Divorce Confusion

Aug 8, 2012 by

Question: 

Okay, so I will spare you the bulk of the gory details, but in a nutshell, my wife left me and our three children in 07/2008, left the state for her home state 500 miles away, didn’t pay anything in child support for over a year, (I filed for divorce shortly after we both signed a separation agreement form prior to her moving, I ultimately was granted pendente lite and later sole legal/physical custody of our 3 kids, child support, etc.). At the time of the divorce hearing, not enough time had passed since the summons had been served on my wife to grant me a default absolute divorce, so the hearing went through on the limited divorce, which I was granted. Then they closed the entire case while an order for default was still pending on the “absolute” side of things. Now my, sort of but not really, ex-wife has enlisted in the Army, and is leaving for parts unknown in like two weeks! This whole process has taken nearly two years at this point, I never want to have to use the words “limited” or “absolute” in a sentence ever again (lol), and I have a borderline incompetent lawyer whose bumblings and procrastinated filings is a big reason that I am in this predicament in the first place. Any advice you could offer as to what I can do given the case’s current “closed/inactive” status, and how things will be complicated by my wife’s decision to enlist, would be most appreciated! Thanks for your time and for providing some concise wisdom in a legal world full of convoluted confusion..

State: 
Maryland

Answer: 


Why your case was closed pending default judgment for an absolute divorce, is something only your lawyer would be able to tell you.  Keep in mind that courts usually do not favor entering judgment by default.  (Default is when a party does not show up or respond by the deadline given, and therefore “defaults” their case.)  Rather, courts favor a trial on the merits, with evidence and arguments being presented from both sides in a contested litigation before the judge.  Default judgments also require specific procedural steps be followed, such as proper service, which ensures that the other party had proper notice and a reasonable chance to respond.

If your desire is to get the absolute divorce moving again, you should be able to file again for an absolute divorce as long as one or more qualifying conditions under Maryland Code, Family Law § 7-103 are met.  Keep in mind that if an absolute divorce is granted, the court will most likely now be able to divide the marital property (something it could not do with a limited divorce), and will also re-evaluate the proper amount of child support, taking into account the current situation of you and your wife.   Thus, the child support you are currently receiving under the limited divorce may be more or less than what you would get at the time of the absolute divorce.  Other issues also exist, so be sure to contact a local attorney that is familiar with Maryland‘s family laws.

As for your wife’s military enlistment, this would a factor taken into account by the judge during any future divorce proceeding, just as your wife’s previous employment and financial situation were taken into account when the limited divorce was granted.  However, just because your wife joins the military doesn’t mean the judge’s order for her to pay child support somehow disappears.  Whether she wears civilian business casual or military fatigues, she will still owe child support until a court deems otherwise.

Wendy Jaffe and Divorce.com can only provide general information about divorce. DO NOT RELY ON MS. JAFFE’S ADVICE ALONE. Before acting on information provided by Ms. Jaffe or by Divorce.com, talk to an attorney first about your particular facts and the law of your state. By submitting your question to Divorce.com, you are not creating an attorney/client relationship with Ms. Jaffe or with any of the other attorneys listed on this site.

 

 

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