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Servicing clients for nearly a decade in family law matters, we provide the aggressive but sensible representation in such sensitive matters. We handle all facets of domestic relations ranging from divorce, custody, support, alimony, property distribution, and domestic violence.
There are two types of divorce: limited and absolute.
Limited divorce is the same as a legal separation. Limited divorces are not permanent and do not permit remarriage, nor do they terminate property claims. Limited divorces legalize the separation and can adjudicate temporary custody, use and possession of the marital home, and child custody rights.
Legal Grounds for Absolute Divorce:
No-Fault: (1) The spouses have voluntarily lived separate and apart for 1 year without interruption or cohabitation and there is no reasonable expectation of reconciliation or (2) the spouses have lived separate and apart without interruption for 2 years. [Annotated Code of Maryland; Family Law, Section 7-103]
General: (1) Adultery; (2) deliberate desertion for 12 months with no chance for reconciliation; (3) confinement for incurable insanity of at least 3 years; (4) conviction of a felony or a misdemeanor with at least a 3-year sentence and after 1 year having been served; (5) cruelty, with no chance for reconciliation; and (6) vicious conduct, with no chance for reconciliation. [Annotated Code of Maryland; Family Law, Section 7-103].
The grounds for a legal separation (limited divorce) are:
- Willful Separation
- Cruel and Inhuman Treatment
- Voluntary Separation and Living Separate and Apart Without Cohabitation
The legal separation may be temporary or permanent. The spouses must make a good-faith effort to reconcile their differences. [Annotated Code of Maryland; Family Law, Section 7-102].
Simplified or Special Divorce Procedures: After the parties have lived separate and apart for one year, they may file for an Absolute (permanent) Divorce. Marital settlement agreements are specifically authorized by statue and may be used for full corroboration of a plaintiff’s testimony that a separation was voluntary if;
- The agreement states that the spouses voluntarily agreed to separate and
- the agreement was signed under oath before the application for divorce was filed. In addition, each spouse must file a Financial Statement Affidavit and a Joint Statement of Marital and Non-Marital Property. The financial statement form is contained in Maryland Rules, Rule 9-203. The form for the Joint Property Statement is contained in Maryland Rules, Rule 9-206. Finally, in a default situation, the divorce may be granted only upon actual testimony of the plaintiff spouse. [Annotated Code of Maryland; Courts and Judicial Procedure, Section 3-409 and Maryland Rules; Rules 9-203, 9-206, and 9-207].
Maryland is an “equitable distribution” state. The spouses retain their separate property , including:
- Any gifts and inheritances;
- property acquired prior to the marriage; and
- property which is directly traceable to property listed in (1) or (2). Marital property, including retirement benefits and military pensions, is then divided on an equitable basis.
The court may order a division of the property, a sale of the property and a division of the proceeds, or a money award as an adjustment of the values. The court may award the family home to either party. The following factors are considered:
- The monetary and non-monetary contributions of each spouse to the acquisition of the marital property, including the contribution of each spouse as homemaker;
- The value of each spouse’s property;
- The economic circumstances of each spouse at the time the division of property is to become effective;
- The length of the marriage;
- Whether the property award is instead of or in addition to alimony;
- How and by whom the property was acquired, including any retirement, profit-sharing, or deferred compensation plans;
- The circumstances that contributed to the estrangement of the spouses;
- The age and physical and mental condition of the spouses; and
- Any other factor necessary to do equity and justice between the spouses. [Annotated Code of Maryland; Family Law, Sections 8-202, 8-203, and 8-205].
Two types of alimony exist in Maryland:
- Alimony Pendente Lite – After the court case for divorce has been filed, during the interim, a court may grant temporary support until the divorce is finalized. It’s intent is to maintain the status quo during the divorce. However, it does not mean you will be awarded permanent or final alimony after the divorce.
- Permanent Alimony – After the divorce, the court may order permanent alimony or it could occur from mutual agreement by the parties. Permanent does not mean that a party will receive such maintenance award for the rest of their lives. In fact, it is very rare to receive the so called “indefinite” alimony. Most of the time, rehabilitative alimony, which is a duration of time which is deemed necessary to bring a party to achieve certain economic independence, is awarded.
The following are factors considered by the court in awarding alimony:
The court shall consider all the factors for a fair and equitable award, including: but not limited to:
- the ability of the parties seeking alimony to be wholly or partly self-supporting;
- the time necessary for the party seeking alimony to gain sufficient education or training to enable that party to find suitable employment;
- the standard of living that the parties established during their marriage;
- the duration of the marriage;
- the contributions, monetary and nonmonetary, of each of the party to the well-being of the family;
- the circumstances that contributed to the estrangement of the parties;
- the age of each party;
- the physical and mental condition of each party;
- the ability of the party from whom alimony is sought to meet that party’s needs while meeting the needs of the party seeking alimony;
- any agreement between the parties;
- the financial needs and financial resources of each party, including:
- all income and assets, including all property that does not produce income;
- any monetary award concerning property and award of possession and use of the family property
- the nature and amount of the financial obligations of each party; and
- the right of each party to receive retirement benefits.
- whether the award would cause a paying spouse or a spouse who is a resident of a care facility with more than two patients to become eligible for medical assistance earlier than would otherwise occur.
In Maryland, child support is based upon the Child Support Guidelines. The amount of support can be inserted into the following link for to calculate child support from the Maryland Department of Human Resources..
- Primary Physical Custody to One Parent – http://www.dhr.state.md.us/CSOCGuide/
- Shared Physical Custody – http://www.dhr.state.md.us/csea/download/worksheet_b.pdf
Once a child support order is in place, only a showing of a substantial change of circumstances will entitle a party to change the support amount.