Lifson Law: Blog

Cyberstalking: New Form of Old Behaviors

  The crime of harassment has been on the books for a very long time. And of course, the obnoxious and often frightening behaviors associated with harassment have been a part of human existence since the beginning of time. One form of harassment is stalking: a crime that calls to mind the hunter and the prey, a crime of intimidation and psychological terror that often escalates into violence against its victims. Now, as we continue to develop new and immediate ways of communicating with one another, we see forms of stalking through electronic media. The relentless pursuit of a victim through the internet can be disruptive, cause enormous fear, and foreshadow undesirable contact “in real life.” This form of stalking through electronic communication devices is often referred to as “cyberstalking.” The federal government and all fifty states, including Maryland, have statutes to address stalking. However, the law has not kept pace with rapid changes in technology. Currently, Maryland law defines stalking in this way. It is a malicious course of conduct that includes approaching or pursing another where the person intends to place or knows or reasonably should have known that the conduct would place another in reasonable fear of the following: serious bodily injury, of an assault in any degree, of rape or sexual offense or attempted rape or sexual offense in any degree, false imprisonment or death. Notice that the term “approaching” is ambiguous. Does this mean approaching in the actual physical environment, or does it refer to approaching through electronic media? The June 1, 2015 decision by the Supreme Court in the case Elonis v. United...

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.