Meus v. Meus, 010919 MDSCA, 2259-2017

Docket Nº:2259-2017
Opinion Judge:Reed, J.
Judge Panel:Reed, Friedman, Alpert, Paul E. (Senior Judge, Specially Assigned), JJ.
Case Date:January 09, 2019
Court:Court of Special Appeals of Maryland




No. 2259-2017

Court of Special Appeals of Maryland

January 9, 2019

Circuit Court for Prince George's County Case No. CAD16-38895

Reed, Friedman, Alpert, Paul E. (Senior Judge, Specially Assigned), JJ.


Reed, J.

On July 28, 2017, the Circuit Court for Prince George's County held a hearing for a complaint for Absolute Divorce filed by Latasha Meus (hereinafter "Appellee") against Jean Meus, Sr. (hereinafter "Appellant"). The issues that were before the court were alimony, property division, monetary award, child custody, child support, and child access. The parties previously agreed to the amount of child support Appellant would pay Appellee and to joint custody of their minor child. This agreement was placed on the record and on September 21, 2017, the circuit court signed the agreement.

Appellant later contested the agreement and filed a motion to set the agreement aside, which was denied. Appellant subsequently, filed a motion to reconsider and on January 12, 2018, the circuit court denied Appellant's motion. It is from this denial that Appellant files this timely appeal. In doing so, Appellant brings the following questions for our review, which we have rephrased for clarity:1

I. Did the circuit court err in signing the Order for Absolute Divorce in violation of Maryland Rule 18-102.9?

II. Was the circuit court's decision to approve a Deviation Upward of Child Support legally correct and in violation of Maryland Rule 18-102.2(a) and Maryland 18-102.9?

Factual and Procedural Background

Appellant and Appellee had a daughter in November 2010 and were married while Appellant was serving in the military. On October 17, 2016, Appellee filed an action for Absolute Divorce and a Complaint for Custody. On March 6, 2017, the circuit court issued a Pendente Lite Order of Court where the Honorable Cathy Serrette ordered: (1) that Appellant and Appellee will share joint legal and physical custody of their daughter, with Appellant having access every weekend; (2) that "when a visitation weekend is followed by a federal holiday on Monday and the child is not attending school, visitation shall be extended until Tuesday morning; (3) that both parties agree to "be charged generally with the support of [their daughter]." On April 24, 2017, Appellant filed a Motion for Modification and Contempt. Appellant alleged that Appellee violated the circuit court's order by not allowing Appellant to have access to their daughter during the weekend of April 21, 2017, through April 24, 2017. Appellant requested that the circuit court hold Appellee in contempt for "willfully, maliciously, and deliberately refusing access to [their] minor child."

On July 28, 2017, a hearing was held on Appellee's complaint for Absolute Divorce before a magistrate judge. The issues before the circuit court were child support, child access, and property division. At the hearing, the parties agreed to: (1) waive alimony; (2) waive all property issues; and (3) have joint legal custody of their minor child. The parties agreed that Appellant will have access to the parties' minor child every weekend except on the fourth weekend of every month, that "the parties will equally divide the summer months; one week on, one week off, and they will alternate the federal holidays", and that Appellant will pay $175 each month for child support. During the hearing the Magistrate Judge stated: This is CAD16-38895, in the matter of Meus v. Meus. Both parties are present, along with counsel. I heard the testimony of the parties and I'm satisfied the allegations in the complaint have been proven. Therefore, I will recommend the Lady be granted the judgment of absolute divorce.

The parties placed an agreement on the record regarding their child and regarding potential claims for alimony, property division and things like. And essentially, the parties' agreement will be part of the judgment of divorce. The parties have agreed on a child support amount. I've got a guidelines calculation in the file that Counsel helped me prepare. [Appellee's counsel] has agreed to prepare the order. And once that's ready--- [both counsel for Appellant and Appellee], if you want your clients to sign the proposed judgment, that's your call. I'll accept it with just counsel signature, so it's up to you.

The Magistrate Judge also recommended that the Judgment for Absolute Divorce be granted, that the agreement be incorporated but not merged into the Judgment of Absolute Divorce, and that a disposition date be set for August 25, 2018 to see "if an appropriate Judgment/Order has been submitted in accordance with the Magistrate's recommendations and/or the parties' agreement on the record. If an Judgment/Order has been submitted, neither party need appear."

On August 22, 2017, Appellee's counsel sent Appellant's counsel an email with the draft for the Judgment for Absolute Divorce attached. On August 24, 2017, Appellant's counsel emailed Appellee's counsel stating that "there were several portions of the order that [he] believe[d] need[ed] attention." Specifically, Appellant's counsel stated that the parties change the language referring to Appellant having access to the parties' minor child every weekend except for the last weekend of the month. Appellant's counsel also mentioned that the parties specify in the agreement what party will have access to the minor child during which specific federal holiday.[2] Lastly, Appellant's counsel stated in his email that he was unable to get in contact with Appellant and requested that Appellee's counsel return his phone call. Subsequently, Appellant's counsel sent a follow-up email stating that he was finally able to get in contact with Appellant and that he needed additional time because Appellant wanted to make additional changes to the Judgment for Absolute Divorce. Specifically, Appellant's counsel stated that he sent the draft for the Judgment for Absolute Divorce to Appellant and Appellant "came back with so many changes that [he could not] possibly sign anything without sitting down with [Appellant] and going over the order in detail." Appellee's counsel responded that he was unable to call Appellant's counsel because he was in court all day, that he agreed with...

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