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Bruce L Stern

Bruce Stern’s Answers

26 total

  • Does primary care giver play a big part in custody ?

    If I've been providing for my son by myself and my sons father has had visitation and now that I'm asking for child support he wants sole physical custody . Will the judge usually see when fathers are trying to avoid child support ? Would the fac...

    Bruce’s Answer

    Judges are very smart people and they can usually discern why people do certain things such as seek primary physical custody only after the other parent files for child support.

    That being said, there may be a whole host of reasons why your child's father is only now seeking custody. You have posted only limited facts and it is impossible to determine what other factors may exist that may influence a judge hearing your case. At trial, the judge will receive testimony from the father and hear what he has to say. If he didn't seek custody because he didn't have a suitable place to live or have overnight visits with your son, that is a factor the Court will consider. If you denied him access to the child or refused overnights, that would be another factor for the Court to consider. It's hard for anyone responding on Avvo to give you a really good answer since there are so many unknowns.

    That being said, the Court will base its decision on what it determines is in the best interest of your child. Courts like to see both parents active and involved in their children's upbringing. After hearing all the evidence, the Court will make a determination regarding custody. The Court may award you primary physical custody (which mean's the father has your son for less than 128 overnights per year), it may award shared physicial custody (which means that both of you have your son for more than 128 nights per year) or, it could award him primary physical custody (which means you would have your son for less than 128 nights per year). Whatever the Court does, it will be guided by the "best interest" standard. Based on your limited facts, it sounds like you would get primary custody, but, again, you've only presented your side of the story. At trial, the judge will hear both sides.

    Lawyers (and litigants) are surprised by Judge's rulings all the time. Different judges rule different ways on the same facts. Custody rulings are very fact specific and, if you have the resources, you should consider retaining an attorney to represent you in this very important matter.

    I hope this is helpful. Good luck!

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  • What to do when the court minutes don't match what judge said in court?

    During a recent family court hearing, the judge stated that my exH would get the kids every Wednesday after school until 7 pm, every Saturday from 9-3 and alternate Sundays from 12-5. When the minutes were published, they stated that he would have...

    Bruce’s Answer

    I do not practice in Arizona but in many courts the hearing is now recorded then transcribed. In Maryland, for example, you can order a copy of the recording of the hearing. If that is the case in your court, you can compare the recording against the transcript. If there is an error, you can advise the court or its technical services division responsible for the transcription. If you can get a copy of the recording, if there is one, that should resolve the issue.

    I hope this helps. Good luck.

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  • Pit bull with my son..

    As a father, do I have any say about my 5 yr old living with a large pit bull, whom I fear to death from the looks of his mouth and teeth,? His mother moved in with her boyfriend and he owns a pit. I don't want my son in the same house. We both s...

    Bruce’s Answer

    You raise a very interesting question. In 2012, the Maryland Court of Appeals (the State’s highest court) issued an opinion in which it held that pit bulls are inherently dangerous animals. The Court imposed the legal concept of strict liability on owners of pit bulls and landlords who allow tenants to keep them on their property. The Court’s decision in Tracey v. Solesky is available at this link: http://mdcourts.gov/opinions/coa/2012/53a11.pdf.

    Applying this decision to your facts, I believe that a trial court could be forced to hold that by having your son live in a residence with a pit bull he is being exposed to an inherently dangerous situation. I think that would be a very important fact for the Court to consider on a Motion to Modify Custody. In ruling on a motion to modify custody, the Court has to determine what is in your son’s best interest, but, clearly, residing in a house with an inherently dangerous animal is an important factor for the Court to consider. If I was a Judge – and I’m not – I would probably tell your ex-wife to get rid of the dog or lose custody. Why put your son’s safety at risk?

    I hope this helps. Good luck.

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  • I am seeing someone while going through my divorce, will this prevent me from gaining 50/50 custody of my children?

    I am seeing someone while going through my divorce. We have been seeing each other for the past two years. We are considering living together at my significant others' house on the days that I do not have my daughter, and I plan on staying at my h...

    Bruce’s Answer

    Under Maryland law, when a Court awards custody it makes its decision on what it determines is in the best interest of the child. In making this decision, the Judge will look at a variety of factors, including your living arrangement. The fact that you may be living with your boyfriend will not preclude the Court from ordering 50/50 shared custody, but it will be one of many factors the Court will consider.

    If your husband is seeking sole physical custody of your daughter, he may argue that your relationship with your boyfriend and the fact that the two of you are living together is inappropriate. He may attack your boyfriend’s character, if it is warranted and subject to attack, and he may assert that your relationship with him is likely to be only temporary and that your living situation is unstable. I, of course, do not know any of the facts relating to your case, but you should expect that your relationship and living situation will be a line of inquiry by your husband at trial.

    I would also be careful about how and when you introduce your daughter to your significant other and sleeping at the same house or in the same bed with him when your daughter is with you (or simply being romantic with him in her presence). Those are frequent areas of attack in custody trials.

    I also note that Frederick County tends to be a little more conservative, so you should keep that in mind too.

    Good luck!

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  • If a deed reads... Joint tenants with the right of survivorship and not as tenants in common which is an error what is it ?

    There are 3 owners to land how should the deed be written in order for all owners to have to agree and make all 3 sign off to be able to sell or convey the whole property or individual interests ? The deed has all 3 names on the deed joined by the...

    Bruce’s Answer

    I am not licensed to practice in West Virginia and you need to contact an attorney in West Virginia to help you with this issue. With that being said, a deed recorded in your local jurisdiction is a valid and binding legal document that will be presumed correct. Thus, if the deed vests title in several owners as joint tenants with right of survivorship, that is how it will be interpreted legally.

    If the tenancy (joint tenants) was truly a mistake, you should contact the lawyer or title company that prepared and recorded the deed, explain the mistake and ask them to record a new or corrective deed that corrects the error. Note that the other owners of the property who are on title with you will need to consent to this. This is a simple mistake to fix if all the owners agree to it. If they don't agree with you, it will become complicated. An attorney in West Virginia will be able to help you with that.

    Good luck!

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  • Ex denies child support order and property settlement was filed

    I was divorced last year and unfortunately had to file for a petition of contempt for child support since I haven't received any since January. In my ex's answer to the petition, he is denying that an order was ever filed. It was filed on the rec...

    Bruce’s Answer

    You may also want to take a copy of the Court orders that you have and go to the Maryland Office of Child Support Enforcement at 51 Monroe Avenue, Rockville, Maryland. It is located just across the street from the Circuit Court. OCSE is an invaluable resource to use when trying to collect child support. They have a number of statutory enforcement measures that they can use to get your support, including wage withholding, suspension of driver's license, etc. You can just walk in and they will meet with you.

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  • If I am owed a sizable amount of child support, can I file for sole custody?

    Right now I am owed over 41,000 in child support from my sons father. The original child support case was filed in NY and is still ticking, now the father is in Atlanta, GA and I am in MD, I have no current problems with him speaking to our son as...

    Bruce’s Answer

    With respect to the issue of the past due child support, you should contact the Maryland Office of Child Support Enforcement. They will help collect the child support due you. It is a state agency and there is no charge to you for their services.

    With respect to your concern about the life insurance money if something happens to you, you should have a will prepared. In the will, you can create a health, eduation and welfare trust for your son's benefit and provide that a portion of your life insurance proceeds go to this trust (with the balance going to your husband). (You would have to change the policy's beneficiaries.) This way, should you die, the insurance proceeds and any other assets that you want to go to your son will go to the trust and not to your son directly. This will prevent your son's father from getting access to the money you intend for your son. A trustee you appoint will manage the trust for your son's benefit.

    I hope this helps.

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  • What are my options if soon to be ex-husband doesn't want to save the home from foreclosure?

    The payments are behind because he took money out of the account to cover a payment, and between paying that month and half another month on top of attorneys fees and taking care of our boys on my own, I've fallen behind on the mortgage. He refus...

    Bruce’s Answer

    • Selected as best answer

    If you haven't already, you may want to consider filing for divorce. As part of a divorce proceeding you can get temporary alimony and child support while the case is pending which can help you pay your bills and, possibly, the mortgage. A family law Judge is not going to be too happy to hear that your husband is purposefully letting the house get foreclosed upon for strategic reasons if you have minor children living in the house.

    You should also talk to a bankruptcy/foreclosure attorney to see what your options are with respect to the house. They can advise you appropriately on that issue.

    Good luck!

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  • Mortgage company typo'd/paid tax for 5 houses from my escrow.. Demand i pay overage until they fix.. will ruin credit/cant affor

    This is a question for a mortgage or housing tax attorney. To summarize: my mortgage company placed "5 parcels" (like 5 houses on my property) - i only have a small townhouse. Than paid 5 houses' yearly taxes from MY escrow acct and overdrafted.. ...

    Bruce’s Answer

    Generally, if you have a shortage in your escrow account due to an increase in taxes or homeowners' insurance, you are obligated to cure the shortage by making a lump sum payment to the bank or agreeing to a short term increase in your monthly mortgage in order to fund your escrow account to the appropriate limit required by the bank.

    If the shortage is due to the bank's error, as you assert it is, it is incumbent on the bank to correct its error and rectify the problem. I would recommend that you speak to someone in the lender's tax department which is responsible for making the tax payments to the County and have them confirm with you in writing that it is a bank error and that it will correct the problem.

    In the meantime, you should continue to timely pay your monthly mortgage. One problem, however, is that if the bank believes you owe it more than what you send, it may not accept your payment since it will consider it to be a partial payment.

    If this is a new lender, or you recently purchased the house, you should also call the title or settlement company that conducted your closing. They may be able to provide some assistance to you and help clarify the issue with the bank.

    Good luck!

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  • Can a HOA designate that a home in Howard County, MD on a corner lot has "two front yards"?

    I live on a corner lot in Howard County and the homeowner's association is stating that I cannot modify certain parts of my land (my back yard) because the side of which is along a road. For that reason, they maintain that it is a second front ya...

    Bruce’s Answer

    I agree with both Ryan and Katherine and would only add that you should look at your owner's title insurance policy and survey, if you purchased title insurance and a survey, when you bought your house. These documents may help establish if there are building restrictiion lines and/or covenants or restrictions that affect your property, in addition to the HOA requirements.

    Good luck!

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