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Steven J. Gaba
Phone: 301-738-7770

Bethesda MD Family Law Blog

How can I tell if my spouse is hiding assets?

If you think your marriage is soon to be part of the 50-percent divorce rate in Maryland, the thought may have crossed your mind to start stashing money in a secret account. You should know that it is, in fact, illegal to hide assets from a divorcing spouse. That does not mean the same thought has not crossed the mind of your partner, however. 

According to HuffPost, 30 percent of those who share finances with another person have hidden purchases or assets from them. Some 7.2 million Americans admit to hiding a bank account or credit card from a partner. Here are some of the ways people can hide assets; many are small things, but taken together, they can add up to a good-size nest egg for someone starting over.

The importance of a reliable adult guardian

Many Maryland residents know the gravity of a situation involving adult guardianship and mental illness. This type of arrangement can prove beneficial for an adult who cannot completely care for themselves; however, finding the right person for this challenging role can be difficult. Because one situation can be different from the next, a relationship that can mesh while providing utmost care for the individual in need is a crucial part of the process.

An article from Kaiser Health News highlighted the story of two Harlem sisters in a unique situation. One sister has suffered from schizophrenia for decades, and the other has stepped up to the plate as her legal guardian. Although Ruby Wilson, 54, lives in an assisted living facility in North Carolina, Jean, her sister in Maryland, is nevertheless her primary guardian and caretaker. The job has certainly had its ups and downs, but the Wilson sisters are not alone: according to Kaiser, roughly 8.4 million Americans are caretakers to adult family and friends with mental illness. Most commonly, caretakers look over their parents, spouses or siblings.

Child custody and the stigma of mental illness

A child custody battle can be stressful enough on its own, but when mental issues enter the picture, that stress can seem all the more magnified. Maryland parents who struggle with mental illness likely have preexisting complications to sort out long before divorce papers arrive. Although some argue that adding children to this mix is a wrong step, maintaining fair child custody despite the struggles can make all the difference in the lives of those involved.

Regardless of the specific type of issue, winning a child custody battle has proved difficult for parents who struggle mentally. An article in Bipolar Lives expresses discontent with the stimga attached to mental illness altogether, claiming that parents who suffer from such illnesses often do not receive fair treatment in the courtroom. In fact, the article highlights a study from Mental Health America to show that only a third of children with a parent having serious mental health issues resides with that parent. It is not uncommon for courts to see serious problems with mental illness; this can apply even when appointed psychologists have already assessed parents to be perfectly capable of raising a child. Even worse, Bipolar Lives states that, 70 to 80 percent of the time, a parent who uses mental health problems as the argument for a custody battle wins.

Defining how your 401(k) fits into your divorce

Many of the Rockville clients that we on the team here at Steven J. Gaba have worked with in the past come into their divorce proceedings convinced that they know exactly which of their assets their soon-to-be ex-spouses cannot touch. Many are unpleasantly surprised to learn that several of those they view as being separate assets are actually subject to property division. The asset that typically causes the most shock is a 401(k). You work very hard to earn assets to allocate to your 401(k) account without contributions from your spouse. Why then would it be considered marital property? 

The reason behind this is the same that designates your earned income as a marital asset. Because you earned those assets while married, they are viewed as marital property. Thus, any funds put into your 401(k) (along with any interest or earnings generated by it) during your marriage are shared between you and your spouse. Now, if you were already contributing to your 401(k) prior to your marriage, those funds posted to it (and again, any interest or earnings) before you were wed are indeed separate property. 

Caring for a disabled adult in maryland

Caring for a mentally ill, handicapped or disabled loved one can be a complex and demanding task. The many needs of adults who cannot live on their own can depend on specific conditions and illnesses. Even with detailed needs and concerns, there are general facts with which Maryland residents can become acquainted to provide the best care for those in need.

As with most states, Maryland has its own laws surrounding the care of those unable to live alone. The Maryland State Bar Association lists some of the basics of adult guardianship in the state, including the definitions of what, exactly, constitutes as a guardian in these situations. The Court appoints a guardian to take on legal responsibility for another individual -- this step can also include a person's property. Typically, a person who is in need of a guardian is disabled and incapable of making responsible decisions regarding medical care or finances. There, too, exist rules regarding who can become a guardian in the state; courts first consider ward-designated professionals who worked with the individual before they became disabled. Next, courts consider blood relatives or close friends. After the court appoints a guardian, the guardian must follow all required legal procedures to confirm legal guardianship. 

Is mediation right for you?

According to the Maryland Judiciary, mediation is a viable option for resolving disputes without the costly expense of a trial. When deciding whether mediation is the right option for you, you may want to take a closer look at what it actually is and what benefits the process provides. 

The Maryland Judiciary defines mediation as a "process in which a trained impartial person, called a mediator, helps you and the other person communicate, understand each other, and reach agreement if possible." Sometimes all you need is an objective third party who can see what each side is overlooking and find a middle ground you both can agree on. Mediators can often provide that objective view, and they have the expertise to express concerns in ways you and the other party can hear and respond to appropriately. 

Navigating child custody after a felony charge

Everyone makes mistakes -- it is simply part of human life. Yet the ways those mistakes are legally measured can result in potentially devastating outcomes. Countless Maryland residents live with felonies on their records, and while these offenses carry varying penalties, some live with the baggage for many years. This baggage can often be hard to explain for parents with children, especially amidst a divorce. All family issues and criminal charges aside, what typically matters most is the security of family. 

Lifestyle magazine Livestrong shares this concern regarding convicted felons and their children. And it appears they are not alone -- an article published last June noted the statistic that 6 percent of U.S. adults are convicted felons. Again, although a parent's rights to their child depends on the type of crime they have committed, Livestrong lists some offenses that likely have negative outcomes:

  • Child abuse
  • Sexually related felonies involving children
  • Child endangerment

Understanding uncontested divorce

Several of those that we here at the office of Steven J. Gaba have worked with in the past may tell you that going through divorce proceedings is a time-consuming and often costly affair. In some cases in Rockville, circumstances may make contested divorce proceedings necessary. Yet if you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse want to have your marriage dissolved quickly (and are willing to work together toward that end), then you may want consider the merits of an uncontested divorce. 

In an uncontested divorce, you and your spouse both recognize that the decision to split is mutual and that neither of you places any fault on the other for ending the marriage. Additionally, you must agree on all divorce-related matters, including: 

  • Asset and debt division
  • Alimony
  • Child custody
  • Child support

The details of adult public guardianship

When a loved one becomes incapable of performing basic self-care, it can be difficult to decide on a future plan. Needless to say, adult guardianship can change many aspects of life, and can significantly alter schedules and daily activities. Depending on the disability, this type of care can span an entire lifetime. Therefore, it is crucial to understand the many approaches one can take when considering legal adult guardianship in Maryland.

Early last year, a story from The Baltimore Sun encouraged readers with disabled children to start future planning sooner than later. Why? According to The Sun, special needs children often require extended assistance to move forward into adulthood. The Howard County Autism Society points out that, while the state offers funding for special education for disabled children, this funding ends when a child graduates high school or turns 21. This shift in support can come as a shock to many families. The Autism Society stresses the importance of learning about different needs post-high school, including transportation, housing and employment opportunities. Types of guardianship can also depend on a child's specific needs.

Reviewing debt division during divorce

Most of the married residents of Rockville may be more than happy to share everything with their spouses. That includes their debts. Yet once people decide to end their marriages, such altruism also often ends with it. One might look as his or her limited role in assuming a liability and question whether or not he or she should be held responsible for it. While it may be well known that divorcing couples are typically required to divide their property between each other, many often also wonder if they have to do the same with their debts. 

The answer depends upon the nature of the debt. There are certain liabilities that are often inextricably linked to marriage (such as the purchase of a marital home). Typically, the responsibility to resolve such debts is joint. One might say that, in general, any debt that a couple assumes while married is shared (even after the marriage ends). Conversely, a debt assumed by one prior to getting married is separate. Indeed, this is confirmed in Section 4-301(a) of Maryland's state statutes

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