At the Law Offices of G. Randolph Rice, Jr., LLC, we understand that family law cases can be emotionally tough for everyone involved and are challenging to all parties. When a relationship breaks up and a change is needed, it can be tough on the couple as well as the children and the whole family unit. Our experienced Maryland family law attorneys understand that divorce is difficult and we’re here to help and fight for what you’ve worked so hard to build. Marriages can end, but we want to make sure you don’t suffer the consequences for the rest of your life.
Statistics show up to 50 percent of all marriages in the United States end in divorce. No couple expects to get divorced on marrying. But often spouses cannot resolve the issues that tear them apart. These can include financial issues while spouses often drift apart.
Often couples trapped in a loveless marriage are afraid of divorce. The cost and the notion of living apart can be daunting. There’s also the issue of the children of a marriage.
That’s where experienced Maryland family attorneys can help. Some divorces can end with both parties going their separate ways in an amicable fashion. However, many divorces become contentious, and you want someone in your corner fighting to ensure you get a fair deal. If you are considering divorce or your spouse has asked for a divorce, contact the Maryland divorce lawyers with the Law Offices of G. Randolph Rice, Jr., LLC, at 410.288.2900 to schedule a free consultation.
Maryland is unusual in having two types of divorce action, a partial action to allow certain issues to be resolved and an absolute divorce.
At least one spouse must have lived in Maryland as a resident for at least one year before filing the divorce petition.
Maryland law requires a divorcing couple live apart for at least a year before filing for divorce.
If the residency requirement is not met, the plaintiff must show that there were “fault grounds” for the divorce. In other words, the party seeking the divorce must prove his or her spouse did something that led to the breakup of the marriage. Maryland sets out very specific grounds for a fault-based divorce. They are:
The divorce process in Maryland involves a series of very specific steps. The plaintiff must:
Uncontested divorce in Maryland is also known as “no-fault” divorce. It is one of the quickest ways to get divorced. However, to qualify for an uncontested divorce the spouses must agree on all aspects of the divorce.
There are two ways of securing an uncontested divorce in Maryland, namely:
If you have lived apart from your spouse for at least a year with no sexual intercourse with each other, you can be granted a no-fault divorce if no issues are contested. You will not be able to get an uncontested divorce in Maryland if you lived at any time with your former spouse or had sexual relations.
Mutual consent is an avenue under the Maryland code to a quick absolute divorce based on no fault. A court may grant an absolute divorce on the grounds of mutual consent, without a waiting period if:
When children are involved, emotions often run high in any marital breakup. If you are married or were never married and had children with your partner, you know how important the children are in your lives. Spouses worry about how the break-up and ultimate separation will affect their children. You want to make sure the children spend plenty of time with both their mom and dad. Our child custody lawyers understand how important children are to families and to ensure that the children’s interest is best protected during a divorce which is often a traumatic time.
All of our lawyers have children and know what it means to make sure the children are happy during and after the legal process.
Our family lawyers are often asked who will get custody of the children. There is no straightforward answer.
Maryland does not have set rules on which party automatically gets custody of the children. The ultimate standard is what is in the “best interests of the children.”
The courts consider a number of statutory factors before making a ruling.
There are two types of custody in Maryland: legal custody and physical custody of the child or children.
Legal custody is the right to make major life decisions in the life of the child such as what school the child should attend, matters related to medical treatment and religious affiliation.
Often parties have joint legal custody. It makes sense for both spouses to be involved in these major life decisions. However, one party may be given sole legal custody of the child.
Typically, both parents are granted the decision making right if they are willing and able to communicate effectively with each other over decisions regarding their child or children.
Physical custody may also be shared or sole physical custody. When one parent has physical custody, the other will normally be granted visitation. The “non-custodial” parent only exercises physical custody over the time when visitation rights are involved.
In Maryland, shared custody is defined as when both parties have a minimum of 128 overnight visitations, representing 35 percent of the year. Both parents contribute to the costs of the child on top of an award of child support.
We all know kids are not cheap. However, parents seldom realize the full cost of having children before they are born. If you care for children, you will be aware of some of the major costs including healthcare, babysitters, child care or schooling. Some estimates put the cost of a child until the age of 18 at $1 million dollars. That figure may seem high, but any parent would tell you it feels that way. If you have the custody of a child or children, and the other parent is not paying their fair share, then you should speak with our child support attorneys today.
Whether you are looking for initial child support or a modification in child support payments, you should hire a lawyer to ensure you get what you need to take care of your children.
Maryland uses a fixed formula to calculate child support called the Child Support Guidelines. The court will usually order child support based on the guidelines unless one party can show that these guidelines would be unfair and inappropriate in a particular case.
The parent who was awarded primary physical custody of the children (known as the custodial parent) is the person who receives child support. Child support is paid by the parent who does not have the primary physical custody of the children, known as the non-custodial parent. Payments may fluctuate depending on the income of each parent. It can also change if parents share physical custody of the children.
Factors the guidelines for child support in Maryland take into consideration include:
Child support may be modified if either parent reports a change in circumstances. The changes should be fundamental in nature and may include:
To be successful in a Maryland child support modification, the party that brings the case to the court must present evidence of the change of circumstances. Courts are reluctant to modify child support agreements in the absence of such evidence.
Alimony or spousal support may be awarded in cases where a spouse will suffer serious financial hardship due to a divorce.
If you’ve been married for a long time and your spouse leaves or you decide to end the marriage, you may require financial support to get your back on your feet again. You may have been caring for the children for a majority of that marriage. You gave up your career and your potential to advance in your career. The courts may decide a homemaker should not be left in a financially disadvantageous position when the marriage ends. Make sure you receive the support you are owed from your spouse.
Alimony can be awarded before the dissolution of a Maryland marriage. If you fail to make a claim for alimony as part of the divorce proceedings, you cannot return after the marriage has ended to start an alimony claim.
If you signed an alimony agreement, the court is likely to be bound by the agreement and will not be able to change the agreement as part of the divorce. An agreement between spouses may be wider than the type of agreement a court would make over alimony. While the court will only award a monetary payment, an agreement between the divorcing parties could extend to the payment of a mortgage or other financial obligation.
The court has a long list of issues it will consider in alimony cases. They include:
Although the family courts hear many divorce, custody and child support cases, at times the criminal law and family law intersect when claims of abusive behavior are made.
Not all relationships are harmonious. At times, relationships turn abusive and even violent. In such cases, a spouse or another person in a relationship may need to seek a peace order.
A peace order is an instrument of legal protection for anyone who is experiencing problems with an individual. Although often used by parties in romantic relationships, it may also be taken out against an abusive neighbor, a stranger, or another party else.
The peace order enables a person who wishes to be left alone to request the court make an order that compels the threatening party to stay away and refrain from any contact.
A peace order allows an individual who was subjected to harassment, abuse, stalking, trespass, or malicious destruction of property to petition the court. Unlike protective orders, the nature of the relationship between the parties is not a factor when obtaining a peace order.
As well as ordering a party to stay away and not make contact, a judge may order counseling or mediation as part of the peace order process.
If you fear you are being threatened and want an abusive party to stay away, a petition for a peace order can be obtained via the Maryland court system. Our Maryland peace order lawyers can advise you on how to seek protection from an abuser.
Unlike a peace order, you must have been involved in a relationship with an alleged abuser to petition the courts for a protective order. Domestic violence can take many forms. It can include assault, rape, stalking and false imprisonment.
If you are seeking a protective order, it’s important to act fast. You can complete a petition with a district or a circuit court in Maryland. If the court is not open, the petition may be filed with the Commissioner’s Office of the District Court, which is open 24 hours a day. If you are a respondent or petitioner, speak with our protective order lawyers today for immediate legal help.
A protective order can have many functions. It can:
The judge may make a final protective order that can set up temporary visitation with the children, award emergency family maintenance, or order the abuser to surrender all firearms.
Whether you are seeking a child support hearing, a divorce or need help with an abusive spouse, you may require the assistance of a Maryland family law lawyer. Contact the Law Offices of G. Randolph Rice, Jr., LLC, to schedule a free consultation.
We have multiple offices throughout Maryland and in Baltimore and Lutherville/Timonium to meet with you. If you’ve been served with a complaint for absolute divorce or limited divorce, make sure you contact our office as soon as possible to discuss your options. Call us at (410) 288-2900.