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.
MARYLAND DIVORCE ATTORNEYS
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) 694-7291 to schedule a free consultation.
Divorce in Maryland
Maryland is unusual in having two types of divorce action, a partial action to allow certain issues to be resolved and an absolute divorce.
Types of Divorce in Maryland
- Limited Divorce – A limited divorce is a legal procedure that permits the parties to have important marital issues resolved, but does not terminate the marriage. Spouses may file for limited divorce when they have financial matters like alimony, issues related to children or other marital issues that need to be addressed before the parties are eligible to file for an absolute divorce.
- Absolute Divorce – An absolute divorce completely dissolves the marriage and usually resolves all related issues, including property. After an absolute divorce is finalized, the parties may remarry.
The Grounds for Divorce and Residency Requirements in Maryland
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:
- Commitment to a mental institution
- Vicious conduct.
The Divorce Process in Maryland
The divorce process in Maryland involves a series of very specific steps. The plaintiff must:
- Complete a “Complaint for Absolute Divorce” form and a “Civil Domestic Case Information Report.” These forms can be accessed online from the Maryland courts.
- Serve the complaint. The “service of process” means that the other spouse receives copies of the divorce paperwork, meaning he or she has formal notice that the divorce has been filed in the courts.
- File an answer. The defendant should file an “answer” to the divorce complaint. The defendant will admit or deny the statements contained in the divorce complaint. The defendant has 30 days to file an answer if he or she lives in Maryland. An out-of-state defendant is given 60 days, and a defendant who is out of the country has up to 90 days to file an answer.
- File a counter claim. In Maryland, the defendant in a divorce case may also file a “counter complaint for absolute divorce.” This process allows the defendant to set out grounds that differ from those the plaintiff outlined in the initial complaint. The answer and a counter complaint can be mailed to the plaintiff without the requirement for formal service.
- File financial disclosures. Both of the spouses must submit financial statements to the court. These statements should contain information about income, debts, expenses and any joint property or debts.
Uncontested Divorce in Maryland
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.
Grounds for Uncontested Divorce
There are two ways of securing an uncontested divorce in Maryland, namely:
1 Separation for a Year
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.
2 Mutual Consent
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:
- Both of the parties have no minor children in common;
- The parties provide and execute the court with a written settlement agreement signed by them both that resolves all issues relating to alimony and property distribution;
- Both parties appear before the court at the divorce hearing;
- Neither of the parties files a pleading to set aside the settlement agreement before the divorce hearing.
MARYLAND CHILD CUSTODY ATTORNEYS
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.
Child Custody Rules in Maryland
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.
Types of Custody in Maryland
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.
MARYLAND CHILD SUPPORT ATTORNEYS
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.
Calculating Child Support in Maryland
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:
- The actual monthly income of each parent which can include alimony, bonuses and income from second jobs;
- Each parent’s adjusted actual income which is the income minus pre-existing child support the parent pays for another child and alimony payments;
- Work-related childcare including before and after school care;
- Health insurance expenses;
- Extraordinary medical expenses such as orthodontic treatment.
Child Support Adjustment in Maryland
Child support may be modified if either parent reports a change in circumstances. The changes should be fundamental in nature and may include:
- The loss of employment by a spouse;
- A pay raise in a job;
- A move;
- A change in the custody arrangements.
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.
MARYLAND SPOUSAL SUPPORT / ALIMONY
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.
When Can You Seek Alimony in Maryland?
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.
Factors the Court Will Consider in Alimony Cases
The court has a long list of issues it will consider in alimony cases. They include:
- The duration of a marriage
- The financial situation of the spouses during the marriage and their futures;
- The age and physical and mental health of the parties;
- The reasons for the divorce;
- The financial needs of the parties;
- The standard of living that the parties enjoyed during their marriage.
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.
Maryland Peace Orders
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.
A Maryland Protective Order
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.
Who Can File for a Protective Order in Maryland?
- Former or current spouses;
- Parties who have lived together in an intimate relationship for at least 90 days over the past year;
- Parties related by blood, marriage, or adoption;
- People in a parent-child relationship, or a stepparent-stepchild relationship who resided together for at least 90 days over the previous 12 months;
- People in a caretaker-vulnerable adult relationship;
- People who have had a sexual relationship within a year before the filing of the petition;
- Parents who have a child together.
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.
What a Protective Order May Do
A protective order can have many functions. It can:
- Stop an aggressor abusing you.
- Order the subject of the order to stay away from you and not to contact you or harass you at your residence, job, school, or any place you may be staying. It can apply to family members’ homes.
- It can order an abusive party who is cohabiting with the victim to stay away from his or her house;
- It may order a spouse to leave a home if married or living with an abuser.
- A judge can grant you temporary custody of any children that you have with the abuser.
- The judge may award temporary possession of any pet of the person eligible for relief or the respondent.
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.
Wills and Estates Lawyers in Howard County Maryland
Whether you’re planning for your Estate Administration or you’ve lost a loved one, are estate lawyers will help you through the process of ensuring that all paperwork is completed properly and efficiently. We can draft and execute Wills as well as health care power of attorney and Advance Healthcare directive. In addition we will act as the lawyer for the estate making sure all laws are complied with and that any Howard County Estates are closed properly and with the maximum recovery.
Contact an Experienced Maryland Family Law Attorney
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) 694-7291.