When parties go to court for a family law case in Maryland, they are asking the judge to exercise power under Maryland law to make decisions about their relationship. Some of these decisions, like the designation and division of marital assets, are final (subject to appeal), but others create some future or ongoing obligation that the court continues to have the power to enforce or change. Here is some more information about ways the court can continue to intervene in a family dynamic.
The Power to Make it Happen
Following a family law case, the parties may have to take actions covering a wide range of issues. Some of these issues are simply wrapping up the division of assets, like changing the ownership name on a car or selling a marital asset to split the proceeds. Other issues concern ongoing financial obligations like alimony. When there are children, custodial and visitation arrangements, as well as child support payments, will be part of the divorce decree. If one of the parties doesn’t do what they are supposed to do, the other party can return to the Court and ask for help enforcing the decree. The Court has substantial powers to assist with enforcement, including the use of the Sheriff’s department to take possession of an asset or arrest a party for violating a stay-away order. Maryland Courts can enforce divorce decrees in Maryland, but they also have the power to help a party enforce an out-of-state divorce or custody order against a Maryland resident.
The key to enforcement is the ability to demonstrate that a party is under some obligation created in a divorce decree or custody order and has failed to meet their obligation. This requires the collection of evidence, filing appropriate papers with the court, and presenting the situation to the Court along with suggestions for how to proceed with enforcement. Considering the moving parts, it is a good idea to work with a family law attorney to make sure that all the necessary elements are organized and properly submitted to the Court.
The Power to Adjust to New Circumstances
If a significant change occurs in the lives of the people who have gone through divorce or custody proceedings, it also is possible to go to Court in Maryland for a modification of the original order. Unlike an enforcement proceeding, the party seeking a modification has a bigger burden to show that there is a justification for the change. For example, if someone loses their job, and cannot continue to meet an alimony obligation, they can make a motion for modification of their alimony payments. Another example might be a parent who wants to move out of state. The moving parent can make a motion to modify the physical custody arrangement. In both cases, the party seeking the change has to produce evidence to show that the circumstances have changed sufficiently to justify changing the original order and that the desired change is in the child(ren)’s best interest.
Maryland Courts have discretion in deciding whether and how to modify prior orders. This means that the Court can decline to act or make a change to the order, even if that change is not what either party had in mind. An experienced family law attorney can help assess whether there is a good basis for making a change and prepare the necessary evidence to support or oppose a modification.