Family law touches on sensitive and personal aspects of a client’s life.
At Baldwin, Briscoe, & Steinmetz, we understand the long-term financial and emotional consequences these kinds of cases have on families.
Through years of trusted, competent service and representation, we’ve learned to balance the needs of all parties in a case while pursuing the best resolutions for our clients.
A prenuptial agreement is a contract that helps manage the risk of a future marital relationship that ends through divorce, separation, or dissolution of the marriage.
A prenuptial allows you and your partner to decide on issues such as property ownership, management of financial affairs, spousal support, or other areas you have mutual interests now.
A separation agreement is a voluntary contract between a husband and wife who choose to live separately. The agreement can address matters that accompany the end of a marriage, such as child custody and visitation, alimony, or division of marital property and debt.
Protection and peace orders protect victims of abuse through the courts. These orders require an individual who has committed an abusive act to stop violent or threatening physical actions, stop threatening verbal contact, and stay away from a victim’s home and work.
These orders can also grant temporary possession of a family home, child custody, and financial support.
Maryland separates divorce into two categories: limited and absolute. A limited divorce is a court-ordered separation. In a limited divorce, a judge lacks the authority to divide real property or pensions.
In an absolute divorce, the marital relationship is terminated, and all property can be divided.
An annulment is a process of declaring a marriage invalid. Maryland law allows marriages to be voided for a variety of reasons.
Alimony and Alimony Modification
During a divorce, a judge often awards alimony when partners in a marriage have unequal incomes. However, circumstances change.
After a divorce is final, the court may still be petitioned to modify alimony settlements in ways that reflect the new realities of each partner’s financial situation.
Qualified Domestic Relations Orders (QDRO’s)
A Qualified Domestic Relations Order is a court ruling that divides and distributes the benefits of a retirement plan between separating partners during a divorce.
For couples who shared a long marriage, the financial value of a pension plan may outweigh the value of the house they share; through QDROs, courts divide these benefits.
Child Custody and Visitation
Children are often the unintended victims of separation and divorce. Child custody and visitation are arranged as best as possible through parenting plans. We can guide you through the process at Baldwin, Briscoe, and Steinmetz.
Child Support and Child Support Modification
Child support is one of the issues decided during a divorce. Similar to alimony, courts consider both partners’ financial resources when awarding child support.
A court in Maryland will legally change your name so long as it is not done with intent to commit fraud or escape debt.
At Baldwin, Briscoe, and Steinmetz, we can walk you through the process step-by-step, ensuring the procedure is committed smoothly.
There are many kinds of guardianships in Maryland. In any situation where a person cannot make their own decisions, the court may appoint a guardian over them.
Our firm represents clients involved in all types of guardianships.
Read more about guardianships
Fiduciary Duty and Guardianships
Fiduciary duty is a legal duty to act solely in another party’s interests. Parties owing this duty are called fiduciaries. The individuals to whom they owe a duty to are called principals. Fiduciaries may not profit from their relationship with their principals unless they have the principals’ express informed consent. They also have a duty to avoid any conflicts of interest between themselves and their principals.
A guardian is a person who is entrusted with the legal care and oversight of another person, also called the ward. The guardian is usually appointed by the state, though they can also be appointed by the ward’s parents in some cases. The ward is usually a minor who needs legal guidance or an adult who cannot make legal decisions on their own, such as a person who is disabled in some manner or an elderly person.
There are two types of guardians. First, guardians of the person are entrusted with the care of the actual ward, much in the same way that an adoptive parent is responsible for a child. Secondly, guardians of the estate are entrusted with overseeing a person’s estate, which involves all of the property, money, and assets that they own. In both cases, the guardian owes a fiduciary duty to the ward.
A guardian is required by law to act in a manner that is honest and responsible when managing the ward’s financial affairs. The guardian must act in good faith and exercise sound judgment when making decisions on behalf of their ward. A guardian can sometimes be held legally responsible for the ward’s own losses, typically if the loss was the direct result of the guardian’s breach of their duties. Generally, however, the guardian is never responsible or personally liable for any debts or legal obligations that were incurred solely by the ward. The guardian should manage the ward’s finances so that their debts are addressed in a timely manner; however, the guardian usually does not need to pay for these out of their own pocket, but rather using the ward’s own funds. On the other hand, the guardian may be liable for debts associated with the ward, for example, if they arose according to a contract or other type of arrangement, such as those that were addressed in a guardianship agreement.
In some cases, guardians can receive child support payments from the ward’s non-custodial biological parent. However, this may depend on several factors. It may be that the ward’s parents have not completely forfeited their parental rights; so the guardian may only be acting in a very limited capacity and for a specific purpose. The child support order may specifically list the biological parent for the support, rather than the guardian. In any event, if the guardian is receiving child support payments for the ward, the funds need to be dedicated to the ward and not for personal use.
A few common examples of a breach of fiduciary duty by a guardian are:
- That they may be self-dealing in some way. Examples might include selling or renting property to friends or family members at a bargain rate; taking assets (cars, computers, boats) for personal use, etc;
- That they are paying themselves too much;
- That they are making poor or improper investment choices knowingly;
- That they may be intentionally pilfering or stealing assets.
- Fiduciary Duty and Guardianships in Maryland
The state of Maryland does not recognize fiduciary duty by itself. “In a claim for monetary damages at law, however, an alleged breach of fiduciary duty may give rise to a cause of action, but it does not, standing alone, constitute a cause of action.” Wasserman Goldsten Family LLC v. Kay, 197 Md.App. 586, 631–32, 14 A.3d 1193, 1219 (2011). A claim for breach of fiduciary duty exists only “where the breach is alleged as an element of the cause of action-not as a separate cause of action itself.” Boiardi v. Freestate, (D. Md. 2013). In other words, there is not independent cause of action; the breach comes from pure negligence or contract claim.
A guardianship in Maryland works in much the same way that it does in most other jurisdictions. “Before a guardianship of the person may be imposed, the petitioner must establish by clear and convincing evidence the “need” for such a guardianship.” In re Rosenberg, 211 Md. App. 305, 314, 65 A.3d 203, 208 (2013). A guardianship proceeding shall terminate upon: “(1) The cessation of the minority or disability; (2) The death or presumptive death of the minor or disabled person; (3) Transfer of all the assets of the estate to a foreign fiduciary; or (4) Other good cause for termination as may be shown to the satisfaction of the court.” Id at 209.
If there is a breach of fiduciary duty by a guardian, under Maryland Code, Estates and Trusts Title 13 – Protection of Minors and Disabled Person, Subtitle 2 – Protection of Property, Section 13-216 (a) “If the exercise of a power is improper, the guardian is liable for breach of his fiduciary duty to the minor or disabled person or to interested persons for resulting damage or loss to the same extent as a trustee of an express trust.”
In Maryland, the statute of limitations for a civil action is defined under Maryland Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article 5-101 “[a] civil action at law shall be filed within three years from the date it accrues unless another provision of the Code provides a different period of time within which an action shall be commenced.” However, there are exceptions to this rule.
These exceptions are known as tolling, which, means that the statute of limitations has been legally suspended until some event specified by law occurs. Tolling greatly benefits the plaintiff and allows for cases to be filed that otherwise would be barred due to failure to meet the statute of frauds. Various events or circumstances will toll a statute of limitations. It is tolled when one of the parties is under a legal disability—the lack of legal capacity to do an act—at the time the cause of action accrues. A child or a person with a mental illness is regarded as being incapable of initiating legal action on her own behalf. Therefore, the time limit will be tolled until some fixed time after the disability has been removed. For example, once a child reaches the age of majority, the counting of time will be resumed. A personal disability that postpones the operation of the statute against an individual may be asserted only by that individual. If a party is under more than one disability, the statute of limitations does not begin to run until all the disabilities are removed.
Caretaking of an Adult Destitute Child
There are many aspects when it comes to the caretaking of a child, but what about an adult? A destitute child is just one of the many ways a parent might still be obligated to pay for a child even though the child is over the age of 18. We here at the Law Offices of Baldwin, Briscoe & Steinmetz, P.C. have handled destitute children cases.
What is a Destitute Adult Child?
Most people believe that once a child reaches the age of 18, the child support and caretaking of that child stops. However, that assumption is wrong. In most situations, a child does become emancipated at the age of 18; however, there are some circumstances where a parent might have to continue to pay for a child past the age of 18. One set of circumstances is a destitute adult child. A destitute adult child is an adult child who does not have the means of substance, and cannot be self-supporting due to a mental or physical condition. MD. Code, FAM LAW §13-101(b).
Parent’s Obligation to Pay for a Destitute Adult Child Under Statutory Law
Maryland looks at the destitute adult child and has to determine whether or not they are able to take care of themselves both physically and mentally. MD. Code, FAM LAW §13-101(b). If the child in fact is determined to be a destitute adult child by not being able to take care of themselves financially and physically, then a parent might have a duty to take care of the destitute adult child. MD. Code, FAM LAW §13-101(b); and MD Code, FAM LAW §13-102(b). The parent’s duty to take care of the destitute adult child arises if “a destitute adult child is in the State and has a parent who has or is able to earn sufficient means, the parent may not neglect or refuse to provide the destitute adult child with food, shelter, care, and clothing.” MD Code, FAM LAW §13-102(b).
Parent’s Obligation to Pay for a Destitute Adult Child Under Case Law
The case law found in Cutts, Jr. v. Trippe, 208 Md.App. 696, (2012) enforces the duty of a parent to take care of a destitute adult child. In Cutts, Jr. v. Trippe, 208 Md.App. 696, (2012) the mother of the destitute child moved to modify the father’s child support obligation because the destitute adult child was incurring reasonable expenses that the destitute child was unable to pay. The Maryland Court of Special Appeals held that under MD Code, FAM LAW §13-102(b), “[p]arents have a statutory duty to support an adult destitute child,” as defined under MD. Code, FAM LAW §13-101(b), and granted the mother’s motion. Cutts, Jr. v. Trippe, 208 Md.App. 696, 703 (2012). Thus, Cutts, Jr. v. Trippe enforces the obligation of a parent to take care of a destitute adult child.
It’s not just one parent’s obligation, however, to take care of a destitute adult child, but both. In Presley, Jr. v. Presley, 65 Md.App. 265 (1985), the former wife sought arrearages in child support and medical expense payments for their destitute adult child by the destitute adult child’s father. Maryland’s Court of Special Appeals remanded the trial courts original holding allowing only one parent to pay for the child’s medical expenses, and held that there was a duty under MD Code, FAM LAW §13-102(b) for both parents who were able to provide sufficient means to the support of the destitute child, to pay for the child’s medical expenses. Presley, Jr. v. Presley, 65 Md.App. 265, 278, 279 (1985). Further, the court held that if a trial court determines an adult to be a destitute adult child, and that destitute adult child had health care insurance but could prove that even though she could pay her regular bills she could not pay her medical bills, the parents may be obligated to pay the difference between what the medical insurance paid and what is owed. Presley, Jr. v. Presley, 65 Md.App. 265, 278, 279 (1985)
Penalties for not Providing For a Destitute Adult Child
According to MD Code, FAM LAW §13-102(c), the penalties for not providing a destitute adult child with food, shelter, care, and clothing are as follows: “A person who violates any provisions of this section is guilty of a misdemeanor and on a conviction is subject to a fine not exceeding $1,000 or imprisonment not exceeding 1 year, or both.” MD Code, FAM LAW §13-102(c).
This is not legal advice. The Law Offices of Baldwin, Briscoe & Steinmetz, P.C. are experienced attorneys who can help you receive the maximum for your case. For more information as to whether you are entitled to relief due to the caretaking of a destitute child, contact a practicing attorney at the Law Offices of Baldwin, Briscoe & Steinmetz, P.C.
Adoptions in Maryland are made through a comprehensive legal procedure. We have served adopters for years by representing them and seeing them make it through the courts.
After a divorce, an ex-spouse may be charged with contempt for failing to make payments or failure to fulfill promises they made during the divorce.
Our firm will work to ensure swift and fair resolutions of any of your post-divorce legal needs.
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