Deciding to end a marriage can be a difficult and painful decision. With all the emotional ties to the life you have created with your spouse, it may be hard to see past the heartbreak and focus on the legal aspects of divorce. Certainly, it’s understandable to be grieving for the loss of the marriage and having feelings of uncertainty for the future.
In Maryland, there are two kinds of divorce – absolute and limited. An absolute divorce is permanent; however, there are grounds for this action and one of them has to be met. For example, adultery is grounds for an absolute divorce. A limited divorce does not dissolve the marriage but instead legalizes the separation. A skilled Baltimore attorney can give you information to help you decide which option is right for your situation.
When a couple ends a marriage, it affects the whole family, including children who may be too young to comprehend the nature of the situation. One of the most important considerations in divorce is facilitating a plan to care for the children. This entails determining proper financial support and living arrangements that are in the best interests of the children.
There are two designated forms of child custody – legal and physical – with each type being either sole or joint. The court system in Baltimore, Maryland, as in the rest of the state, is geared around the premise that custody needs to be what is best for the children involved.
Sometimes the court will recommend custody mediation to help parents deal with objections from the other spouse and arrive at a mutually agreeable end result. The mediator is trained to keep the conversation going in a productive manner and can help explore a broader range of solutions.
Despite a divorce, children should benefit from the incomes of both parents. A judge will weigh many factors to determine what child support amount is appropriate. Some of the criteria used to calculate child support include:
- Each parent’s gross income
- How much alimony support is paid
- The amount of physical custody (Maryland calculates the number of overnight stays as physical custody)
- The cost of other expenses, such as the children’s health insurance and day care service
Depending on the circumstances of the case, severance pay, capital gains, gifts and prizes could be considered actual income and used to determine child support.
The end of a marriage often means dividing property and determining what items should be appropriately assigned to each spouse. During the division of assets, it’s common to have emotional attachment to the things that have been in your life over the course of the partnership. Maryland has complex stipulations and property guidelines.
Property in Maryland is divided into three categories – separate, commingled and marital. All items of property acquired during the marriage are considered marital assets and separate assets are those that were owned prior to the marriage, although there are exceptions to these rules. Commingled property can be a challenge to determine but if marital funds were involved to buy the item, then it is categorized as a marital asset.
In the state of Maryland, property is divided on an equitable basis. This means it may not be equally split down the middle, but rather, done with fairness to each side by factoring in the needs of each spouse. Some of the debts and assets that can be shared by each spouse include:
- Savings accounts, stocks and bonds
- Credit card debt
- Real estate
- Retirement and pension plans
- Household furniture and clothing
- The family business
The family home is defined as the one used for the primary residence. Under Maryland’s Use and Possession Rule, a home that was owned prior to the marriage and not re-titled would not count as the family home and, therefore, may not be considered a marital asset.
Besides the option of absolute divorce, there are other ways to end a marriage. In Maryland, other options to end a marriage include legal separation, limited divorce, annulment and alternative dispute resolution (ADR).
In some regards, a legal separation can be thought of as a trial run to divorce. However, in a legal separation, the marriage is not dissolved and you can’t remarry until you take further legal steps. In a legal separation, issues surrounding division of property, child support, visitation and support payments are handled as in a divorce proceeding.
A limited divorce could be an option for couples that have not yet met the requirements of absolute divorce. Assets such as a pension, retirement funds and real estate are not divided in limited divorce. However, issues like child custody, visitation and the Use and Possession Order for the family home are handled. As in a legal separation, no one is free to remarry until the marriage is dissolved.
If a marriage is annulled, the court deems that a union never legally happened. Courts in Baltimore rarely grant an annulment and this can become more complicated if children are present from the partnership. Grounds to annul a marriage include:
- One or both people were under the age of 18 (lacking parental consent)
- Bigamy was committed (one spouse was already married)
- The person was not of clear mind at the time of getting married (perhaps due to drugs or alcohol)
- Blood relation (the marrying couple is related to one another through blood)
- If one spouse committed fraud (one spouse lied or was married under false pretenses)
In alternative dispute resolution (ADR) you and your spouse will meet with a neutral third party who can help resolve issues and reach an agreement. This process can save time and money and help to preserve the relationship with the other spouse.
Maryland allows two types of ADR – mediation and arbitration. Both have advantages. For instance, in mediation, the control is left to the couple and the mediator only listens and helps to arrive at conclusions that work for each person. In arbitration, the mediator will hear both sides but then make a decision. Further advantages of ADR include:
- Promotes effective communication
- Explores more options to resolve differences
- Options of binding and nonbinding outcomes
In mediation, it’s possible to hire a consulting lawyer to review legally binding agreements before you sign them to make sure the contracts are in your best interests.
Why Hire A Baltimore Divorce Attorney?
The end of a marriage can be a tumultuous time in your life. Whether there is a large amount of family property involved or you are concerned about establishing visitation, an experienced Baltimore lawyer can inform you on what options are ideal for your circumstances. A legal professional can help you minimize the potential negative fallout from a divorce.
How To Choose A Divorce Lawyer
The attorney you select to represent you can make a difference in the outcome of your case. It’s important to hire a lawyer with experience in family law, specifically divorce, who is familiar with the Baltimore court system. When you benefit from the experience and knowledge of a divorce lawyer, you can protect your interests and move toward a new chapter in your life.