Hyattsville, MD asked in Child Custody, Divorce and Family Law for Maryland

Q: How long does it take to get a to get a divorce case that was obtained on major fraud in front of the Maryland Supreme C

It has already been appealed but the majority of the evidence found after the fact.

1 Lawyer Answer
Mark Oakley
Mark Oakley
  • Rockville, MD
  • Licensed in Maryland

A: An appeal from the circuit court goes first to the Appellate Court of Maryland (formerly called Court of Special Appeals). Although the Supreme Court of Maryland (formerly the Court of Appeals) has the discretion to take jurisdiction over an appeal pending before the Appellate Court, it rarely does so, and instead it is up to the party who is unhappy with the decision of the Appellate Court to ask leave of the Supreme Court to hear an appeal from the adverse decision. The way you do that is, after the Appellate Court issues its decision, you file a petition for writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court, which then decides whether to grant the writ. If the writ is granted, then you can proceed. Cases appealed to the Appellate Court can take 9-12 months before oral argument is completed, and then 3 or more months for a decision. Petitions for writ of certiorari could take 3-6 months to be decided, or more, then briefing and oral argument schedules can take another 8-12 months, depending on case loads. Convincing the Supreme Court to hear your case is not easy, because you must convince them in your petition for writ of certiorari that your issue is either one of unsettled law breaking new and important ground, or momentous in its scope in terms of legal impact going forward, and their direction is needed to help the lower courts rule on the issue; or that the Appellate and circuit court decisions were so egregious in their application of existing laws that a miscarriage of justice has occurred that needs to be corrected.

Attempting to oveturn a judgment "obtained by fraud" depends on the nature of the fraud, and if it is based simply on the fact that your opponent lied or withheld evidence, or submitted forged or false evidence, and you only found that out or proof of it after the trial, then you will lose. The time to test a party's false claims and false evidence or failure to provide discovery, is at or before the trial, using the discovery rules and and procedural tools available by filing motions to compel evidence and subpoena of third party sources of evidence to contradict the false claims. A party's "fraud" during the pre-trial and trial phases of the case are deemed "intrinsic" to the litigation process itself, and once the gavel falls on the final judgment after the trial concludes, may not be used to overturn the judgment or seek a new trial. It is up to the parties to prove their cases, and to dispove their opponent's cases, at trial. Once that process plays out, and judgment is entered, that's it. There can't be endless re-trials each time new evidence comes to light.

The only type of fraud that can overturn a judgment is "extrinsic" fraud--that is fraud not about the evidence or testimony or nature of the case; rather, it is fraud that prevents an adversarial trial when it keeps a party ignorant of the action and prevents them from presenting their case (such as, filing suit and claiming the defendant was served by filing a false affidavit of service, then obtaining a default judgment against them when they never knew a case was pending; or "settling" the case before trial, and telling the other party the case will be dismissed based on the settlement so they do not appear in court, then proceeding to trial without them knowing). Extrinsic fraud is very rare, and unlikely to be the type of fraud your case involves, but you provide few details. It is not "extrinsic" fraud merely because you didn't know about certain evidence your opponent fraudulently kept secret from you that now proves they lied.

Maryland appellate opinions are legion on this issue, precedent after precedent repeating the same rationale upholding the extrinsic/intrinsic fraud rule for over a century, and the law is entrenched. Not an issue the Supreme Court is likely to view as needing revision, and reversal of 100 years of precedent. No matter how egregiously your opponent lied.

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