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.
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.
Determination of Standing
A divorce attorney will first determine whether the stepparent has the right to have an issue heard by the court. This is known as standing. A court may decide to hear a stepparent’s case if visitation could be in the child’s best interests. The following factors may apply to the determination of standing:
- 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
- Other form of domestic violence
- Substance abuse
- 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.
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.
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