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A bill was approved by the Maryland House repealing the language of a Maryland Family Law Statute which prohibits decisions in domestic violence proceedings from being admitted into evidence during divorce trials. Current law states that courts cannot consider decisions or orders made in Protective Order proceedings during the divorce trial. Final Protective Orders may be granted after a domestic violence incident and can provide for temporary custody, visitation and use and possession of the marital home. The bill will have to be approved by the Senate and Governor before becoming law.

 

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Sen. Wayne Norman (R-Harford) has introduced SB 499, a bill that would allow a circuit court to grant an absolute divorce on the basis of mutual consent, with only one of the parties appearing in court. The bill deletes Fam. Law Sec. 7-103(a)(8)(iv), which currently requires both parties to appear before a chancellor when they are seeking an absolute divorce. The bill hearing is set for February 14, 2017 in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.

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Stating three words, Talaq, Talaq, Talaq, is all that is required for a husband to divorce his wife under Islamic law. This ancient tradition is being reviewed by the Supreme Court in India in order to determine the constitutionality of this divorce practice. Other primarily Muslim countries have outlawed this practice of divorce years ago as women are often treated unfairly. This practice continues to effect marriage and divorce in the United States and particularly in Maryland.  Spouses who were married under the Islamic faith do not always realize that if they reside in Maryland, they are still bound by Maryland law and have to initiate the divorce process in the Maryland Courts. Many husbands state the triple Talaq or have a proxy in their home country stand in for them to perform the divorce practice pursuant to the laws of their home country. While they may be divorced in the eyes of their faith, they are not divorced pursuant to the law of Maryland. Maryland case law, Aleem v. Aleem, 404 Md. 404 (2008) has concluded that the Talaq violates due process and public policy and therefore is not recognized as a valid divorce in Maryland.

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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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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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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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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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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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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:

-Name – 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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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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