Lifson Law: Blog

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...

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.

Notes from the Desk of Cynthia Lifson: Pie

As the year comes to a close and the holiday season gets into full swing, I find myself thinking of all of the many tasks that I need to accomplish before the end of this month. I also find that I am very distracted by all of the many sweets that surround me during this time. If you are like me, managing the appropriate consumption of all of these desserts is hard to do! In particular, I find pie to be very challenging. I simply adore all pies: apple, coconut, chocolate cream, pumpkin, and pecan. Can I have all the pies or must I choose among all these fantastic offerings? Well, of course, for me, it simply isn’t all about the actual pies. As I assist my clients, I am always thinking about “dividing the pie” or “growing the pie” or which “part of the pie.” And as I have learned over the years, as a general matter, we really can’t have all the pies we want – we must make choices. It is so important to think carefully to ascertain what is important for myself and to listen carefully to each of my clients when making choices. Some folks simply want more of the pie than the opposing party; some want the crust while others want the filling; and others may truly prefer cake instead of pie. There is no right or wrong here – just preferences and the limitations imposed by the law and by our general circumstances. I hope that you all find your special piece of the pie this season, enjoy it completely, and get...