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Notes from the Courts: Child Support Required for Certain Adult Children

As our children return to school in the fall, most of us experience a sense of optimism about their growth as they move toward adulthood and independence. In Maryland, adulthood is attained when a person reaches the age of 18 years and parents are generally no longer legally obligated to provide financial support for their children. (Maryland’s child support statute may require parents to provide financial support for their children until they graduate from high school or reach the age of 19 years at the latest. This situation occurs typically if a child has a birthday at the end of the calendar year following high school graduation in the spring.) Not all parents, however, are free from the legal obligation of child support after a child reaches the chronological age of an adult. As we are reminded in the recent case decided by the Maryland Court of Special Appeals in Zahn v. Zahn, in certain situations, a parent must support an adult child if the adult child is destitute and the parent has sufficient means to provide that support. In Maryland’s Family Law Article, an adult destitute child is defined as one who has no means of subsistence and cannot be self-supporting due to mental or physical infirmity. In the Zahn case, the adult child in question, Douglas, was diagnosed with a host of psychological disorders, including autism spectrum disorder, anxiety, oppositional defiance disorder, and attention deficit disorder. After graduating from high school, he received services from the state of Maryland. Upon evaluating the evidence provided by both parents and a vocational expert at trial, the Court of Special...

Notes from the Desk of Cynthia Lifson

When I began my career as an attorney over 20 years ago, the trials of O.J. Simpson captivated the public’s attention. A generation has passed, and we see once again that football, money, and the complexities of intimate partnerships have prompted another national conversation about domestic violence. How have things remained the same after the passage of all this time, and how have they changed? In examining much of the commentary about Ray Rice and the Baltimore Ravens, I notice that most people believe that the brutal beating of Janay Palmer Rice in the hotel elevator does in fact represent domestic violence. (Interestingly, I have heard some people, although certainly a minority, suggest that because both parties were drinking alcohol, the incident in the elevator was “understandable.”) What I find so very disturbing is the nasty undercurrent in some comments about Janay. I see much tittering about the fact that she is supportive of Ray, that she actually married him after this episode occurred, and that she chooses to remain with him, the father of her child, and work out a future with him. Suddenly, the entire world just knows what the correct course of action for Janay should be. Instead of criticizing Janay’s choices, I believe that the initial question that we should be asking ourselves is this: How can anyone who loves another person do something like Ray did to Janay? While the attitude of blaming the victim of domestic violence persists, as a community we can take comfort from the fact that some positive changes have occurred. Things are better now than they were 20 years...

Notes from Annapolis

October 1 marks the date when most of the laws passed by the General Assembly during the spring session go into effect. A number of bills of importance to families will become effective on October 1. In the realm of domestic violence, the most important change in the law relates to the standard of proof required to obtain a final protective order. As of October 1, petitioners are required to prove abuse only by a preponderance of the evidence and not by the significantly higher standard of clear and convincing evidence. This adjustment may make it easier for judges to grant petitioners relief from abuse, particularly in situations when the petitioner is required to prove that abuse has placed a person eligible for relief in fear of imminent serious bodily harm. A parent who is in arrears greater than $150 in child support payments and who gambles may be surprised to learn that as of October 1, the Maryland State Lottery and Gaming Control Agency can intercept a prize won at a video lottery facility. The prize will be applied to pay the child support owed. And while this list is by no means exhaustive (Governor O’Malley signed approximately 200 bills that amend our Code following the adjournment of the 2014 session of the General Assembly), we will see a major change in Maryland’s treatment of possession of marijuana. Maryland will join 17 other states to “decriminalize” marijuana. Under current law, the penalty for possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana is a fine up to $500, up to 90 days in jail, or both. The new law...