Divorce law in Maryland is notoriously complex. In many cases, spouses must endure a lengthy legal separation before the divorce can be finalized. If you can prove fault-based grounds for absolute divorce; however, you may be able to forego the waiting period and move forward with your post-divorce life. If your marriage has deteriorated because your spouse has committed adultery, you should speak with a divorce lawyer near Owings Mills. You may be surprised to learn that proving adultery could be easier than you think.
You do not require definitive proof of adultery.
Many spouses assume that it is necessary to provide hard proof of their spouse’s adultery, such as pictures or videotapes. Although this is a possibility, it certainly isn’t necessary. Maryland divorce law does not require spouses to offer definitive proof that adultery existed. Circumstantial or indirect evidence is sufficient.
You do need to prove your spouse’s disposition of affection.
Maryland divorce law does require a spouse to demonstrate that the other spouse had a “disposition of affection” toward a third party. This simply means that the individual somehow displayed his or her affection toward someone who is not married to that individual. This could take the form of holding hands, kissing, hugging, or even suggestive dancing. For instance, a friend of yours may have witnessed your spouse behaving in an affectionate manner with someone else. The testimony of your friend, perhaps complemented by pictures, may be sufficient to prove your spouse’s disposition of affection.
You do need to prove that an opportunity for adultery existed.
In addition to proving your spouse’s affectionate behavior, you must prove that he or she had the opportunity to commit adultery. This opportunity has to be more conclusive than the mere fact that you weren’t in your spouse’s presence on a 24/7 basis. For instance, you might demonstrate that your spouse spent time in a hotel room with the other individual or was seen entering the residence of the other individual.
You could offer substantial proof if it exists.
Although conclusive proof is not required to prove adultery, it can certainly help your case. It’s important to be honest with your divorce lawyer about your suspicions of adultery. If you were diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease (STD), this may be all that’s needed to prove adultery. If your spouse became pregnant and paternity tests prove that the child is not yours, this certainly proves adultery.
Stepparents in general have an undeservedly bad reputation, despite the fact that many of them form strong emotional bonds with their stepchildren, and invest considerable time and effort taking care of them. When a stepparent and biological parent divorce, it’s usually thought that the stepparent has no parental rights. However, divorce law in Owings Mills has been slowly catching up to the modern reality of blended families. Since child custody laws are subject to change, stepparents are encouraged to visit an attorney for the latest information about their legal rights.
Whether the child will suffer harm without visitation with the stepparent
The extent of assistance and financial aid provided by the stepparent for the child’s rearing
The duration of the stepparent’s parental role with the child
The degree to which the stepparent has held an active, significant role in the child’s daily life
The strength of the relationship between the child and the stepparent
Award of Custody
Divorce law presumes that it’s in the child’s best interests for the biological parent to retain custody, rather than the stepparent. However, there are some occasional exceptions. If both of the biological parents are found unfit to raise the child, the stepparent may be awarded custody. Parental fitness is determined on a case-by-case basis, but may be considered when any of the following factors apply:
Child abuse or neglect
Severe psychiatric illness
Of course, if both of the biological parents have died around the time of the divorce, then the stepparent will also be more likely to secure custody.
Establishment of Visitation
Although it’s challenging for a stepparent to get custody, he or she may be more likely to receive visitation. Visitation may be awarded if it’s determined to be in the child’s best interests. The court will consider whether an ongoing relationship with the stepparent will enhance the child’s quality of life.
No matter how simple your divorce might seem at first blush, things are rarely that easy when it comes to family law. Divorce lawyers in Owings Mills are intimately familiar with the many nuances of divorce, alimony, child custody, and child support laws. You can rely on your divorce lawyer to give you trustworthy guidance about your case and your options. If you do try a DIY divorce, you run the risk of making costly mistakes on the court paperwork, getting an unfair property division, and most importantly, losing the right to joint custody of your children.
Hiring a lawyer gives you another key advantage: a buffer zone in court. Divorce cases are incredibly stressful. Even if you’ve appeared before a judge before, you’ll likely find it difficult to present your arguments effectively during such a high-stress time. Your lawyer is the liaison between you and everyone else involved in the case, including your soon-to-be ex-spouse and his or her lawyer.
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.
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.
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.
Adultery is a breach of trust, and many couples cannot recover from it. But before you tell your spouse that you want a divorce , schedule a consult with a family lawyer serving Owings Mills. He or she can walk you through the process and explain the effects of the infidelity on the divorce case.
Grounds for Divorce
Maryland divorce law is complex, and for most couples, it’s more time-consuming in this state to obtain a no-fault divorce. Many spouses must be legally separated for 12 consecutive months before getting legally divorced. If either spouse has sexual relations with another person, either before or during the legal separation, this is grounds for an absolute divorce. The court can grant an absolute divorce based on adultery much more quickly than the average no-fault divorce.
Effects on Alimony
Bring your relevant financial documents to your meeting with your attorney. He or she can review these to give you personalized guidance on the alimony the judge might order. Many spouses are surprised to learn that adultery doesn’t always affect spousal support. Even if your spouse was the one who was unfaithful, he or she could still receive alimony from you. The judge is more likely to consider the role of adultery while establishing the support order if the act of infidelity affected the marital assets. For instance, the adulterous spouse might have spent a substantial portion of the marital assets on expensive gifts for the other person.
Proof of Adultery
The judge will only grant an absolute divorce based on adultery if you can prove that your spouse was unfaithful. It is not necessary to prove that sexual intercourse took place. Also, depending on the electronic surveillance used, this might even be illegal. All that’s necessary is to prove that your spouse had an adulterous disposition and an opportunity. An adulterous disposition refers to displays of affection, such as hand-holding, hugging, or kissing. An adulterous opportunity could include any indication that the spouse could have committed adultery, such as evidence that the spouse stayed overnight at the other person’s residence.
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.
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.
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.
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