Lifson Law: Blog

Notes From the Desk of Cynthia Lifson: Slowing Down the Pace

I recently returned from a trip to one of our most famous national parks, Yosemite, in northern California.  Such an experience was wonderful in the most literal sense of the word.  I was truly filled with wonder while being in the midst of the natural world.  In viewing the incredible vistas, the sparkling waterfalls, and enormous rock formations, it occurred to me that all of this did not develop in the seconds it takes to tweet, but took an enormous amount of time and energy to create.  I also appreciated the stillness of the park.  Amazingly, despite the presence of many other visitors, it was a quiet place. Upon coming home to Maryland, I remain grateful for the opportunity to do meaningful and important work on behalf of many clients.  I am refreshed and ready to re-enter the hurly-burly of my law practice.  But as I think about it, the basic need to unplug, to reflect, and to slow down allows us to nourish ourselves and think about what is important in the very short time we have to be on this earth. I hope that you take some time this summer and enjoy something wonderful,...

What Can I Do to Manage My Time During the Divorce Process?

  For most people, the prospect of divorce presents a challenge in managing time.  As the daily pace of life accelerates, the added burden of re-organizing a family can create major stress.  While this observation is hardly a major newsflash, thoughtful and deliberate management of time can reduce the difficulty of this transaction. In litigated disputes, an often underappreciated element of the case is the scheduling order.  This is a court order that sets out the time line for the completion of certain tasks in advance of any court proceeding.   It is created at the onset of the case and tells attorneys and parties what is expected.  Noting specific deadlines on a personal or professional calendar will avoid error.  Similarly, understanding the steps of the litigation process as noted in the scheduling order helps parties know what to do to prepare the materials before going to court. In situations where no court action is pending, there is no formal scheduling order so managing time to deal with divorce planning may not be obvious.  However, retrieving and organizing specific information related to a family’s assets and liabilities and income and expenses are basic to understanding how a case may resolve.  To that end, dividing what may be a major project into small achievable steps may help with time management.  Creating a clear record of monthly expenses by something as simple as maintaining an envelope with receipts of these expenses may also be useful. Consultation with an experienced attorney can also assist in preparing the appropriate information during the divorce...

Notes From Annapolis: Speeding Up Divorce

In 2015, the Maryland General Assembly modified one of the basic elements of proof necessary to obtain an absolute (or final) divorce in Maryland.  The amount of time one of the parties must reside in Maryland before being eligible to petition a Maryland court for an absolute divorce has been reduced from one year to six months.  This new residency requirement becomes effective on October 1st. This legislative change was brought to the attention of the General Assembly by military attorneys who work primarily at Ft. Meade and is intended to assist service members. People in the military are often transferred during the course of their duty and have difficulty meeting the one year standard.  This change in the Code to require only a six month residency may accelerate the divorce process for newcomers to Maryland.  Of course, this change is available to all persons who file for divorce in...

Notes From the Courts: A Rose By Any Other Name

In a new application of an old theme, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals reiterated the basic concept of interpreting an agreement of the parties with regard to a spouse’s pension benefit. In Pulliam v. Pulliam, filed on April 29, 2015, the Court held that a consent judgment was unambiguous and that all elements of the Husband’s pension benefit are to be included in the transfer to Wife of her marital share of Husband’s pension.

Notes From Annapolis: Death, Disability, and Digital Assets

In the aftermath of the 2015 session of the Maryland General Assembly, we naturally focus our attention on bills passed by the Assembly and signed by the Governor. But as we sift through the accomplishments of our elected officials, it is always important to consider the bills that did not pass and the problems that may ensue without adjustment to our Code.

Child Support: The Basics Versus The Extras

When parents of minor children live in separate households, providing for children’s financial needs can become especially challenging. Occasionally, the press reports on studies that calculate the financial cost of raising a child until legal adulthood, and to most of us, the number of dollars is enormous. Still, children need to be fed, clothed, sheltered, and cared for when parents are at work. The basic health insurance needs of children must also be addressed.

Notes from the Courts: Know Your Marital Assets & Say it Clearly in Writing

The recent decision by the Maryland Court of Special Appeals in Baker v. Baker reminds us that in order to avoid differences in the interpretation of an agreement, it is crucial for an agreement to expressly contain the complete articulation of each and every element of the agreement.  If a clear and complete articulation of the terms of an agreement is absent, the court will look to principles of law and regulation to resolve an issue. The Baker case involved the allocation of a marital asset that was not specifically addressed in the marital settlement agreement signed by the parties.  The language of the agreement of the parties required Wife to relinquish to Husband any interest she might have in any jointly titled investment or bank accounts.  At the time of the divorce, the parties had a capital-loss carry-forward that resulted from losses in their investment accounts, but this specific asset was not discussed in their agreement.  The carry-forward came about because the Internal Revenue Code limits the amount of a capital loss that taxpayers may use to reduce their tax liability in any given year, but allows taxpayers to defer (or carry-forward) the excess loss to reduce tax liabilities in future years.  After the divorce, Ms. Baker used about 50% of the capital-loss carry-forward to offset the gains she had realized from the sale of a parcel of real property. Mr. Baker argued that because their agreement stated that Wife was required to relinquish any interest she may have had in any jointly titled investment account, Husband was entitled all of the capital-loss carry-forward asset.  While the trial...