Reasons the Court May Award Indefinite Alimony
Inform your attorney in Owings Mills if you plan to seek alimony, or spousal support, or if you suspect your spouse may seek alimony payments from you. Under family law, alimony is intended to maintain the standard of living for the parties after the divorce. When a judge awards alimony, it is typically restricted to a set period of time. However, indefinite alimony may be awarded in certain cases. When indefinite alimony is awarded, alimony laws still permit modification of the arrangement later on.
As your family lawyer can advise you, the court may award indefinite alimony if the party seeking payments cannot reasonably become self-supporting due to disability, illness, infirmity, or age. Even after the party seeking support makes reasonable progress toward becoming self-supported, indefinite alimony may be awarded if the separate standards of living of both parties are unconscionably disparate. Determining whether standards of living are unconscionably disparate is left to the discretion of the court.
Comparing Limited and Absolute Divorce in Maryland
Compared to many other states, such as California, Maryland has relatively strict laws regarding divorce. Spouses may file for limited divorce or absolute divorce, but only based on certain grounds. When you meet with divorce lawyers in Owings Mills, you can learn more about filing for limited or absolute divorce.
Differences Between Limited and Absolute Divorce
Maryland family law defines limited divorce as a legal separation. If the court grants a limited divorce , you are not actually divorced. Legally, you are still married to your spouse and you may not remarry. Spouses may seek a limited divorce when there are certain issues that they need to resolve through the court. In contrast, an absolute divorce is a permanent dissolution of the marriage. A divorce decree settles issues such as property division. Once a divorce decree is issued by the court, the divorce is finalized and either party is free to remarry.
Grounds for Limited and Absolute Divorce
Maryland divorce laws establish four grounds for seeking a limited divorce. They are the unjustified abandonment of a spouse, cruelty of treatment, and/or vicious conduct toward a spouse or minor child. The fourth basis is established if the spouses have been living separately. It is not strictly necessary to obtain a limited divorce before filing for an absolute divorce. Spouses can file for absolute divorce if they have been living apart from each other continuously for one year, without having had sexual relations during that time. A spouse can file for absolute divorce before this one-year mark if he or she can prove adultery, desertion, cruel treatment, insanity, or incarceration of the other spouse. Sometimes, couples can file for an absolute divorce based on mutual consent. This applies if they do not have any minor children in common and they submit to the court a written, signed settlement agreement that resolves all issues.
Issues Resolved Through Divorce
A limited or an absolute divorce can resolve a number of issues. Limited divorce can address matters pertaining to child custody, child support, spousal support, and the use and possession of property. Similarly, an absolute divorce resolves issues such as child custody, child and spousal support, property division, and surname changes.
Talking to Your Kids About Your Divorce
It’s wise to wait to discuss divorce with your children until you are positive that you will have divorce lawyers in Owings Mills file for divorce on your behalf. When you do discuss the matter, be prepared to be asked plenty of questions. Depending on the age of your children, they may be concerned about where they will live, whether they’ll still see both parents, and whether they can remain in the same school. If the child custody arrangement has not yet been determined, you can simply tell your children that they will still see mommy and daddy regularly.
For more advice on discussing divorce or legal separation, watch this interview with “Supernanny” Jo Frost. She cautions parents to avoid discussing the specific reasons for the divorce and to avoid disparaging the other parent in front of the kids.
What You Need to Know About Modifying Alimony Agreements
If you plan to seek alimony, or spousal support, you must do so before the divorce is finalized. Speak with a family law attorney near Owings Mills about requesting alimony. As your divorce lawyer can advise you, the court has broad discretion in determining whether to award alimony, and if so, the amount of the payments and the length of time that alimony must be paid. Bear in mind that after the divorce, it is possible for either party to petition the court to have the alimony agreement modified. Alimony may be modifiable or non-modifiable.
Which Modifications May be Made?
If the alimony agreement has been established for a set time period, such as three years, then one possible modification is to extend its duration or to turn it into indefinite alimony. Other possible alimony modifications include terminating the payments and increasing or reducing the payments.
What Are the Grounds for Modifying Alimony Agreements?
Talk to your family lawyer to determine whether you have the basis for requesting a modification. Generally, alimony laws permit modifications due to significant changes in the circumstances of either party. For example, the spouse who receives alimony payments may obtain gainful employment, thus eliminating the need for support. Or, the receiving spouse may be unable to become self-supporting, which may necessitate the extension of alimony. Alimony payments may be reduced or terminated if the receiving spouse experiences a significant decline in expenses, inherits or is gifted substantial assets, or has a significant increase in income. Some of the changes in the circumstances of the party who pays alimony that may warrant a modification can include the loss of employment, significant reduction in wages, permanent disability or infirmity, or significant increase in income.
What Is a “Harsh and Inequitable Result?”
The judge may modify or terminate alimony payments if he or she determines that not doing so would lead to a “harsh and inequitable result.” Some examples of these situations include the legitimate retirement of the payor, the ability of the receiving spouse to become self-supporting, or other significant changes in circumstances.
What Are the Benefits of Joint Custody?
Although divorce can be emotionally difficult for couples, it is particularly devastating for children. Child custody arrangements that allow for joint legal and shared physical custody are usually the best choice for the children because they minimize the negative effects of a broken household. If your family law attorney is working on your child custody case in Owings Mills, you should consider the possibility of joint custody . With joint custody, the children are less likely to blame themselves for the divorce or to feel as though one or both parents do not love them anymore.
Collaborative joint custody allows children to grow and develop in a healthy manner, and to feel that they can love both parents equally without betraying the other parent. One key aspect of making joint custody work after a divorce is to enforce continuity of household rules. Children who must adapt to different rules and expectations depending on which household they are in are more likely to feel resentful. Continuity across households prevents kids from feeling as though they’re “caught in the middle.”
Tips for Keeping the Peace During a Divorce
Divorce has a reputation for being highly stressful, contentious, and sometimes downright hostile—with good reason. A marriage is an investment in another person that requires hard work and commitment. When it falls apart, there may be plenty of ill will and hurt feelings. But not every divorce has to be characterized by aggression or hostility. With the help of divorce lawyers in Baltimore County or the Owings Mills area, you and your spouse could choose to work collaboratively toward a mutually agreeable settlement. This is particularly important if the marriage produced minor children. Even if a wholly amicable divorce isn’t possible, it’s still wise to try to keep the peace.
Focus on Moving Forward
Marriage often involves making compromises and putting your spouse’s needs before your own. During a divorce or legal separation, it’s time to move forward and focus on your own needs. It’s perfectly alright to mourn for the loss of the marriage, but if you become preoccupied with the past, you may find yourself expressing your resentment to your spouse. Instead, try to look to the future. Make practical plans, such as arranging for housing and possibly counseling sessions with a mental health professional. Take care of your own physical and emotional needs. Plan future projects, such as taking up a new hobby, becoming a volunteer, or going back to school.
Try to Respond, Rather Than React
Keeping the peace during a divorce requires both spouses to refrain from engaging in uncivil behavior. However, even if your spouse treats you in a disrespectful manner, this does not mean that you have to react in a similar fashion. Instead of reacting to unpleasant situations, try to respond. The difference is that when you respond, you set aside strong emotions, consider the situation in a logical manner, and make reasonable decisions.
Consider Entering Into Mediation
Divorce laws in Maryland allow family court judges to require spouses to enter into mediation. However, even if the judge does not order mediation, you may wish to consider it. Mediation is especially ideal in cases involving minor children, since it can help preserve a cooperative relationship. You can speak to your attorney about private mediation options not provided by the court.
Passport Rules for Children of Divorced Parents
After a divorce, you may wish to consult a child custody lawyer serving Baltimore County or the Owings Mills area regarding compliance with child custody laws , such as those that pertain to passports. Children under the age of 16 cannot apply for a passport by themselves. Provided the child does not have only one parent or guardian, both parents must appear in person with the child to apply for the child’s passport. If the divorce was not amicable and child custody was highly contentious, one parent may apply in person with the child, provided he or she has the consent of the other parent.
You can hear more about this complicated issue by watching this video. It explains that the parents must fill out and submit the DS-11 application. If both parents are not physically present with the child, then the application must be accompanied by a signed and notarized Form DS-3053: Statement of Consent from the other parent.
Dispelling Common Myths About Child Custody Cases
Child custody laws vary from state to state. For information specific to your child custody case in Owings Mills or anywhere in Baltimore County, you’ll need to consult a family lawyer in Maryland. Your attorney can explain the aspects of family law that are applicable to your case and debunk any misconceptions you may have about child custody cases.
Myth: The Court Cannot Require Mediation
Under Maryland family law, the court is authorized to order mediation , depending on the circumstances. However, during mediation, the parents are not legally required to agree to the terms of a child custody arrangement. If mediation does not result in a settlement, the case goes before the judge. When deciding whether to make mediation mandatory, the judge will consider whether mediation is appropriate and beneficial to the parties or to the child. The court may not order mediation if there is reason to believe that the child or either party has been a victim of abuse.
Myth: Mothers Almost Always Gain Custody
Mothers frequently do gain child custody; however, family law is not biased toward either party. The judge will not consider the sex of the party when determining whether to grant custody. Rather, the judge will consider which arrangement is in the best interests of the child. If the mother works long hours outside the home, while the father works from home and has more time for the child, then the father may be more likely to gain primary physical custody.
Myth: Parents Can’t Write Their Own Custody Agreement
During a divorce or legal separation, parents often disagree about child custody arrangements. However, some parents are able to work through the issues in an amicable fashion. If both parents work together to develop a suitable child custody arrangement and they agree on the issues, they can write their own stipulation and consent order. If the judge agrees to this written document and signs it, then the order is legally enforceable.
Myth: The Custodial Parent Can Refuse Visitation
Both parents are legally required to abide by the terms of the custody order. The custodial parent cannot refuse the other parent’s visitation rights, even if the other parent has failed to pay child support. Likewise, the non-custodial parent must return the child to the custodial parent at the time specified in the order.
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