Separation & Divorce Attorney in Silver Springs, Maryland
Maryland requires a one-year period of separation if the separation is voluntary. Otherwise, the divorce can not be obtained until the separation of two years. The parties can not remain in the same household to be considered separated. Separations can be managed in two ways. The easiest and least expensive is through a mutual Marital Separation and Property Settlement Agreement. This is a contract that sets out the various rights and obligations of each party regarding child custody, support and visitation, and the division of property. Once the Agreement is executed the parties can enter into new relationships or acquire separate assets free from the influence of the other spouse. If the issues can not be worked out voluntarily, the parties can ask the Court to determine the issues through a proceeding called a Limited Divorce. The Limited Divorce acts as a Court ordered separation agreement and is often much more costly financially and emotionally because the issues are contested.
I gladly offer non-binding, mediation services to couples who want to attempt to resolve the issues of separation and divorce without the need for litigation. Mediation allows both parties to come before a neutral attorney who will explain the law, how it applies to the couple's particular situation, and what the probable outcome would be if there were to be a trial. The mediation process allows the parties to maintain some control over the outcome and is successful about fifty percent of the time.
Use and Possession of Property
Under certain circumstances, a spouse can ask the court to grant the use of the family home and property to enable a child of the family to continue to live in the environment that is familiar to the child, and to provide for the continued occupancy of the family home when there is a need to remain in the home. This award can be for up to three years and can require the other spouse to maintain the mortgage, taxes, utilities, and other expenses related to the home.
Protection from Domestic Violence
The Courts can provide protection for household members who have been threatened, injured, or abused by another household member. A petition is filed and a judge will hear the allegations. If there is a finding of abuse, the judge will issue a protective order which requires the abuser to have no contact with the victim and to vacate the residence. There must be a hearing within five days of the abuser's receipt of the order to determine if a protective order should be issued. If a determination is made that there is a need for further protection, the Court can issue an order to the abuser to vacate the family for up to thirty days at a time. During that time the abuser can be ordered to participate in professionally supervised counseling and to assist in the financial support of the family. Violations of domestic violence protective orders can result in criminal prosecution and imprisonment.
An uncontested divorce is one in which the parties have agreed to all the issues. It normally can be completed in three to four months. A contested divorce is one in which the issues related to child custody, support and visitation, and/or the division of marital property must be resolved. It is impossible to predict the total cost of a contested divorce. It becomes contingent on the complexity of the issues, the property value, and the income of the parties Sometimes appraisals and economic evaluations become necessary. In custody disputes, there are often additional costs of psychological, educational, and medical evaluations for both the children and the parents.
In Maryland, any property acquired by one or both parties during the marriage is marital property. This means that property acquired up to the date of the Divorce is marital and can be claimed by both parties. Marital property can consist of tangible personal items, real property, pensions, professional business practices, ownership in stock or other corporate interests, and vacation and insurance benefits, all of which must be valued and divided. Marital property does not include property obtained prior to the marriage or property received by inheritance, or by a gift from a third party. In a Divorce, the marital property must be ascertained and then appraised for its fair market value. Once this is done, the Court will try to divide the property equitably between the parties. This could mean that a monetary award is granted to one of the parties to help balance an unfair distribution of the assets. In determining how to divide marital debt, there is a balancing of the equities in much the same way as with marital assets.
Alimony is available to a spouse who needs financial assistance from the other spouse in order to meet his or her living expenses, and often, the living expenses of the parties' children. It is often applicable when one spouse was responsible for the care of the household and children while the other spouse earned all or most of the family income. When parties separate under these circumstances, the Court may award alimony for a period of time calculated to allow the non-working spouse to establish an independent source of income. In some circumstances, alimony can be awarded permanently. Alimony is treated as income to the spouse receiving it, and as a tax deduction for the one paying it.