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Judith Adrienne Gillett

Judith Gillett’s Answers

19 total


  • I'm contesting my divorce case, please I need legal advice

    [personal information withheld]

    Judith’s Answer

    There is a free family law legal clinic Monday -- Thursday at the Courthouse in Upper Marlboro, Room 2435M. It is a first-come, first served clinic that opens at 9:00 a.m. It is staffed by attorneys and confidentiality of your information is assured. Good luck.

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  • Can I get an extension on a divorce summons?

    I have a protective order for domestic abuse for one year which expires 7/1/14

    Judith’s Answer

    I'm not entirely clear about the facts, from your question, but if I understand correctly you have successfully obtained a protective order, but that you have also been served with the opposing party's complaint for a divorce. Assuming you both reside in Maryland, you have thirty days from the service of the complaint upon you to file an answer. If you fail to file an answer by the thirtieth day, the opposing party will then be able to file a request for an order of default against you, assuming you were properly served with the original complaint. Once that occurs, you may request that the court set aside the order of default and allow you to file an answer, and usually most courts grant that request to allow you to proceed. If I did read the facts correctly, although you have now bought yourself one year by obtaining the protective order, in many cases it takes nearly a year for a divorce to work its way through the court system, so you are actually better of (in most cases) by filing an answer and allowing your divorce to proceed. This way, when the protective order expires, you will hopefully have a divorce order that specifies things such as child custody, support, use and possession of the family home, etc. Otherwise, once the protective order expires (assuming you have no grounds to extend it), you are out of luck and there is usually nothing that prevents the ex from contacting you. If you are concerned about finding funds to pay for a lawyer and you wish to wait on filing a formal answer to the complaint until you can hire one, you could file a request with the court for additional time to file an answer, explaining in your motion that you are attempting to hire an attorney to help you. Most courts would grant such a request.

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  • My ex-wife was recently in an accident. Can my child support change while she is recouping.

    She will be going back to work but will not be on her feet for a few months. I do not know what she is collecting from work or if there is a civil suit for the accident. I am just doing some due diligence to know what I can expect. It was not a...

    Judith’s Answer

    It often takes many months for a hearing to occur on a motion to modify child support. In light of that, plus the possibility that she may have eligibility for alternative sources of income during her rehabilitation (such as short or long term disability), it would likely be foolhardy of her to take you back to court, particularly since by the time you appear for a hearing, she'll likely be back to work. Additionally, if she did receive a settlement as a result of her accident, she leaves herself vulnerable to your argument that she has additional income that should be included in the child support calculation. Although it is absolutely accurate that she may be able to establish a material change in circumstances due to her loss of income during her recovery, in my experience the local courts are not particularly pleased to see ex spouses frequently returning to court, particularly if the situation creating the need is of a temporary nature. If she files (and you will have thirty days, minimum, to respond), I suggest that you Google a Maryland Child Support calculator, figure out the temporary difference in support, and then try to make a deal with her. Doing so may potentially save you much later aggravation and stress. That said, it is always important to beware setting a new status quo, as courts rarely deviate from them. In short, your best bet is probably to lay low and hope she does nothing, but if she files, do you best to keep the new amount at a minimum to minimize your overall exposure.

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  • Do I have to participate in physically transporting my child or can I just contribute a share of the transportation expenses?

    At the time of the separation, the other parent moved 35 miles away. Earlier this year, we agreed the other parent (non-custodial) did the picking up and dropping off of the child. However, as a part of our PL settlement agreement, each parent beg...

    Judith’s Answer

    Because you presumably entered into the PL agreement after the other parent moved 35 miles away, you are probably stuck for the time being. When a final order is entered, you could request that he/she be solely responsible for the transportation, but it is often difficult to persuade a court to deviate from the status quo, particularly if all seems to be going well with respect to the child. Although transportation expenses can be included as an offset in the calculation of the child support guidelines, often that is reserved for situations where there is a significant distance between the parents, thus making air fare or train fare necessary to ensure visitation, and I have never seen it done with a distance less than several hundred miles. If work obligations make it too difficult for you to do the transportation, you may be able to persuade the court that the burden should fall solely on the other parent, but in my experience the courts generally split the driving. I assume from your question that the PL agreement was recently entered, so it is possible that the other parent will simply continue to shoulder the transportation burden and will not realize that the Order states otherwise. If that is the case, I suggest you allow matters to remain status quo. If that should occur and the other parent then begins to demand equal transportation obligations at the hearing for the final custody order, you can at least argue that the existing arrangement has been working thus far, therefore negating any claim that it is too difficult on the other parent.

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  • I have an FTA for a DWI in 7/09.My court date was 12/09.Imoved to FL in 8/09.I requested a postponement-it was denied.Bail -25k

    is it be possible to get out w/o bail.I was placed on a new meds two days before the DWI & have since been diagnosed w BoPolar disorder.I have been an inpatient hospital at least 2 times since & completed an intensive out patient program.I see a t...

    Judith’s Answer

    Your chances of receiving some type of pre-trial release are greatly enhanced if you hire an attorney to file a motion on your behalf seeking to quash the bench warrant and proposing alternative pre-trial release conditions other than incarceration. Be very careful about what you say and/or present to the court by way of argument for pre-trial release. The law(s) and regulation(s) surrounding the release of substance abuse treatment and general psychiatric care records are very strict, and are there to protect you. You may inadvertently waive any claim that those records are privileged if you produce them to the court in advance of your trial in your attempt to secure bail. It could be possible that your medications affected your performance on the field sobriety tests, leading to your arrest. A competent dwi attorney should be able to evaluate that possibility and explore this option with you. What you don't want to do is make it easy for the State to prove its case against you by tipping them off as to what your defenses may be, thus allowing them a chance to refute it or otherwise prepare for it.

    If this is your only fta, in my experience, you should be able to find a bail bondsman to help you out. You should consult with a local criminal defense attorney immediately. He/she may be able to refer you to a good bondsman. Good luck!

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  • My ex and I signed a Marital Settlement Agreement. I need to let my attorney go.

    Do I need an attorney to represent me or can I represent myself?

    Judith’s Answer

    The benefit of having an attorney is he/she is there to protect you and ensure that your settlement agreement is abided by before, during, and after your divorce. A settlement agreement is generally construed by courts via general contract law principles. My concern for you is about what will happen if the opposing party breaches the agreement at any stage in the proceeding. If a breach occurs before a hearing on the divorce, you could inadvertently place yourself in a position whereby you become estopped from complaining about it based upon your behavior. The divorce hearing stage is critical -- if you are not very careful, your judgment of absolute divorce may not accurately reflect the agreement reached in your settlement agreement, eg., the child support amount might be higher or lower, depending upon the child support guidelines worksheet, and you could end up paying or receiving more than you agreed upon. I have seen this happen. Once the judgment of absolute divorce is entered, it is difficult to go back to correct/amend it. Finally, if a breach of the agreement occurs after a hearing on the merits, you could be compromised in your ability to bring the matter back before the court, depending upon what happens in the hearing on the merits. So, if you are determined to proceed pro se (without an attorney), it is very important that your separation agreement be strictly followed, and that it be incorporated, but not merged, into the judgment of absolute divorce. Bring a copy of it with you to your divorce hearing, and be sure that the master/judge knows about it.

    You are required to put on testimony as to the grounds for your divorce at the hearing on the merits. This means you should be prepared to have someone testify for you to establish the grounds. If you are divorcing because of a one year mutual and voluntary separation, you should bring someone with you to the hearing who knows you well enough to state that you were married, that you separated on the date alleged, you have lived separate and apart, without sex or sleeping under the same roof, for the time alleged, and that there is no reasonable hope or expectation that you will reconcile. A close friend or family member will be fine for this purpose. I hope this helps. Good luck!

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  • What are the consequences for driving on a suspended license while on probation for second dui in Maryland?

    Convicted of driving on a suspended license while on probation. Was sentenced to 20 days in jail after serving 10 days for my second DUI within two years. I have my violation of probation hearing in a month, and I am worried I will get more jail...

    Judith’s Answer

    I assume from your question that you received a 20 day sentence for the dws charge, and you are awaiting a violation of probation hearing from probation stemming from the underlying 2nd offense dwi charge. My first question is how much backup time do you have from the second dwi offense? The court cannot sentence you to any additional jail time unless you were sentenced to a period of incarceration that was suspended. So, if you received a one year sentence, with all but 10 days suspended, in the 2nd dwi case, theoretically the court could impose the entire 355 day balance of the suspended time. When you say you were "convicted" of dws, did you have a trial where you were found guilty, or did you enter a plea? The problem with a violation of probation hearing is that it is generally considered to be civil in nature, and the State only needs to show that you violated some term of your probation by a preponderance of the evidence, not beyond a reasonable doubt. This is a much lighter burden on the State. Finally, what provision of your probation does the State allege you violated? Obey all laws? The likelihood of the State prevailing in a violation hearing depends on the condition alleged to be violated, and the method by which your dws case was handled.

    It is possible that you can take immediate steps to mitigate damages in your violation of probation case by immediately entering and completing a residential alcohol treatment program. Courts often give day-to-day credit for time spent in in-patient treatment towards an active jail sentence, so depending on the county in which you are alleged to be in violation of probation, and the particular judge, in-patient treatment may keep you from serving any additional active time. I strongly encourage you to consult with an attorney in the county where you were charged. Most criminal defense lawyers are familiar with the judges in their county, and can give you a more precise prediction about the likely outcome of your case, and the likelihood of avoiding active time by completing an in-patient program.

    There are many issues raised by your question that you may need to explore with a good defense attorney. Were you represented by competent counsel when you entered the plea in the dws case? Were you aware that a conviction would violate your probation in the dwi case? Is it too late to file a motion requesting a new trial in the dws? Was a motion to reconsider sentencing filed in either case? The answers to these questions will likely impact the advice you receive, so be careful with any lawyer that doesn't get a thorough background from you. Good luck!

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  • I am going though a divorce and my soon to be ex is trying to get the car from me that he co-signed on.

    the title says myself OR him on it. What right does he have to the car if I am the one who made all the payments? Can he try to make me sell it to give him half of the car value? I am in the military and live in a different state. How can i get h...

    Judith’s Answer

    Because the car is jointly titled, you each have equal rights with respect to it. If it was purchased during the marriage, it is considered marital property, and thus subject to equitable distribution by the divorce court. As a practical matter, however, this very rarely happens for the following reasons: 1) in my experience, about 90% of divorce cases settle prior to trial, and ordinarily the party driving the car keeps the car as a part of the agreement; 2) most cars have little to no worth (you have to compare the fair market value to the amount owed on it), therefore there is no asset to divide, and the party in possession ordinarily agrees to make all of the payments in exchange for keeping it; and, 3) if you have grounds to request a protective order, the court can award you use and possession of the vehicle for up to one year, which is usually a sufficient time frame to get your divorce case filed and resolved. Even if the car has value and could theoretically be sold to divide the proceeds, you are probably fine because in negotiations, you could make a concession elsewhere to balance out you keeping the car (a slightly lower claim to his retirement, for example).

    Pending a court order, he cannot make you sell the car. You, alternatively, cannot get him off of the title until he either agrees or a court orders him otherwise. What to do if he takes the car from you in the meantime? Most local law enforcement offices will not get into the middle of what they see as marital property disputes, so my advice is keep the vehicle somewhere he cannot locate it, until you reach an agreement, in writing. You are under no obligation whatsoever to return the vehicle to him at this time, unless there is a court order that specifies otherwise.

    Finally, ordinarily neither party in a divorce case is entitled to dissipate marital property, meaning liquidate it and keep the proceeds (limited exceptions sometimes apply). If you believe he is either currently liquidating marital assets, or intends to do so, you can request injunctive relief with the circuit court to prevent this.

    Your case may be somewhat complicated because you are active duty (including where your divorce may be properly filed -- keep in mind that my advice pertains to Maryland, and your case may not be appropriate to file in Maryland court). Feel free to email me directly if my answer raised more questions than it answered. Good luck!

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  • Does my husband have to pay child support

    The woman is married and her husband is on the twins birth certificate and my husband has no rights

    Judith’s Answer

    Basically, the only sure-fire way to permanently extinguish a current and/or future obligation to pay support for your minor child(ren) is if the child(ren) are adopted by another person (this also terminates various other rights and obligations, such as inheritance rights, etc.) This is true even if another individual has court-ordered residential custody of the child(ren), or de facto residential custody. When you state that the new husband has "custody" I assume you mean that the children reside with him full-time, and that your current husband has no court order providing him visitation with the children. This will not extinguish his potential liability to pay child support. That said, the mother of the children must approach requesting child support from him with caution, as the court will almost certainly allow for reasonable access and visitation with the minor children for the biological father (assuming he requests it). Occasionally, this possibility deters the mom from filing for a variety of reasons, such as she may not want the children to know that their step-father isn't their biological father, there may be too much bad blood between the parents and court ordered visitation would be too stressful on the mom, etc. The most important thing to remember about any type of family law question is that the number one thing the court is concerned about is what is in the best interests of the child(ren). This determination trumps almost everything else, and (assuming the court properly words it), gives a judge or a master tremendous discretion to formulate a court order. I hope this helps! If my answer created more questions than it answered, feel free to email me for clarification.

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  • Child support modify because income changes lower for mom. Father has filed an excemption because he has a new baby on the way

    Can he file for an exception on paying the new awarded amount because of this??? His other complaint is that he re-married a woman with 2 other children and has to also care for them.

    Judith’s Answer

    • Selected as best answer

    I think what you are referring to is that the father has filed Exceptions to the Report and Recommendation of the Master for Domestic Relations. He had a hearing before the Master, and was unhappy with the outcome, so he is essentially appealing the finding to the Circuit Court. If that is in fact what is happening, don't worry. In my experience, Masters' findings are upheld by the Circuit Court about 95% of the time. Generally speaking, the Master had to be wrong as to his/her application of the law for the Circuit Court judge to reverse the Master, and that hardly ever happens. Also, if this is an Exceptions Hearing, the rules that govern the proceeding are very strict, and people representing themselves rarely follow them correctly. This may mean that his case will get dismissed on procedural grounds without a hearing. Among other things, he is generally required to purchase a transcript of the proceedings before the Master. This is an expensive proposition, and deters many people from following through on their Exceptions.

    If he is represented by an attorney, you may want to hire one, also, to level the playing field. If his only argument(s) are that the Master should have allowed for a downward deviation in the Child Support Guidelines amount because he is supporting two other children who aren't biologically his, you are probably fine because the law is clear on that. He isn't entitled to a credit for that, and the Guidelines are presumptively correct under Maryland law, requiring the court to specifically find that it is in the best interests of the children to deviate upwards or downwards from them. Hope this helps!

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