drug addiction, alone, is not a basis for divorce in the State of Maryland.  If, however, your spouse’s substance abuse is accompanied by other conduct that constitutes a pattern of physical violence and/or emotional abuse, you may have a basis for pursuing a divorce on the ground of constructive desertion if it impossible for you to safely continue the marital relationship while preserving your health and self-respect.

How do I prove my spouse has a substance abuse problem in a divorce?

You have heard the expression, “a picture is worth a thousand words.”  Document any visible evidence of your spouse’s addiction if it is safely possible to do so. Evidence of addiction takes a myriad of forms.  A trash can filled with empty beer bottles, copies of liquor store receipts, a car damaged as a result of drunk driving, property damaged during an alcohol or drug induced tirade, incoherent text messages or emails, are all signs of a problem that can be documented and later used in a divorce or custody proceeding.

What can I do to help my children?

A parent’s addiction can often have a lasting negative impact on his or her children.  During the divorce process, you may find that your child could benefit from additional support from his or her school guidance counselor, a family therapist or child psychologist.  These professionals can provide your child with the tools necessary to cope with having a parent who struggles with addiction.   In certain situations, these professionals can be integral in assisting a Judge when deciding what custody arrangement is in the children’s best interest.

What can the Court do to help me and my children?

Once you file a Complaint for Divorce or Custody you can request that the Court order an Alcohol and Substance Abuse Assessment, a Custody or Visitation Evaluation, and/or Psychological Evaluation.  You can also request that the Court appoint a Best Interest Attorney and/or a Privilege Attorney for your children.  These evaluations are used to assist the Court in deciding custody issues when alcoholism or substance abuse is negatively impacting the children.   Depending on what county you reside in, some of these services will be provided at no cost to you.

How do I make sure my children are safe when they are visiting with my spouse?

In a custody proceeding where there is a substantiated case of substance abuse, the Court has the authority to condition visitation on the successful completion of a substance abuse program.  In addition, the Court can require your spouse to remain drug and alcohol-free and submit to random drug and alcohol testing if the Court determines that such restrictions and conditions are necessary to protect the health and wellbeing of the children.

McCabe Russell, PA, has successfully helped hundreds of clients navigate the divorce process. Contact us for your consultation today.

Selling a Home During Divorce

When a divorcing couple is litigating, one of the hardest assets to deal with can be the marital home.  Often the topic of what to do with the house can be both an emotional and a financial strain.

Can I sell the house?

Usually, both spouses are on the title to the marital home.  When that is the case, the easiest route to selling the house is for both spouses to cooperate.  In the unusual event that only one of you is on the title to the marital home, one party can sell it without the other’s consent, but that is not a step to take lightly.  Please talk to your lawyer about the repercussions of that decision.

When should we sell the house?

There are a lot of variables to consider when anticipating selling your home – the kids’ school year, whether there will be any proceeds to divide, will a new residence be less expensive to buy or rent than your current mortgage payment, will you be able to qualify for a new mortgage if your intention is to buy, do you have an agreement on all the other issues between you and your spouse?

The short answer is that it is probably best to list your house when the market conditions make it the most readily saleable when you know where you are going to live when the home is sold, and when you and your spouse are agreed on selling.

When should my spouse and I talk about selling the house?

Whether you and your spouse are going to sell the house or one of you will stay in it, the disposition of the house, although an emotionally-charged issue, can lead to a lot of other successes in your negotiations with one another.  In our negotiations for our divorce clients, we like to address this issue early on as it is, pardon the pun, often the foundation of other agreements related to custody, child and spousal support, and distribution of other assets.

What if I don’t want to sell the house?

There are other options.  If you have minor children, a court can award a party three (3) years of “use and possession” of the house, and you and your spouse can agree to a period of use and possession for as long as you like.  This period is usually followed by the sale of the home.  Alternatively, one of the spouses might be able to buy the other out depending on ability to qualify for a new loan.  And finally, renting the home may be an option if both you and your spouse agree.   Of course, if you and your spouse decide to the rent the home to a third party you will be making lots of decisions together during the rental period, so you may want to consider whether that is feasible.

What if my spouse won’t agree to sell the house, has moved out, and isn’t helping with the mortgage?

This is probably one of the most difficult situations.  There are options with the court, but they all involve a level of difficulty for which you probably need a lawyer.

McCabe Russell, PA, has helped hundreds of clients reach agreements that put the issues that are important to them first.  Contact us for your consultation today.