If you are contemplating divorce in Maryland, you’ve probably spent a lot of time thinking about your unique situation and wondering how the process will go for you. Aside from the emotional aspects of the end of a relationship, every couple has a wide variety of circumstances that need to be considered in a divorce. Before pulling the trigger, you should understand some of the issues that will be raised and resolved in a divorce.
The Basics of Divorce
A married couple residing in Maryland can obtain a divorce only based on one of several specific grounds. The grounds can be straight forward such as the mutual consent civorce, where the parties come before the court with a comprehensive marital settlement agreement already in place, and the divorce based on a one-year separation. Or the grounds can require that certain facts are proven, such as adultery, desertion, cruelty of treatment, excessively vicious conduct, insanity, or conviction for a crime. In a divorce, the couple divides marital property, determines spousal support, and resolves issues of child custody and support.
Getting to the Divorce
A final divorce decree in Maryland must be issued by an associate judge from one of the Maryland Circuit Courts. However, the contents of this decree can be arrived at various ways. Maryland family law spells out certain factors that must be decided in a decree, and a judge can decide these issues following a trial, but these may not be enough to cover the unique situation of a marital couple. Alternative dispute resolution is another path to the decree. Through mediation or collaborative law, the parties can present, and often negotiate the terms of a divorce agreement, which the parties can then submit to the judge to approve. The best path to divorce depends very much on the parties, their unique circumstances, and their willingness or lack of willingness to work together.
Division of Assets
In Maryland divorce law, the fair division of assets goes through extensive and complex analysis of each couple. For example, each party might have “non-marital” assets that need to be identified and exempted from the division, but sometimes a major asset like a house can be partially marital and partially separate (referred to as “commingled” or “mixed” property in Maryland). Some couples entered into prenuptial or postnuptial agreements regarding their assets and income, and in a divorce, the agreement needs to be assessed for fairness and enforceability. Since assets come in all varieties, the manner of dividing the assets can take different forms, and there may be issues to resolve about who gets to keep a jointly owned piece of property. The judge can even award a money judgment to one party or the other, if the judge believes that would be fair and equitable.
What Happens After the Divorce?
As complex as the division of assets may be, it has a certain finality, but not all of divorce issues end with the decree. Parties with different earning capacity and income may be held to ongoing spousal support obligations, and the timing, amount and grounds for termination all require ongoing monitoring with possible returns to court for adjustment or enforcement. Parties with children will be bound to a decree (that may or may not be the result of negotiated divorce through alternative dispute resolution). This will cover legal and physical custody, visitation or access, child support, visitation, and use and possession of the marital home or property. Issues regarding the children are always decided by considering the best interest of the children and are later subject to revision either by agreement or by the judge if there is a showing of both a substantial change in circumstances and that it is in the best interest of the children to do so.
No two divorces are the same. Because of the many moving pieces, it is critical to consult with an experienced Maryland divorce attorney to make sure that you are protected in your specific circumstances. Even if it seems simple, there may be a specific standard or rule in Maryland divorce law that can significantly affect the outcome of your divorce, and you need to know this in advance.