Staying Safe While Divorcing an Abusive Spouse
Despite the protections provided by domestic violence laws in Owings Mills, countless individuals have been victimized by the people closest to them. If you’re considering divorce and your spouse has committed violence or threats of violence against you, then your safety is your priority. Know that acts of violence can unpredictably escalate before victims are able to leave their abusers. Unfortunately, this has caused many victims—mostly women—to lose their lives before they can get away. Don’t wait for the situation to worsen before taking action—get the help you need today.
Contact the local police department.
As soon as you are able, you should report the abuse to your local police department. Call 911 if you need emergency help. When you file the report, be as specific as possible. The report should reflect whether your spouse has an ongoing pattern of abusive behaviors. It isn’t enough to simply say that your spouse broke one of your ribs. To substantiate the case, you’ll need to specify exactly what your spouse did, and what you did during the incident.
Consult a family court attorney.
Your spouse may react violently if you tell him or her that you’re seeking a divorce. Instead of telling your spouse first, and then getting legal help, talk to an attorney right away. Your lawyer can provide guidance on obtaining a restraining order. In the meantime, if you do go back to the shared residency, ask your attorney not to call you at home. He or she shouldn’t call your cellphone, either, if your spouse might check your call logs.
Get to a safe place.
Even the most carefully planned arrangements can be derailed if your spouse becomes violent again. If you or your kids are in imminent danger, your only priority is to get to a safe place. Call 911, go to a hospital, or go to a relative’s or friend’s house if necessary. The nursing staff at any hospital can direct you to the confidential location of the nearest domestic violence shelter.
Who Gets to Keep the Pet When Couples Split?
Along with child custody, the decision regarding who gets to keep the family pet is often the most contentious part of a divorce. If you can’t bear to think of life without your beloved pet, let your family attorney in Owings Mills know that your pet is your priority. You may have to compromise on other matters, such as giving up some of your share of the marital property.
You can hear more about this complex issue by watching this featured video and consulting your attorney. You’ll hear an interview with Gail, a woman who recently filed for divorce and only requested retaining ownership of her faithful friend, Lucky. Although Maryland divorce law hasn’t caught up to the emotional realities of pet parenthood, the judge presiding over Gail’s case made an exception. He ordered Gail and her ex to share visitation time with Lucky.
Steps to Take Before You File for Divorce
Once you’ve made the decision to file for divorce , the first person you should inform is your attorney—not your spouse. Make an appointment with a family lawyer in Owings Mills and find out what you should and shouldn’t do in the time leading up to the filing of the petition. If you believe your spouse may react aggressively or violently to the news of the divorce, you can ask your attorney about getting a protective order. The protective order can require your spouse to move out of the family home.
Assess your finances and earning potential.
Switching from a two-income to a one-income household is quite a shock. A legal separation is even more difficult if you didn’t work during the marriage. You’ll need to carefully consider your financial situation. If you do work, consider whether you can realistically support yourself and any children with one income. If you don’t work, consider whether your education, experience, and job skills would allow you to secure a job that is capable of supporting your lifestyle.
Make copies of financial and household documents.
Your family lawyer will need all relevant financial and household documents. Make copies of these before informing your spouse that you want a divorce, especially if there’s a possibility that your spouse will try to hide assets. You may need copies of the following:
- Tax returns
- Bank statements
- Life insurance policies
- Mortgage documents
- Credit card statements
- Investment and retirement account statements
- Vehicle titles
- Employee benefits statements
- Social Security statements
Your spouse might be self-employed, which can complicate the divorce process further. Get as much information as you can about the finances of the business, such as by copying relevant documents stored in the family’s computer.
Write down the details of the household expenses.
Use your checkbook and your bank statements to identify all household expenses for the past year. The family court will ask for information about household expenses. Additionally, you can keep track of your average monthly cash expenditures by putting a small notebook in your car, and making a note in it every time you purchase something.
Make an inventory of major assets.
You’ll need to give your lawyer a list of all major assets. These typically include vehicles, jewelry, furniture, appliances, and electronics. You might have to get a professional valuation of certain assets , including rare coin collections or the contents of a wine cellar.
The Basics of Alimony
Alimony, or spousal support, is frequently an area of dispute in divorce cases. Before discussing spousal support in your divorce settlement, you should have an experienced alimony attorney in Owings Mills on your side.
Watch this video to learn more about how alimony is decided during divorce cases. In addition to any applicable state laws, courts consider each family’s individual circumstances before ruling on alimony. Your divorce lawyer can build a case that demonstrates your current financial standing after your marriage ended to argue either that you are entitled to support from your spouse if you are seeking alimony or that you should not have to pay to support your ex if you are fighting an alimony request.
FAQs and Answers About Maryland Divorce Law
When you’re facing a divorce in Maryland , it’s common to have questions about the process and how it will affect your future. As soon as you make the decision to separate, retain an experienced divorce attorney who can represent your interests as you negotiate with your ex on issues like child support and alimony. As you make decisions about your divorce, keep these answers to some frequently asked questions in mind.
What kind of divorce can I get in Maryland?
In Maryland, there are both no-fault and fault-based divorce. A no-fault divorce is the easiest to obtain. To qualify for a no-fault divorce, spouses must live apart voluntarily for one year without interruption if children were born during the marriage, or if no children were born during the marriage, spouses may qualify immediately if certain other criteria is met. If you seek a fault-based divorce, your divorce attorney will need to prove a reason for the divorce, such as adultery, cruelty, deliberate desertion that has continued for 12 months or more, or a criminal conviction that includes a three-year or longer sentence. Your attorney will help you choose the right type of divorce for your situation.
What is the difference between a limited and absolute divorce?
A limited divorce is similar to a legal separation. During a limited divorce, the couple is separated but the marriage is not terminated. Issues such as child custody and alimony are often decided on a temporary basis during a limited divorce, but those determinations can then roll over to an absolute divorce. An absolute divorce is the final, legal dissolution of a marriage. Limited divorce is not appropriate for every case but can be helpful in instances in which couples have not yet met the requirements for absolute divorce but need assistance in settling their differences until they become eligible.
How are child support and alimony different?
Child support is paid specifically to meet the financial needs of the children that were conceived during the marriage. It is typically paid to the custodial parent. Alimony is spousal support and is designed to prevent one spouse from experiencing a significant decline in lifestyle or financial standing after divorce. Courts consider each case individually before ruling on child support and alimony.
What to Expect from Divorce Mediation
Many marriages end with a prolonged divorce case contentiously argued in court, but not all divorces have to take this route. Your family law attorney in Owings Mills may recommend that you give mediation a try, especially if you’re interested in getting the case finalized quickly and retaining some control over the outcome. Divorce mediation is particularly helpful for resolving child custody issues. This is because it establishes a foundation of working together for the best interests of the children. Your divorce lawyer will help you prepare for your mediation session.
Preparing for Your Appointment
You can get the most out of each mediation session by arriving prepared. Organize all of your divorce-related paperwork and keep it in one folder. You should bring paperwork that details your assets, debts, retirement funds, and income. The mediator may send a packet of materials to you that you should review in advance. You might be asked to sign a confidentiality agreement, for example.
Identifying the Issues
After explaining the purpose and format of mediation, the professional mediator will establish the rules for speaking. When one party is given the floor, the other person is expected to refrain from interrupting. You’ll each have an opportunity to identify the issues that need to be resolved. These generally include child custody, child support, spousal support, and property division. Within those categories, it’s helpful to work on one specific issue at a time, such as who will live in the family home, how the parties will communicate with each other, and how household rules will remain consistent across both of the child’s residencies.
Discussing Concerns and Proposals
As the group works through each issue in mediation, both spouses will have an opportunity to clarify his or her concerns, goals, and proposals without interruption. After each person finishes speaking, the mediator can help him or her elaborate on these concerns. The other spouse will then have an opportunity to ask questions and respond. The mediator helps each spouse, together or separately, develop a proposed solution. The other spouse may choose to accept part or all of the solution, or offer a counter-proposal. In this way, the group works toward solutions that are mutually agreeable.
Parenting Skills During a Divorce
As difficult as a divorce might be for you and your spouse, it’s far more difficult for your children. Throughout each stage of the divorce process , prioritizing your children’s well-being and quality of life will help them get through the transition. After a divorce lawyer in Owings Mills files the divorce petition on your behalf, you and your spouse should sit down together with the children to break the news.
This featured video offers some tips for telling kids about a divorce or legal separation. These parenting experts recommend avoiding the details of why the divorce is necessary. Instead, offer concrete examples of how daily life will change and provide plenty of reassurances of your love to help your children feel secure. Both during and long after the divorce, it’s essential to avoid disparaging your ex in front of the kids; they shouldn’t feel as though they must choose sides.
What to Expect When You Meet With a Divorce Lawyer
Meeting with a divorce lawyer for the first time can be emotional and overwhelming. Fortunately, you will almost certainly walk away from the meeting feeling better than when you walked in, with many questions about the future finally answered and with a plan for moving forward. As you go into your first meeting with your divorce lawyer in Owings Mills , here is a look at what to expect, so you can be prepared and ready to focus on the issues at hand.
General Case Review
Before your divorce lawyer can give you the right advice, he or she must understand as much as possible about your situation. First, he or she will need to know if your spouse has already filed for divorce or if you plan to file yourself. Next, you’ll need to review the circumstances that have led to your divorce. The reasons you want a divorce can have an impact on the approach your attorney takes to your case. For instance, if your divorce was precipitated by your spouse’s affair, that circumstance can influence the type of divorce you decide to pursue and decisions about alimony and child custody. Although your divorce attorney is not a counselor, he or she is accustomed to dealing with people in distress, so don’t be concerned if you become emotional, and don’t feel embarrassed to be honest about your marriage and your reasons for divorce.
It’s important to prepare a number of documents for your first meeting with your lawyer, if possible. The most crucial information to have is financial information. Bring bank statements, the past two years of tax filings, statements on your IRAs, mortgages, credit cards, and other debts. It can also help to make a list of your living expenses and bring pay stubs from both you and your spouse. Child support and spousal support will be determined in large part by these factors. If you have documentation of any of the issues within your marriage, such as receipts that are linked to an affair, you can also provide these to your divorce lawyer during this meeting.
How to Break the News of Divorce to Your Spouse
It isn’t easy to inform your spouse that you want a divorce , even if both of you can clearly see that the marriage is deteriorating. If you fear that your spouse will have a dangerous or violent reaction to the news, it’s best to have the discussion in a public place. You can also protect yourself by consulting a lawyer in Owings Mills ahead of time. Even if you do not fear that your spouse will have an intense reaction, you should take some time to prepare for the discussion.
Watch this featured video to get some practical tips on discussing divorce. It recommends writing out what you want to say in advance because this gives you an emotional outlet and allows you to clarify what you want to say. Avoid discussing the details of the divorce until you’ve had a chance to meet with your family lawyer. Try to avoid assigning blame for the divorce and allow your spouse plenty of time to respond.
The Dos and Don’ts of Personal Finance for Divorcing Couples
Divorce may be a sensitive issue and a contentious process, but it’s important not to overlook the effects of divorce on personal finances. When you consult a family law attorney in Owings Mills, he or she might recommend that you see a financial advisor, especially if your marriage involves complex financial matters such as retirement accounts and home ownership. With the combined guidance of your family court attorney and financial advisor, you can secure your financial future while ending your marriage.
Do Make a New Budget
Transitioning from a two-income household to a one-income household is a significant shift for your personal finances. Talk to your family lawyer about what you might reasonably expect to receive or pay for child support and alimony. Ask your attorney for guidance on marital debts and assets, and then consult your financial advisor for assistance developing a new budget for your post-divorce life. Although divorce is an incredibly stressful time, it’s important to adhere to your budget and avoid splurging on expensive gifts for the kids or relaxing spa vacations for you. Keep your focus on building a secure financial future.
Don’t Make Assumptions About Property Division
The issue of property division can be particularly contentious. It’s best not to make assumptions about whether you’ll remain in the family home and retain ownership of joint savings accounts. Because every divorcing couple’s situation is unique, it’s best to consult your family law attorney. Bring along a list of all of your assets and debts to get a clearer picture of what the future might hold for your finances.
Do Look at the Big Picture
It’s all too easy to get fixated on one particular aspect of the divorce, such as staying in the family home or keeping the family pet. One benefit of hiring a family lawyer is that he or she will help you look at the bigger picture. With your lawyer’s help, you should develop a clear understanding of your personal finances, including all of your joint and separate accounts, retirement funds, and liabilities.
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