Why it is critcal to retain the proper attorney in family law cases

by | Sep 11, 2012 | General Info | 0 comments

Does it really matter which attorney you retain to represent you in Montgomery County?  Absolutely.  Some attorneys are more qualified, experienced, and knowledgeable than others.   There is a non-family lawyer who represented herself in a modification of child support case.  She had unilaterally enrolled the parties’ children in a private school and told her ex-husband that she would be responsible for paying the children’s tuition.   A few months later, the attorney filed a petition to modify child support, because she now wanted her ex-husband to contribute to the children’s private school tuition.   The Circuit Court dismissed her petition, and she filed an appeal.  In an unreported decision, the Court of Special Appeals affirmed the dismissal of the attorney/mother’s petition to modify child support, stating “Although a court may order a parent to pay for private school in some circumstances, [the mother] did not adequately plead any such need.  She did not plead any facts relating to how the children’s educational needs had changed or that their needs could not be met through the public school system.  As such, she failed to plead a material change in circumstances warranting modification of child support”.

The point is that some attorneys know what they’re doing and others definitely do not.   To find out how to select an attorney, please read my article on the subject: https://stewartsutton.com/10-things-you-need-to-know-about-retaining-an-attorney

FYI: Maryland Family Law Article § 12-204(i)(1) provides that the court may order that “expenses for attending a special or private elementary or secondary school to meet the particular needs of the child . . . may be divided between the parents in proportion to their adjusted actual incomes”.    Factors as to whether a child has a “particular educational need” to attend private school include (1) the child’s educational history, such as the number of years the child has been in attendance at that particular school; (2) the child’s perform while in the private school; (3) whether the family has a tradition of attending a particular school or whether there are other family members currently attending the school; (4) whether parents had made the choice to send the child to school prior to their divorce; (5) any particular factor that may exist in a specific case that might impact upon the child’s best interest; and (6) the parents’ ability to pay for the schooling.   See Witt v. Ristaino 118 Md. 155 (1997).

Thus, the non-custodial parent should not be required to contribute to a child’s private school tuition when (1) there is no showing of the child’s particular educational needs for private schooling and/or of the inadequacy of public schooling for the child; (2) when there is no showing that, but for the divorce, the child probably would have attended private school; and (3) there is no showing that the parties ever agreed that their child would attend private school.

 

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