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.
Unless the other parent has been denied visitation rights because of domestic violence, it’s rarely an ideal situation for the custodial parent to move far away with the child. Children need ongoing, strong relationships with each parent for their healthy development and mental health. Before considering a long-distance move away from the noncustodial parent, custodial parents should speak with a child custody lawyer in Owings Mills. Noncustodial parents who have been advised of a possible relocation should also talk to an attorney as soon as possible.
Providing Notice of the Relocation
Custodial parents who wish to relocate must have their attorneys provide a written notice at least 90 days before the scheduled move. The notice must be filed with the family court, and delivered via certified mail, return receipt requested to the noncustodial parent. Under certain circumstances, it may be acceptable for the relocating parent to file the notice less than 90 days before moving, as long as the parent does so as quickly as possible and the move is necessary (i.e., for financial reasons).
Agreeing to the Relocation
Maryland child custody laws require relocating parents to provide notice regardless of whether the move will be within the state or across state lines. It’s possible that the noncustodial parent won’t object to the relocation if the distance isn’t considerable. If the noncustodial parent does agree to the relocation request, both parents can file their written agreement terms with the court.
Objecting to the Relocation
It’s common for noncustodial parents to object to long-distance relocations. They must do so within 20 days of receiving the notice. Their attorneys must file a petition that asks the court to block the relocation. Then, the court sets an expedited hearing date. It’s wise to have legal representation at this hearing.
Issuing a Court Ruling
During the hearing, the court will consider any available evidence, including testimony from both parents, before making a decision. Judges have broad discretion in deciding whether to allow relocations. The overriding concern is whether the move would be in the child’s best interests.
A child support attorney serving the Owings Mills area can estimate how much you can expect to pay, based on the state’s guidelines and your family’s finances. Unlike child custody, there is a set formula that divorce judges follow to determine a fair child support payment .
When you watch this video, you’ll learn that this formula relies on both parents’ income, household expenses, and the child’s financial needs. You’ll be asked to fill out a detailed financial statement, and your ex-spouse will do the same. Your attorney will adjust your net income based on whether you pay or receive alimony. If you already pay child support for children from a different relationship, these payments will be taken into consideration. Additionally, the courts may consider the family’s standard of living prior to the divorce.
Domestic violence laws in Owings Mills allow a victim to ask the court to prohibit the abuser from legally going near the victim. In Maryland, restraining orders resulting from domestic violence are called protective orders, and they may be either temporary or permanent. Temporary protective orders only go into effect for up to one month. Permanent protective orders are valid for longer than one month, usually several months or perhaps years. It’s also possible for an attorney to renew an expired protective order if the protected person is still at risk of harmful actions by the person named in the order.
Protective orders are issued against household members and former household members. The victim may need protection from a spouse or ex-spouse, partner or ex-partner, family member, or roommate. Victims can request protection from an ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend, even if the two individuals never cohabited. Permanent protective orders direct the abuser to not engage in physical violence, threatening behaviors, or any sort of harassment, and to stay away from the victim’s home and workplace.
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.
Under divorce law, it is presumed that, barring evidence to the contrary, it’s in a child’s best interests to have balanced and ongoing access to both parents. Even when this is accomplished, other relatives may sometimes get left out. Grandparents can be powerful role models and loving caregivers for children. Grandparents who have been refused time with their grandchildren do have the legal right to request visitation. This is a complex issue, however, and grandparents are more likely to have a favorable outcome for their case by working with a family law attorney serving the Owings Mills area.
Understanding Federal Rulings
Initially, Maryland divorce law simply stated that the court may choose to award reasonable visitation to grandparents if it’s in the child’s best interests. Family law judges have considerable discretion when determining if something is or isn’t in a child’s best interests. However, this law was affected by a decision handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2000. The case, Troxel v. Granville, was resolved with the ruling that fit parents are ultimately responsible for making decisions in their children’s best interests, and that they could choose to deny visitation with grandparents.
Overriding Parental Objections
In 2002, the Maryland Court of Appeals handed down a ruling on the case of Shurupoff v. Vockroff. In its ruling, the court established two ways in which grandparents could successfully obtain visitation despite parental objections. The first is to prove parental unfitness. The second is by proving that exceptional circumstances apply. Grandparent rights were further supported by the decision in the 2007 case, Koshko v. Haining. In its ruling, the Maryland Court of Appeals determined that exceptional circumstances exist to override parental objections when the absence of grandparent visitation would be harmful to the child.
Seeking Visitation with Grandchildren
Both case law and statutory law are still evolving in Maryland regarding grandparent visitation rights. A family lawyer can evaluate the merits of seeking visitation on a case-by-case basis, considering any recent legal developments. The process of seeking visitation rights starts with the filing of a petition with the appropriate court.
After a personal injury lawyer in Owings Mills files a lawsuit against a defendant , either party may make a motion. A motion is simply a document that asks the court to decide something, also known as issuing a ruling. For example, the personal injury lawyer for the defendant may file a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, which means to drop the case.
When you watch this video, you’ll hear the fictitious story of Patty and David. Patty sues David, whose lawyer then files a motion to dismiss. That motion is then substantiated by a brief that presents the reasons why the lawsuit should be dismissed. After this happens, Patty’s lawyer can file a brief that argues against dismissing the lawsuit.
In Owings Mills, Maryland, divorce law is a bit stricter than most of the country, although that has slowly been changing. In most cases, if the couple isn’t eligible for fault-based divorce or a mutual consent, no-fault divorce, then there is a minimum 12-month waiting period. This 12-month period is a legal separation, during which the spouses must not cohabit or have sexual relations. At the end of the separation, the divorce can proceed. The time it takes to finalize the divorce depends on the extent to which the spouses can agree to settle the major issues, such as custody and property division.
Spouses who do not share minor children and have resolved all issues out of court can seek a mutual consent divorce. Both spouses must sign the proposed settlement agreement. A court hearing may be scheduled in as quickly as 45 days from the filing of the paperwork. Another option is fault-based divorce, in which one of the spouses seeks to end the marriage because of issues like adultery, incarceration, or insanity. Some of these grounds may have their own waiting period. For example, divorce based on conviction of a crime can proceed only if the convicted person has been sentenced to more than three years, and has already served at least 12 months.
Ideally, both parents would wholeheartedly follow child custody agreements and work together cooperatively for the best interests of the children. Violations of custody orders only harm the child, and unfortunately, they are quite common. When child custody issues affect families in Owings Mills, a divorce attorney can help the non-violating parent find a good solution. It’s advisable to take action sooner, rather than later. Unless the violation was an honest mistake, it’s quite likely that the violating parent will repeatedly test the limits of the other parent’s patience.
Parental alienation is arguably the type of violation that is most damaging to the child. It often stems from violations of the non-disparagement clause, which requires both parents to refrain from badmouthing the other parent in front of the child. Disparagement can take many forms. It can include hypothetical statements like, “Your father is always running late. I wonder if he even really wants to see you,” and “Looks like the child support is late again,” and “If you’d rather stay with your friends this weekend instead of seeing your father, that’s fine with me.” Disparagement of the other parent is so damaging because it causes highly impressionable children to turn away from the disparaged parent. In severe cases, the children may voluntarily cut off all contact with the disparaged parent because they’ve been made to think, wrongfully, that this parent is evil or abusive.
When the violating parent has engaged in disparagement and encouraged parental alienation, children often refuse to see the other parent. In other cases, the violating parent may decide to refuse to let the kids go with the other parent. Aside from protecting the kids from an imminent risk of harm—such as if the visiting parent arrives in an intoxicated state—there is no lawful reason to deny visitation. Late child support payments have nothing to do with a parent’s right to spend time with his or her children.
Even if visitation isn’t denied outright, the violating parent may attempt to interfere with it in some way. Violating parents might make a habit of scheduling doctor or dentist appointments during visitations, for example.
Custody violations can include violations of joint legal custody. Legal custody refers to the authority to make major decisions for the child’s upbringing, such as decisions about schooling. If the parents share joint legal custody, then they must both agree to major decisions. An example of a violation occurs when one parent pulls a child out of school and enrolls that child in a different school without consulting the other parent.
The child custody laws applicable to Owings Mills, Maryland give the judge broad discretion in determining whether a child can voice his or her own preferences about the type of child custody arrangement. When establishing the original custody agreement , the judge will determine on a case-by-case basis if the child is mature enough to express his or her preferences. Judges will not consider poorly reasoned opinions, such as a child wanting to live with the mother because she has looser house rules. Greater weight is given to evidence of emotional attachment.
After the type of child custody has already been determined, either parent may later file for a modification due to substantial changes in circumstances. At this time, the child may again be able to voice an opinion. A child can only file the petition for him- or herself when he or she is at least 16. The teen must prove that a change in custody serves his or her best interests regarding emotional and physical well-being.
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