I told you in yesterday’s post Failure of the Court how we went to court for a modification of custody to find out that we are still legally married to each other. The court failed us. We thought we were divorced, but the divorce wasn’t worth the paper it was written on. It was a sham.
In Maryland you can have both your divorce and custody tied together if there are no issues. It’s simpler, more effective and cheaper. I chose this route since I filed for divorce. It saved us time and money. However, because our custody was tied to the divorce and not separate. There was no custody agreement because there was no divorce.
You see the dilemma?
We were both having mini-breakdowns and trying to navigate what happens now. The magistrate explains that he can’t discuss custody because we’re still legally married and that divorce we were given is invalid so we can’t modify the custody as part of the divorce because the divorce is invalid. Basically, no one has custody. Are you freaking kidding me? What?
We were trying to digest all the information that was provided. The magistrate informed us that he was upset over the situation as well and wanted to get out of meeting with us because he couldn’t bear to hear that one of us had remarried and what that meant because he had defended a woman that had a similar situation in another county.
In Maryland, bigamy is a felony that can result in an individual spending up to nine years in jail. The only way out of it is if your “ex-spouse” has been gone for seven continuous years or you don’t know where your “ex-spouse” is living at the time of your new marriage. That meant that if either of us had been remarried we would have been charged criminally with a felony because the courts screwed up our divorce. They don’t care if you knew about their screw up or not because you are charged criminally and divorce is a civil case.
This is getting more frustrating.
To learn that even if you didn’t know that your divorce was invalid and the courts were at fault and you get remarried you could still catch a felony case? To put it in perspective, our magistrate then tells us a story of a client he had a few years ago that went through this. She went through a bitter custody and property divorce. Her ex was upset because it wasn’t favorable to him. They settled custody and property and then the woman’s attorney filed for divorce. The divorce was filed 11 months after their separation and they were granted a divorce.
Fast forward two years and the woman is remarried and just had a baby with her new husband. She receives in the mail a bench warrant for her arrest and a notice vacating her divorce as invalid. Her “ex-spouse” had went to the state’s attorney’s office and requested that he check their files because their divorce wasn’t legal because Maryland required a 12 month separation not 11 months. The state’s attorney found out it was true and then the woman’s life became a two year nightmare of having to fight a felony bigamy charge, getting divorced, getting remarried and getting her life back.
We sat there dumbfounded.
I said “I don’t understand how the state can charge someone for something they did. The state is at fault because you can’t marry or divorce yourself so if documents aren’t valid then the state is at fault for that. How am I to be criminally charged with their poor hiring choices? That’s not my fault.” He responded “It’s not your fault and you did nothing wrong. But, Maryland law is firm.”
Thank God neither one of us remarried.
The magistrate then asks us do we still want to be divorced. Umm, yes. However, I said that I don’t want to pay for it. I paid the first time and it was a waste of money so everything should be free.
So, he has us go to the paralegal’s office down the hall and have them print out a complaint for absolute divorce and an answer to an absolute divorce. I then requested a complaint for custody and an answer to complaint for custody.
We completed the forms and I asked for sole custody in all paperwork. Both sole physical and sole legal. I wasn’t going to stop his visitation, but I needed written confirmation on how we’re supposed to do this. We went back into the court room and the bailiff let him see my forms so he knew how to respond in answer. The bailiff gave the forms to the magistrate.
We asked questions on how do we proceed not having a signed custody agreement in place, he said as a lawyer I would advise you to keep things as they are until you go before a judge. No matter how you want to change it, the courts care about how the child is coping with things now.
He included a line in the decree to untie it from the divorce and we would get a separate custody agreement. He turned on the recording and then proceeded to divorce us.
We were divorced again. We left feeling somewhat defeated. This ordeal was working our nerves.
We then met with the scheduling coordinator and turned in our custody paperwork. The coordinator then scheduled all of the things we needed to do including the temporary hearing for 3 weeks. It was overwhelming to say the least.
We go to court again for a hearing on May 4th. My ex-husband (I pray this is in fact legitimate) and I will go to discuss a temporary custody agreement, attend parenting classes and mediation and then have a final custody hearing in August. It’s a hot mess.
We are trying to meet and work some things out on our own prior to our May 4th court date. The more that we try to do on our own and just have the courts put it in writing the better off. There are no winners in our battle for custody. I know that. Ultimately, Munch will be the loser, so knowing that allows me to try to meet with him and work some stuff out on our own.
At this point I realized and began to accept the silver lining in all this. What silver lining you might ask? The fact that he wanted a modification which got us back in court to realize that our first divorce wasn’t real and then actually get divorced again. This allowed us to not have to catch a felony case or sue the state for negligence.
You see? God was in it.