Family Law FAQs
At the Law Offices of Michael S. Rosofsky, we're here to help you understand the intricacies of family law. We've gathered some frequently asked questions that we often encounter in our practice. Let's delve into them.
1. What's the difference between a divorce and legal separation?
A divorce is a legal process that officially terminates a marriage. On the other hand, in a legal separation, the couple chooses to live separately while still being legally married. During this period, they may establish court-ordered agreements concerning various matters, such as financial support, child custody, and visitation. These agreements serve to address similar issues as in a divorce, but through a legally-binding document without actually ending the marriage.
2. What are the eligibility requirements for divorcing in Maryland?
In Maryland, there are specific requirements that must be met in order to file for divorce. Here's what you need to know:
Residency Requirement: To file for divorce in Maryland, at least one spouse must have resided in the state for a minimum of six months prior to filing.
Grounds for Divorce: Maryland recognizes both fault and no-fault grounds for divorce. No-fault divorce can be granted on the basis of mutual consent or if the parties have lived separate and apart without cohabitation for 12 months. Fault grounds include adultery, desertion, cruelty, excessively vicious conduct, and certain criminal convictions.
Mutual Consent: If you and your spouse can agree on all issues, including property division, alimony, child custody, and child support, you may qualify for a mutual consent divorce. This eliminates the need for the 12-month separation period.
Separation Period: In cases where mutual consent isn't possible, you'll need to live separate and apart from your spouse for a full year before you file for divorce.
3. What is the role of mediation in divorce cases?
Litigation and divorce aren’t a common mix; only about 5% of divorce cases end up going to trial. The majority of cases are settled through alternative dispute resolution methods, such as mediation. Mediation is a voluntary process in which a neutral third-party mediator helps the divorcing couple reach an agreement on issues like property division, child custody, and support.
The mediator does not make decisions for the parties; rather, they facilitate communication and negotiation between them.
4. So is mediation only an option for mutual consent or uncontested divorce cases?
No, mediation isn't only present in mutual consent or uncontested divorce cases. At the Law Offices of Michael S. Rosofsky, we often recommend mediation as a first step, regardless of the type of divorce you're pursuing.
Mediation provides a structured setting where you and your spouse can work out disagreements and negotiate a divorce settlement together with the help of a trained facilitator.
However, if you can't reach an agreement through mediation, or if certain disputes arise, that's when court intervention may be necessary. In such instances, our family law attorney is prepared to advocate for your interests in court to ensure a fair resolution.
Remember, every divorce case is unique. We aim to provide personalized care and guidance tailored to your specific needs and circumstances.
5. How is child support calculated in Maryland?
Child support refers to financial payments made by one parent to the other for the benefit of their child(ren). In Maryland, child support is typically calculated using state guidelines that take into consideration factors such as:
Each Parent's Income: This isn't limited to salary or wages. Courts also consider bonuses, commissions, Social Security benefits, pensions, and other forms of income. Both parents' incomes are added together to create a combined total.
Income Proportions: Next is determining what percentage each parent contributes. For example, if one parent provides 60% of the total income and the other provides 40%, these proportions will be used in the next steps of the child support calculation.
Child's Particular Needs: Every child is unique and may have different requirements. These could be related to education, healthcare, or other special needs, and they are factored into the calculation.
Other Relevant Financial Considerations: This includes direct costs such as health insurance and childcare, and indirect costs like providing food, shelter, and other necessities. These costs are divided between the parents according to their income proportions.
Your child support order should meet the best interests of all parties involved, particularly your child. If you fear their needs aren't being met by your current arrangement, you can pursue a support modification. To navigate the process as smoothly as possible, consider partnering with a family law attorney in your area.
6. What are my options for child custody?
In Maryland, child custody is categorized into two main types: physical custody and legal custody.
Physical Custody: This refers to where the child will live. It can be either sole or joint. Sole physical custody means the child lives with one parent most of the time, but usually still has visitation with the other parent. Joint physical custody, on the other hand, means the child spends substantial time living with both parents.
Legal Custody: This determines who gets to make major decisions about the child's life, including education, health care, and religious upbringing. Like physical custody, legal custody can be either sole or joint. Sole legal custody means only one parent has the right to make these major decisions. Joint legal custody means both parents share in making such decisions.
Court orders determine where your child will live, how parenting time will be split, and the degree to which each parent gets to make decisions about their child’s life. Like child support agreements, child custody court orders can be modified at a later time if circumstances change.
7. How is property divided?
Typically, spouses have the freedom to divide their property as they see fit through a "marital settlement agreement." This agreement serves as a contract between the husband and wife, encompassing the division of property, debts, and resolution of other divorce-related matters.
However, if an agreement cannot be reached, the court will step in to make the final determination. It's important to note that laws differ from state to state. As a starting point, many states allow individuals to retain their "nonmarital" or "separate" property.
Your divorce lawyer's role will be to advocate for a fair and equitable division of these assets between both parties involved.
8. Is Maryland a community property state?
No, Maryland is not a community property state. In community property states, such as California and Texas, marital property is generally divided equally between spouses. However, in Maryland, we follow the principle of "equitable distribution." This means that the court divides marital property in a manner that it believes is fair, taking into consideration various factors such as the length of the marriage, each spouse's contributions, and financial circumstances. While the goal is fairness, the division may not necessarily be equal.
9. What happens to marital debts during a divorce?
Unfortunately, marital debts don't end when the marriage ends. Both spouses may be responsible for debts accrued during the marriage or one partner may be found more accountable. The court will consider various factors when determining how to divide marital debts, including the purpose of each debt and its impact on each spouse's finances.
10. What is spousal support, and how is it determined?
Spousal support, also known as alimony, may be sought on a permanent or temporary basis. It's designed to help the spouse receiving the support maintain a lifestyle similar to what they had during the marriage. In Maryland, determining spousal support involves considering several key factors:
Duration of the Marriage: The longer the marriage, the more likely it is for spousal support to be considered. This reflects the time and energy both parties have invested in the relationship.
Financial Needs and Resources of Each Party: We look at both spouses' financial situations, including their income, assets, and debts. This helps us understand what each person needs and what they can afford.
Standard of Living During the Marriage: We take into account the lifestyle you both enjoyed during the marriage. The goal is to help the receiving spouse maintain a similar standard of living.
Age and Health of Each Party: Both spouses' physical and mental well-being are important considerations. For example, if one spouse has health issues that prevent them from working, this could influence the support decision.
Ability to Be Self-Supporting: We assess the receiving spouse's capacity to become financially independent. If they need support to achieve this, it's taken into account.
Contributions to the Marriage: We consider what each spouse brought to the marriage. This includes everything from homemaking and child-rearing to career sacrifices.
Agreements Between the Parties: If there's a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement that addresses spousal support, its terms might be considered.
The determination of spousal support varies from case to case, with the court having the final say on the amount, duration, and method of payment.
Get Answers Tailored to You
If you have more questions or need assistance with any family law matter, please don't hesitate to contact our Annapolis office. Our qualified family law attorney is ready to provide a free consultation and help you with your legal concerns. We work with Maryland families throughout Anne Arundel County and Baltimore County.