Robert A. Gordon Joins Lerch Early Leading New Bankruptcy/Financial Restructuring Practice

Robert A. Gordon has joined Lerch Early as a principal after 14 years as a judge on the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Maryland. Lerch Early is now better-positioned to advocate for our domestic clients in this important area that will become even more important in the wake of the pandemic, which will likely lead to an avalanche of bankruptcy filings.

Before coming to the bench, Robert represented clients in every aspect of insolvency law, in both federal and state courts, with extensive experience in bankruptcy cases that involved the enforcement of domestic, or family law, claims.

Family law issues are treated with specially designed care in bankruptcy, and Robert has managed those issues with thoughtfulness and resolve, whether they concern the impact of the Bankruptcy Code’s automatic stay upon ongoing domestic cases, the exclusion of debts and obligations from the bankruptcy discharge that arise from divorce proceedings, or the outright dismissal of a bankruptcy case due to its bad faith interference with an pending domestic case.

While a sitting judge, he ruled in numerous cases involving domestic disputes with a virtually perfect record of affirmance of matters appealed from his decisions. We welcome Robert and his skill at representing spousal interests in bankruptcy cases as the leader of our new Bankruptcy and Insolvency Group.

We’re pleased to welcome Robert to the firm. Please reach out to your Lerch Early family law attorney for more information on how Robert can help your business. You can learn more about him on his web bio: https://www.lerchearly.com/people/robert-a-gordon

Survival 101: Co-parenting and Remote Learning

AvatarHeather Collier, Principal

Out with new backpacks and lunch boxes, and in with Chromebooks and iPads: Fall is here but this year, back to school does not mean back to normal.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, many public and private schools have chosen a remote learning environment for students. For children with divorced parents, the struggle of living between two houses is more real than ever.

Whether you are new to sharing custody or have a have long-standing difficult co-parenting relationship, the challenges of remote learning present an excellent opportunity to find common ground and set your kids up for success this school year. Consider these topics and questions with your co-parent to avoid problems and miscommunications, and to develop agreed upon rules and practices in both households.

Sharing Information

  • Confirm that you and your co-parent are identified on enrollment forms, with correct and current email and cellular telephone numbers, to ensure you both receive all school provided information via any school listservs, email, text messages, or direct correspondence from your child’s teachers.
  • Create shared digital storage (Google share drive, Dropbox, etc.) for critical log-in details, class and assignment schedules, and other notes or documents related to your child’s schooling to provide you and your co-parent with immediate and easy access to all the same information. Doing so will better enable each of you to problem solve quickly if an issue arises during the remote school day or after hours. When in doubt, if you receive information from the school that impacts your child’s remote education, forward it to your co-parent and save it to the shared storage space.
  • Freely share information with your co-parent about what is working in your house and what is not – e.g., does a break at the end of the school session before homework begins work best?

Schedule

Pre-pandemic, going to school provided structure, stability, and consistency during the day for many children, particularly kids who live in two places during the week. To recreate that structure and develop a consistent routine, despite remote learning, work with your co-parent to establish a “school-day” schedule that applies in both houses.

Details might include the start and end to the day, defined periods for studying and homework, and breaks. Consider how the school-day schedule compliments the other schedules in your house, including your work-from-home schedule if one applies.

The same school day schedule in both houses will provide your kids with the routine they crave and take any guess work out of their day.

Devices

Is your child taking one device back and forth or do they have a device in both houses? The easiest solution for your child is likely having a device in each house and the same device/set-up in each house. Less to transport between houses, the same remote learning set-up in both houses, and no set-up time, means getting down to learning quickly with less stress.

If this is not an option for you and your co-parent, discuss what the set-up is in your respective houses and understand if anything has to travel back and forth. If equipment has to travel, confirm that your child has it with them before they go to the other parent’s house.

Tutors

Some parents are hiring tutors for a combination of in-person and/or remote tutoring to provide one-on-one help for their kids in the remote learning environment. If you and your co-parent believe your child will benefit from tutoring, talk with each other about whether the tutoring will be in-person, remote, or both, and how often it will take place and where.

Screen Time

Unplugging is more important than ever. If the whole school day is online, what are the rules going to be for non-school screen time? Will you and your co-parent have an agreed upon rule about your child’s access to their cell phone during the school day? Discuss whether you can agree upon certain parental control settings on your child’s devices to dictate what they have access to and when, regardless of location. Share parental control log-in details for each device.

There is a lot to consider now that your home is doubling as a school. With a few brief conversations with your co-parent, you can make a huge difference in your child’s experience this school year — regardless of whether their classroom is in their room or your living room. Bonus — it will make your new dual role as parent and teacher less stressful too!

I’ve Had It! How Soon Can I File for Absolute Divorce in Maryland?

AvatarHeather Collier, Principal

This is one of the most common questions I get from clients. In order to decide how soon you can file for divorce, we have to determine if you are eligible to seek a divorce in Maryland and, if so, on what basis. The basis for the divorce is called the “ground” for divorce. The timing for filing a divorce in Maryland depends on the answers to both questions.

To be eligible to file for divorce in Maryland, one party must live there at the time of filing. If the basis for the divorce, or the “grounds” for divorce occurred outside Maryland, then one party has to have resided in Maryland for at least 6 months before filing for divorce. 

Before the court can enter a Judgment of Absolute Divorce dissolving a couple’s marriage, the residency requirement must be met, one of the parties has to have a viable ground for absolute divorce; and all issues arising out of the parties’ marriage have to be resolved either by agreement of the parties or court order.   

Absolute Divorce Grounds

Maryland recognizes “no-fault” and “fault” grounds for absolute divorce.  Because some grounds for divorce have a waiting period, the ground (or grounds) for divorce you allege may impact when you can file.

No-fault grounds for absolute divorce are:

  • 12-month separation – the parties must live separate and apart, without cohabitation for a period of 12 months prior to filing for divorce, and continuing without interruption through the date the divorce is granted. 

    Translation:  you cannot spend the night under the same roof or have sex with your spouse for 12 months before you file for divorce and it has to stay that way after you file through the divorce.  Spending the night together under the same roof or having sex before the divorce is granted re-starts the separation clock on your 12-month separation period and will delay your ability to file under this ground.
  • Mutual Consent – this ground does not require a period of separation.  If you and your spouse have not yet separated or separated only recently, this ground may be the fastest means of filing for and obtaining a divorce.  In order to file for divorce based on Mutual Consent, you must meet the following requirements:
    • Have a signed, written agreement resolving all issues, including, alimony, property division, and the care, custody and support of any minor child or children;
    • Court approval of any agreement as to custody and support of a minor child as being in that child or children’s best interests; and
    • Neither party has filed to set aside the settlement agreement prior to the divorce hearing.

Fault grounds for divorce, with applicable waiting periods, include:

  • Adultery
  • Desertion, if desertion has continued for 12 continuous months.
  • Conviction of a felony or misdemeanor where the party has been sentenced to serve at least 3 years and has served 12 months of the sentence
  • Insanity if the spouse has been institutionalized for at least 3 years and the insanity is incurable
  • Cruelty of treatment
  • Excessively vicious conduct

Filing starts the divorce process, but the length of time for obtaining the actual Judgment of Absolute Divorce will depend on whether you settle some or all of the issues during the divorce litigation, or if you have a contested trial at the end where a judge will decide the outcome. 

Welcome to Your Source for Divorce Law

The Divorce/Family Law Group at Lerch, Early & Brewer is proud to present our new Divorce Law Source blog.

In an age where Google searches and web browsing are the go-to for most people to find information about everything, we are thrilled to provide an easily accessible one-stop shop for all things family law and divorce.

Featuring content authored by each of our accomplished and skilled family law attorneys, we encourage you to use this forum to find the answers to commonly asked legal and practical questions our clients confront pre- and post-divorce, review explanations and analyses of pertinent legal concepts and principles, and receive updates on new practices, rules, laws, and the family court system in Maryland and D.C. We will be featuring new posts and content each week. We look forward to welcoming many regular followers and invite you to recommend desired topics for future posts. Please subscribe to the blog on the right-hand side of this page.

Lerch Early’s family law attorneys represent clients in every facet of family law including divorce, custody, child support, alimony, property division, modifications of custody, child support, and alimony, prenuptial and postnuptial agreements, litigation, divorce and custody settlement agreements and alternative dispute resolution, guardianship, and adoption. For more information, please check out our website.

We hope to see you soon on our blog!

In Health,

Heather Collier and Erik Arena
Co-chairs, Divorce/Family Law Group