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Notes from the Desk of Cynthia Lifson: Priorities

As each new year begins, we refresh goals and identify new worlds to conquer.  Our true objective fueling the new year’s burst of energy , is our heartfelt hope that this year we will faithfully join the crowd at the gym, avoid the pattern of junk food indulgences that  can follow in the wake of the Super Bowl, and bring sunshine to our days no matter what the ground hog has predicted.  In other words, deflect the routine hum-drum hibernation we experienced during last year’s cold weather — Blah! So, to that end, this year, I am trying a modest approach.  In 2015, my personal Goal #1 is managing my most precious resource, my time, both productively and meaningfully – for myself and my clients.  Trying to be both conscious and mindful is not always an easy thing to do given our competing pressures.  However, this year I am determined to better manage time, doing what is most important for the people and projects that matter. To save my clients’s time this year, I have created an informational brochure on family law topics such as divorce, separation and estate planning, in response to the questions we are most frequently asked.  These are designed as a resource to share; if you or someone you know needs information on family law, please just contact us, and we will send you a...

Notes from the Courts: Court Prevents Husband’s Shell Game with Marital Money

When are the proceeds from an employer loan considered a “debt,” or “income,” or “marital property”?  This is one of the questions faced by the Maryland Court of Special Appeals in the recent case, Troy T. Bryant v. Roxanna K. Bryant. In this case, Husband was a successful employee of a financial institution, UBS.  Husband and UBS entered into an agreement where Husband received what was characterized in the employment agreement as a “cash loan” or “transition loan” in the amount of $1,305,000.  Unlike a more conventional loan, UBS made “payments” to Husband by forgiving one-ninth of each loan on Husband’s anniversary dates with the company as long as he worked there with the total “loan” being forgiven in nine years. Husband argued that the “loans” were in fact loans, not signing bonuses or compensation, because after the divorce he would remain responsible to repay them.  He also argued that this money could not be considered “property acquired during the course of the marriage” because he would have not done the work entitling him to forgiveness until after the divorce.  Husband not only received the loan proceeds, but he also earned a commission-based salary from UBS. Not surprisingly, Wife argued that the payment of $1,305,000 was really a “retention bonus” that UBS structured for tax purposes as a loan with payments due over a period of years.  Wife added that UBS paid Husband over $2.2 million between November 2010 and February 2013.  After construing the employment agreement between Husband and UBS, listening to the testimony of the parties and dueling experts, the Court of Special Appeals affirmed the decision...

Notes from Annapolis: Criminal Records

As a school child, you may remember a teacher’s threat to place a poor grade, bad behavior, or otherwise undesirable piece of information on your “permanent record.”  As mature adults we can now appreciate that the “permanent record” referred to by a frustrated educator probably did not have a lasting or meaningful impact on our lives. However, the permanent record with regard to judicial proceedings presents a different set of considerations.  Legislators in Annapolis continue to grapple with the complicated issue of expunging or shielding records of criminal convictions.  While this list is not exhaustive and more bills on this topic will likely be introduced in the 2015 session, here are some of the bills that deal with this topic: SB 16, Criminal Procedure – Expungement – Misdemeanor and Felony Convictions; SB 130, Criminal Procedure – Shielding – Misdemeanor Convictions; and HB 244, Maryland Second Chance Act. Proponents of the concept of limiting public access to criminal convictions argue that after a certain amount of time, a person who has experienced the consequences of a criminal conviction and now lives within the law should be able to be rehabilitated into society without always being judged by past behaviors.  In particular, proponents argue that shielding or expungement of criminal records will enable such individuals to compete fairly for a job.  Opponents of this concept argue that reliable information from court records is a basic necessity for the protection of all of us in society so we know the people we are dealing with and can make appropriate decisions in every day transactions.  It will be interesting to watch how this...