«TIMOTHY REEVES v. MARIA MILLER Meredith, Nazarian, Thieme, Raymond G., Jr. (Retired, Specially Assigned), JJ. Opinion by Meredith, J. Filed: March ...»
IN THE COURT OF SPECIAL APPEALS
September Term, 2015
MARIA MILLERMeredith, Nazarian, Thieme, Raymond G., Jr.
(Retired, Specially Assigned), JJ.
Opinion by Meredith, J.
Filed: March 15, 2016 * This is an unreported opinion, and it may not be cited in any paper, brief, motion, or other document filed in this Court or any other Maryland Court as either precedent within the rule of stare decisis or as persuasive authority. Md. Rule 1-104.
— Unreported Opinion — Dissatisfied with an order the Circuit Court for Prince George’s County entered regarding the custody, visitation, and child support for his minor child, Timothy Reeves, appellant (“Father”), filed two petitions attacking the order. The petitions, however, were filed ten months and thirteen months after entry of the order at issue, and were, therefore, untimely. The court dismissed Father’s first petition, and denied the second. Father then noted this appeal. The child’s mother, Maria Miller, appellee (“Mother”), has not filed a brief in this Court.
Appellant’s questions presented were phrased as follows in his brief:
1. Was this entire hearing proceedings [sic] properly executed according to the Constitution?
2. Why was this Family Division Court matter decided by a Civil Judge who did not have Personal Matter nor Subject Matter Jurisdiction?
3. What Jurisdiction did the Court have to deprive the A
From our review of the lengthy record in this case, we glean the following. On August 29, 2008, Mother filed, in the Circuit Court for Prince George’s County, a complaint for custody of the parties’ then two-year-old daughter. Mother requested sole legal and sole physical custody of their daughter, with visitation by appellant twice a week and every other weekend. On September 5, 2008, Father filed an answer to Mother’s complaint, and also filed a counter-complaint for custody, asserting that it was in daughter’s best interest that Father be awarded sole legal and sole physical custody, with visitation to Mother three out of the five weekdays, and one weekend day. Father checked the boxes on the preprinted form indicating that he was asking for “child support” and “custody.” The parties appeared before a domestic relations master on November 13, 2008, and a pendente lite order addressing custody and visitation was signed by a judge on February 4, 2009. The pendente lite order provided that Father would have visitation overnight every Tuesday and Wednesday, and that the parties would alternate Saturdays and Sundays (meaning, if Father had visitation on Saturday one weekend, Father would have visitation on Sunday the next weekend.) The merits hearing took place on February 17, 2009, and an order addressing the merits was docketed on March 12, 2009. As pertinent to the issues on appeal, the order provided that Mother would have primary physical custody, with the parties sharing joint legal custody. Mother was granted final tie-breaking authority if, “after discussing the
issue,” the parties could not agree as to “major decisions involving the child[.]” Father was granted regular visitation, and ordered to pay $400.00 per month in child support.
On July 20, 2009, Mother filed a Motion to Modify Child Support, asking that the court rescind the order that Father pay child support because the parties were “working on a reconciliation and have come [to] a financial agreement beneficial to all persons involved.” On October 15, 2009, after a hearing, the court granted Mother’s request, and ordered the child support discontinued.
The parties’ attempted reconciliation appears to have lasted just over three years. The next docket entry in the case reflects the filing, on December 6, 2012, of Father’s motion to modify custody and visitation, asking that “the order be change[d] to joint Custody if not Custody,” and for other specific visitation, i.e., that he be consulted first if Mother was not able to pick the child up from school or needed someone to watch her when Mother went out of town. On February 19, 2013, Mother, through counsel, filed an answer to Father’s motion, and a counter-complaint to modify visitation. In her answer, Mother noted that she was now seeking child support through the Prince George’s County Office of Child Support Enforcement. On April 26, 2013, the Office of Child Support Enforcement filed a motion to reopen its interest in the case, and asked the court to set a support amount.
On April 11, 2013, Father, through counsel, filed an answer to Mother’s countercomplaint to modify visitation. On June 27, 2013, the parties appeared before a master for
a pendente lite hearing on visitation, and agreed to the entry of a consent order, which the parties signed on July 9, 2013, altering visitation.2 On July 22, 2013, Father — without the assistance of counsel — filed a “Motion to Dismiss Reopen of Child Support Enforcement,” with an accompanying memorandum. On August 1, 2013, Father’s attorney filed a motion to withdraw as counsel.3 A brief hearing on child support was held before a domestic relations master on August 9, 2013, and the parties agreed at that time to continue the matter until a September 19, 2013, hearing on the issue of permanent support. On August 23, 2013, Father filed an untitled 2 1/2-page document outlining what he wanted the court to order, which included “to share joint soil [sic] physical custody as well as legal custody” and to “rotate with decision making for [the parties’ daughter] because [Mother] does not respect Men as well as [Father’s] words or request.” The parties participated in court-ordered mediation sessions on July 26, 2013, and August 19, 2013. They reached a partial agreement on some issues (child support was not one of them), and signed a Parenting Agreement on August 19, 2013. (The Agreement of August 19 is not before us on appeal.) On August 27, 2013, the parties appeared before Master Woodall for a merits hearing on their cross-motions to modify custody. A daily sheet from the master’s hearing reflects 2 The consent order was docketed on July 26, 2013, but it was signed by the parties on July 9, 2013, and by the court on July 12, 2013. By its terms, it was to take effect July 1, 2013.
3 Counsel’s motion to withdraw was granted on September 10, 2013.
that “relief [was] denied.” On September 5, 2013, Father filed exceptions. On September 17, 2013, Mother filed a motion to dismiss Father’s exceptions, citing Father’s failure to comply with Maryland Rule 9-208(g), which sets forth numerous requirements the excepting party is required to meet. On September 30, 2013, Mother filed a response to the exceptions, disputing Father’s recitation of several key facts, and asking that the court deny the exceptions. On October 16, 2013, Father filed an answer to Mother’s motion to dismiss the exceptions.
On October 17, 2013, Father’s exceptions were heard by a judge of the Circuit Court for Prince George’s County. The court found that Mother’s motion to dismiss the exceptions was moot, and took the exceptions under advisement. On October 25, 2013, it entered a memorandum and order denying the exceptions. It also denied Father’s motion to dismiss the reopening of child support. As pertinent to the issues before this Court, it also ordered Father to pay $913.00 per month in child support, accounting from August 1, 2013.
On November 22, 2013, through new counsel, Father filed a motion to modify child support, child custody, and visitation. He asserted that he had “had a decrease in his salary since November 1, 2013,” and could not pay $913.00 per month in child support. He also noted that he was requesting more time with the parties’ daughter, and joint physical custody.
Mother filed an opposition on December 9, 2013.
On June 9, 2014, a hearing was held on Father’s November 22 motion to modify child support, child custody, and visitation. The court’s conduct at this hearing and its rulings made on the issues argued at this hearing are the subject of Father’s current grievances,
despite the fact that he filed no timely appeal. On June 12, 2014, the court filed a memorandum and order denying Father’s motion. The court noted that it had also heard Father’s exceptions on October 17, 2013, and was familiar with the case. The court explained how it had arrived at its $913.00 per month child-support figure for Father; it found, based on Father’s September 7, 2013, pay stub, that Father had made $43,428.22 in income by September 7, 2013. This was the 35th week of the year, so the court found that the [Father] made $1,240.80 a week. The court then multiplies this number by 4.3 weeks in a month to arrive at $5,335.46 a month. The court added $100 from the Harlem Gospel and $300 from Mt. Calvary Church for [Father’s] services as a musician, and attributed $300 from rental income for a Greenbelt rental unit, to come to a total monthly income for the [Father] of $6,035.00. Using the child support guidelines the court came up with a monthly child support obligation of $913.
During the June 9, 2014 hearing, the court heard from [Father]. He indicated that he does not make the same income as last year but provided only one pertinent exhibit, which does not include overtime and other pay, to support this claim. He indicated that his income from the Harlem Gospel has changed and that he is no longer receiving the supplemental income from Mt.
Calvary Church. Interestingly, the court must note that the [Father] indicated he received a yearly salary of roughly $46,000 in his position as a security guard with the DC Department of Behavior in October 2013. Since October 2013, he has received a base raise of 3%; thus, his new base salary per year is $49,132. This does not bode well for [Father’s] contentions that either (1) the child support was miscalculated, or (2) his income has materially changed, resulting in a downward shift in his child support obligations.
[Father] also cast serious doubt on his credibility. On April 22, 2014, the court granted a continuance because [Father] had not completed his 2013 4 The court added a footnote to the discussion of the Greenbelt rental unit: “The court actually stated [at the October 17, 2013 exceptions hearing] that it believed the income was far greater than $300, but could not come to a clear amount due to the testimony of the [Father].”
tax return and for other discovery issues. A review of Exhibit Five, [Father’s] 2013 Tax Return, shows that the tax preparer signed the tax return on March 14, 2014 and that the [Father] signed it on March 15, 201. The tax return, [on] which the court places little weight, shows [Father] had an adjusted gross income of $54,507. [Father] shows a negative rental income of $1,172 and failed to give the court any 1099 Tax Forms for income accrued with the Harlem Gospel and Mt. Calvary Church. From a review of the tax return, the court is unsure where this additional income is listed. It simply shows that his income from W-2’s is $55,679.
The court also finds other problems with [Father’s] assertions. A home study shows that [Father] owns and lives in a four-unit rental unit in the District of Columbia. [Father] tells the court that he has owned this unit for over 16 years. It was noted that his uncle lives in one of the units. No mention is made of what he pays for rent. [Father] tells us that, due to errors in the DC Real Estate Tax System, this property was sold at tax sale and was in foreclosure. In the fall into the winter of 2013, he received the property back.
Because the court was focused on the Greenbelt rental property during the October 17, 2013 hearing, the court did not attribute any income to [Father] for the DC rental unit. This would actually increase his income. Again, not boding well for [Father’s] cause.
The court finds that there is no material change in circumstances to [Father’s] income. The weight of the evidence clearly shows that the income may have actually increased. However, due to the lack of accurate documentation, the court is unable to attribute an accurate assessment of [Father’s] income. Not only has his salaried position received a pay raise, but his rental income has increased, there is no attribution to the amount his uncle should be paying him to live in one of his rental units, and there is no real documentary proof to show that his income as a musician with Harlem Gospel and Mt. Calvary Church has decreased.
(Footnotes omitted.) Accordingly, by order docketed June 30, 2014, the court denied Father’s motion to modify child support, custody, and visitation. It also found that the motion was “clearly without substantial justification,” with “little-to-no evidence to support a change in visitation or custody.” It granted Mother’s request for attorney’s fees and costs for having to defend
against the non-meritorious motion, and ordered Father to pay Mother $2,750.00 in fees.
Any appeal from this order would have been required to be filed on or before July 30, 2014.
Maryland Rule 8-202(a) (“the notice of appeal shall be filed within 30 days after the entry of the judgment or order from which the appeal is taken”). But Father did not file an appeal within 30 days after the entry of the June 30, 2014, order.