December 12, 2012

Same Sex Marriage Licenses Issued by Maryland Clerks of Courts

On November 30, 2012 we blogged about the Attorney General’s Opinion on the issuance of same sex marriage licenses and when the clerks could issue same. It appears that the clerks have followed the guidance of his Opinion as the first licenses were issued Thursday, December 6, 2012 as reported by the Baltimore Sun. Although the couples will not be able to wed until January 1, 2013, the Clerks of most Courts around the State have issued the licenses as of Thursday. As reported, Harford County and Prince Georges County are still working out some logistics, but will soon offer the licenses to same sex couples as well. While January 1, 2013, is a holiday and most courthouses would normally be closed, some are now considering opening to allow the couples to wed on their first available day to do so.

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November 30, 2012

Maryland Attorney General Issues Opinion on When Courts Can Issue Same-Sex Marriage Licenses

As we explained in our “How to Get Married Guide for Same Sex Couples” blog on November 8, 2012, same sex couples will be permitted to marry in Maryland as of January 1, 2013. However, couples will need to obtain a marriage license from the court prior to doing so, and will have to wait 48 hours before they can act on the license. So the question becomes, when will same-sex couples be eligible to obtain the license, given that January 1 is a court holiday. The Attorney General, Doug Gansler released on 19 page opinion on Thursday, November 29, 2012 as reported by WJZ. Attorney Gansler states that the “court clerks may begin issuing marriage licenses after the law is formally proclaimed to have been approved by the voters” on December 6, 2012. However, Attorney Gansler cautions that the clerk could choose not to issue the licenses until January 2, 2013. You can find the Attorney General’s full opinion here.

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November 29, 2012

Maryland Opening Domestic Violence Visitation Center

Baltimore will soon be the home to a supervised visitation center according to CBS Baltimore’s report on November 27, 2012. The Safe Havens center will allow victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, dating violence or child abuse to have parent-child contact in the presence of a third-party supervisor. The opening of the Center is critical as many courts in the area have recently had to close their supervised visitation centers due to lack of funding. The center may be useful to Judges in awarding visitation with a minor child under a protective order to an alleged abuser. As we have previously explained when entering a protective order, a Judge has the authority to establish temporary visitation with a minor child of the alleged abuser and a person eligible for relief on a basis which gives primary consideration to the welfare of the minor child and the safety of any other person eligible for relief.

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November 29, 2012

Maryland Court of Special Appeals Rules Marriage Over Phone Valid

As the Washington Post reports, The Maryland Court of Special Appeals upheld the divorce of Marie-Louise Tshiani and Noel Tshiani, stating that their marriage, where Noel was only present by phone, was valid. When Ms. Tshiani filed for divorce in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County, seeking alimony and child support, Mr. Tshiani claimed that he did not know about their marriage. Mr. Tshiani was present for the 1993 ceremony that took place in the Democratic Republic of Congo by way of speaker phone only. He participated by answering questions from another country, but his cousin did stand in his place for the actual ceremony. The Maryland Court of Special Appeals held that this was a valid marriage under state law as Maryland law does not bar the Court “from recognizing a ceremony where on participates by proxy and the ceremony that is valid in another jurisdiction.” The ruling by the Court is especially important as it again confirms that Maryland will recognize a marriage performed elsewhere that would have been otherwise illegal in Maryland.

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November 21, 2012

The Same Sex Couples Guide to Protective Orders

As we have previously stated the new same sex marriage law will not only allow those in same sex relationship to now marry, but also to divorce, and will affect many other areas of family law. While those in same sex relationships may have been able to obtain a protective order previously, there may be some changes to the process for them.

A protective order can be awarded to only specified individuals, termed “persons eligible for relief.” To be a person eligible for relief one must be: the current or former spouse of the respondent; a cohabitant of the respondent; a relative of the respondent by blood, marriage or adoption; or a parent, stepparent, child or stepchild of the respondent or the person eligible for relief who resides or resided with the respondent or person eligible for relief for at least 90 days within 1 year before the filing of the petition Maryland Code, Family Law 4-501. While the same-sex couples did qualify under the cohabitant category previously, they, along with all others alleging to be cohabitants, had to prove they both had a sexual relationship with the respondent and resided in the same home for at least 90 days within one year of filing the petition. This may have required same sex couples to admit to sodomy, which remains a crime in Maryland. Now, those same sex couples who are married will fall under the current or former spouse category and will no longer have to prove the sexual relationship.

There are three potential stages to obtaining a protective order. First, is the Interim Protective Order, which allows for domestic violence protective orders to be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. District Court Commissioners are available at any hour of the day and can issue an interim protective order if there is “reasonable grounds to believe” that the alleged abuser (the Respondent) has abused the person eligible for relief. This protective order lasts for up to 48 hours after the courts re-open, after which the individual seeking protection (the Petitioner) must seek a temporary protective order to extend the interim order.

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November 8, 2012

The “How to Get Married” Guide for Same-Sex Couples

Effective January 1, 2013 same-sex couples will be allowed to marry in the State of Maryland. So how do they go about doing so? Find our step by step guide below:

1. Prior to obtaining a marriage certificate or making plans for a wedding, consider whether you and your partner will enter into a pre-nuptial agreement. If so, consult with an attorney. Maryland divorce and custody laws may apply if you get divorced, so it is important to know if you have pre-marital or other assets you want/need to protect in the event of divorce.

2. If you have children, consult with an attorney about how your marriage may or may not effect the custody of your child(ren) if you divorce.

3. You need to obtain a marriage license from the Circuit Court in the county in which you plan to get married. Information on the various counties can be found below:

Anne Arundel County

Baltimore City

Baltimore County

Howard County

4. You will need to bring identifying information with you to obtain the license and while only one of you will need to be present to obtain the license, you will need the following information for each applicant:

- Age
- Birth Date
- State or Country of Birth
- Current Address
- Social Security Number

5. If either you or your partner has been previously divorced or widowed you will need the exact date of death or dissolution and in some counties you may need proof of same. Again, check with the courthouse of the county in which you will be married.

6. You will need to pay to obtain the license. This varies by county so check prior to visiting the courthouse, but it will range between $35.00 to $60.00. Make sure to verify what forms of payment are accepted.

7. You will not be able to get married for 48 hours after you obtain the license and you must get married within 6 months of obtaining the license.

8. You can use the certificate to be married in a civil or religious ceremony of your choosing.

9. Get married!

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November 8, 2012

What happens now to the children of same-sex married couples when their parents’ divorce?

Now that the same-sex marriage legislation has been approved by the voters of the State of Maryland, we thought it would be a good idea to re-visit the issues surrounding the children of same-sex couples. If you are a frequent reader of our blogs, you may recall on February 28, 2011 we wrote about the current legal status of those children of same-sex couples. The passage of the same-sex marriage legislation in Maryland does not change the legal status of those children. The passage of the current legislation will, however change the legal status of children adopted or born during the course of the marriage of a same-sex couple.

In the State of Maryland, “a child born or conceived during a marriage is presumed to be the legitimate child of both spouses” in accordance with Section 1-206 of the Estates and Trusts Article of the Annotated Code of Maryland. The Code further states that “a child conceived by artificial insemination of a married woman with the consent of her husband is the legitimate child of both of them for all purposes”. It is my belief that it would follow that that those children born or conceived during a same-sex marriage are the legitimate children of both parents, not only the spouse who gave birth to the child.

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November 7, 2012

Maryland Voters Approve Same-Sex Marriage Law

As the Baltimore Sun reports, and most of Maryland has heard, Maryland voters made history on Election Day as they voted to make same-sex marriage legal in our State. As we discussed in our February 24, 2012 blog the Maryland Senate passed the Civil Marriage Protection Act legalizing same-sex marriage in February 2012, but we knew that the decision would ultimately be up to the voters. After months of campaigning, fundraising and controversy over the law, the voters have spoken. Maryland has joined six other states and Washington D.C. in allowing same-sex marriage and is one of only two States to pass same-sex legislation by the popular vote.

As of January 1, 2013, same-sex couples will be permitted to obtain a marriage license from the Court, just as a heterosexual couple would. As of now the current law defining a legal marriage in Maryland, found at Maryland Code Family Law, § 2-201 states “[o]nly a marriage between a man and a woman is valid in this State.” As of January 1, 2013 the statute will read “[o]nly a marriage between two individuals who are not otherwise prohibited from marrying is valid in this State.”

We have previously blogged about the issues that surround the recognition of same-sex marriages in Maryland, specifically the Attorney General’s support of recognizing same sex marriages created validly in other states and Maryland lawmakers attempt to block gay marriages. Most recently we discussed the Court of Appeals recently heard arguments on the denial of a same sex divorce in Prince George’s County. The Court of Appeals issued its decision in May 2012 holding "[a] valid out-of-state same-sex marriage should be treated by Maryland courts as worthy of divorce, according to the applicable statues, reported cases, and court rules of this state."

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November 2, 2012

Divorce Insurance?

Most of us are covered in case of death, disability, illness, car accident, fire, but what about for divorce? As we are aware divorce can be a lengthy and expensive process and unfortunately the divorce rate in the United States is high. We stumbled across the following website, which promotes “divorce/ marriage insurance.” It was featured in the Huffington Post in April 2012. Basically, the premise is that this insurance will reimburse you your costs of a divorce, including attorney fees, however the insurance will also eventually reward those who stay married. As stated by the Huffington Post, the insurance is not currently available and the website states the following:

WedLock Divorce Insurance was the first insurance product developed by SafeGuard Guaranty. Introduced in 2010 and originally underwritten by a Utah Surplus Lines insurance company, WedLock is not currently available until a new underwriter is found. However, although providing that kind of protection will certainly keep people from falling below the poverty line, we'd like the biggest reward go to those that have the good fortune to stay married and we are currently involved in the development of a product with that in mind.

The website also features a “divorce probability calculator,” which one can use and have their results emailed to them. The questions include age, income, race, religion, children born before/during marriage, marital status of parents, conflicts, etc. Soon some of us may be making checks out to not only State Farm, but SafeGuard Guaranty.

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March 21, 2012

Same Sex Divorce Case to Be Heard By Maryland Court of Appeals

The Maryland Court of Appeals will hear an appeal on a denied same sex divorce next month according to the Baltimore Sun’s March 17, 2012 report. The couple, who was married in San Francisco in 2008, were married for two years before one filed for divorce in Maryland. Their uncontested divorce was denied by the Prince George’s County Circuit Court. Judge Chapdelaine of the Court denied the divorce because he found the parties California marriage was not valid in Maryland and therefore they can not divorce in Maryland. We had previously blogged on this issue as the Courts are in limbo with the legislation being passed, but not yet in effect and in light of the Attorney General’s February 2010 opinion that Maryland should recognize same sex marriages in other states as valid in Maryland. The Sun reports that few counties have granted same sex divorces, including Baltimore City, Calvert County and Prince Georges County, in another instance. As it stands it is the Judge’s call, which is why this future ruling by Maryland’s highest Court is crucial. If the Maryland Court of Appeals upholds Judge Chapdelaine’s ruling those same sex divorces that have been granted could be then potentially nullified.

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February 24, 2012

Maryland Ranked 10th Worst State to Obtain a Divorce

Bloomberg rated Maryland the 10th worst state in the country as far as obstacles one might face in obtaining a divorce as reported by on February 2, 2012. The rankings took into account filing fees, minimum separation period, minimum length of residency, minimum waiting period after filing for the divorce, and minimum number of days for the entire process (start to finish). Bloomberg’s reasoning for Maryland’s low ranking was the one year waiting period before filing for a no-fault divorce, the minimum processing time of 360 days and the $135 filing fee.

The waiting period to obtain a no-fault divorce in Maryland has been at hot topic among the legislature as proponents seek to reduce it to six months. As stated in our April 18, 2011 blog, the Maryland legislature passed a bill eliminating the two year waiting period, which took effect October 1, 2011.

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February 24, 2012

Maryland Senate Passes Same Sex Marriage Bill

As the Baltimore Sun reports, Thursday night, February 23, 2012, the Maryland Senate passed Govern Martin O’Malleys’ bill to legalize same-sex marriage in Maryland. We blogged on June 28, 2011 that New York had passed the law allowing same sex couples to wed, making it the 6th state to do so. Maryland is now the 8th state to approve same sex marriages. While it is a victory for supporters of the bill, many believe that the law will likely be up to the voters in November. If the law is passed by the voters, it will be effective in January 2013.

As expected the church has voiced their disapproval of the bill’s passing. The Maryland Daily Record reports that Baltimore’s Cardinal O’Brien states that the bill “threatens families.” He has pledged that the Baltimore Archdiocese will work to overturn the law and likely will be a key proponent in making sure the voters have a say in November.

We discussed the potential of this bill passing last February and discussed the changes we may see in the area of family law as a result of the law. . As stated in the blog, the law will affect custody and visitation law, as now same-sex couples who marry and adopt a child will both be the legal parents of the child; pre-nuptial agreements; and same sex divorces.

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