To Whom It May Concern:
My divorce has truly been an example of the injustice, cronyism and “the good ol’ boy syndrome” that appears to plague Frederick County and unfortunately and unfairly to the demise of my well being and future. I would never have admitted to anyone that our local court system was corrupt in any way, but now I have been the victim of extremely poor representation, extremely unethical behavior by the opposing counsel and an unfair ruling by the judge simply because she didn’t (or maybe couldn’t) review the evidence that was presented before her. So, my opinion of our system has changed dramatically since I’ve had to deal with it first-hand.
My story begins when on January 7th, 2007 I returned home from work at 7PM only to believe that we had been robbed. There were many things missing from the house and only when I went back into the kitchen did I find a letter from a lawyer telling me he was representing my wife in a divorce case. I was devastated as this really came “out of the blue” for me. We had been having some issues; so do all marriages at various times, but you work things out. I, in turn and at my mother-in-law’s insistence, obtained counsel as well with a local lawyer in Frederick. I later received a filing from the court where my wife was accusing me of verbal abuse, mental abuse and physical abuse. Nothing could have been further from the truth and I just did not understand what had happened. A couple of months later, she called me fully in tears and told me that her lawyer started mis-charging her. I then made one of the biggest mistakes of my life – I told her not to pay him and get another lawyer. She obtained the services of one of the “good ol’ boy lawyers in Frederick.
It was about 3 months after she left (by the way, with all the cash we had in our checking and savings, wrote bad checks, and charged up our credit cards – over $30,000) when I inadvertently found emails… over 1500 of them that had been written starting in March/April of the previous year (2006) that had gone on until she left. Apparently, my wife had been having an affair with the owner of a local gym. The emails were extremely graphic, leaving nothing to the imagination, and I do mean nothing! I still have never read them all as it’s just too painful.
This case eventually went to trial for 4 days in September of 2008 (if you remember, the start of the market crash going through October) with one of (to be nameless for now) judges assigned to preside over the trial. My ex-wife’s lawyer seemed cordial enough, but then started trying to twist things around during the trial. He even convinced the judge that I owned a timeshare. I have never owned one, but did rent one for a week one time in Myrtle Beach to golf with three other friends. Things went back and forth until the end of the trial at which point the judge would review everything and render her decision. Unfortunately, she came down with a case of Shingles. She was out for two weeks and then worked part-time for two weeks. Shingles came be extremely painful, so she was on painkillers during that time. We were called back in October for the closing arguments. The transcript for this case was a little over 1000 pages. My lawyer made his closing arguments and then her lawyer made his, but he did something that I’ll never forget. He provided the judge with a Financial Summary of the parties financial status. This was the first time anyone had seen this and, in essence, he claimed that my wife had nothing and I had all the money – even stating that I had over $400,000 more than even existed. He included that I received $150,000 inheritance from my father (it was a little over $42,000). I kept telling my lawyer that these were grossly exaggerated numbers. But, he never objected. The judge went into chambers to come up with her ruling and came out later to render it. Initially, she thanked my ex-wife’s lawyer for providing her the Financial Summary because she couldn’t read her “chicken scratch” notes. It turns out she never paid attention to any of the evidence (i.e., a disc my financial planner submitted from Commonwealth Financial Services), nor did she give any punishment to my wife for anything she had done (which, according to the judge):
- Filing false documents to the Court
- Committing perjury both during her deposition and the trial
- Committing adultery in a rather lurid manner
- Constructive abandonment of the home
- and, one other minor thing I just don’t remember anymore
She then told her she was not granting her Absolute Divorce. Then she turned to me and told me she was granting me the Absolute Divorce, but that I wasn’t totally honest during the hearings (I didn’t find out until much later that she was talking about the timeshare I never owned). She then said I was going to pay $10,000 of my wife’s lawyer’s fees, $225,000 in cash to my wife, $180,000 in retirement funds (there was $287,000) and indefinite alimony of $5,000/month. I was incredulous! We didn’t even have a total of $225,000 in cash. Not only did the judge not reprimand my wife for what she did, she rewarded her for it. The judge believed the false document that her lawyer submitted. I complained to my lawyer and he told me to calm down as we’d get it all back in an appeal. Little did I know at the time all he had to do was to file an “Alt/Amend” which would have forced the judge to review her decision as well as all the financials. Instead, he told me we were going the Appeal route (the most expensive way to go).
The appeal was underway, with my Brief due to the Appellate Court in June 2009. With one week to go before the submission and nothing in hand, I called my lawyer several times before getting hold of him. He said he was working on the draft and would have it to me for review the next day. What I got was a sketchy draft with so many mistakes it was sad. I corrected it and returned it with a comment of how disappointed I was. Two more drafts went back and forth until I received the 4th draft the morning it was due in Annapolis. There still were mistakes and I quickly corrected them and sent them back. He called to let me know they could not be included as he had to get a courier to take them to Annapolis and it would cost me $75. Really?
Her lawyer submitted a Counter-Brief in July which reiterated the false financial numbers and my ex-wife’s salary. Nothing added up. I spent 3 hours with my lawyer going through it, marking all the notes and discrepancies. He said he would put it all together and submit the Response to Counter-Brief. All I said to him was, “Let’s not wait until the last minute this time”. He said it wouldn’t be a problem. As it turned out, he never submitted anything more and therefore the Appellate Court had no choice but to deny my appeal. I was devastated and shortly thereafter, her lawyer submitted paperwork and had the $54,000 I had left in the bank and removed it (which included $16,000 of my father’s inheritance). He was also supposed to file the QDRO to take the exaggerated amount of retirement money from my 401k, but didn’t do so or work with my HR department. He finally submitted it two years later which I never got to see and which the judge signed. He took $332,000, which was everything it had earned during the last two years plus everything I contributed to it during that time as well.
In the meantime, I was recommended to see another lawyer in Silver Spring (Mr. X) to see if anything could be done. When he heard the story, he immediately told me that I should sue my lawyer and that he would do it on a contingency basis. He also said I had a very good case against her lawyer which we would pursue that as well. He understood my financial situation and suggested that I take the mandatory course for filing for bankruptcy. I gave him a $7,500 retainer and then later $5,000 for the bankruptcy filing. Again, unfortunately for me, he did nothing other than file the motions which I actually submitted to the courthouse. Apparently, the opposing lawyers for filing interrogatories and request for documents and expert witnesses to him, but he never did anything with them, neither telling me nor responding to the other lawyers. I had filed to have alimony stopped and have the inappropriately taken retirement funds returned. I never made any court dates nor submitted any documents because I never knew about them. So, my cases against both her lawyer and my lawyer were dismissed and the alimony was never stopped and my retirement funds never returned. Since that time, Mr. X has been suspended by the Maryland Bar because of inappropriate use of client funds. I’ve tried to get my money back, but so far to no avail.
I now have a new lawyer who is representing me to try to stop alimony. In the meantime, I’m looking for a job, I have about six months of savings left to live on and then I don‘t know what I’m going to do.