Divorce

Are there different kinds of divorce in Maryland?
  • Yes, There is Absolute Divorce and Limited Divorce
  • Absolute Divorce: Effective as of November 2011, under Maryland law, after 1 year of separation with no hope or expectation of reconciliation, either party can obtain an absolute divorce. However, if the grounds for absolute divorce are adultery or cruelty, the 1-year waiting period is not required.
  • Limited Divorce: Limited Divorce has less stringent standards that must be met; however it is a temporary, not a permanent, divorce like an Absolute Divorce is.
Do I need a lawyer for my divorce?
  • Having a lawyer is not required however it is highly recommended for you to obtain a lawyer in order to protect your interests in the divorce. These interests can include but are not limited to child custody, child support, alimony, marital property, etc.
What is marital property?
  • Marital property is:
    • (a) Real property held as tenants by the entirety, unless excluded by valid agreement and
    • (b) Any property acquired by one or both parties during marriage, and does not include any property
      • (1) acquired before the marriage,
      • (2) acquired by inheritance or gift from a third party,
      • (3) excludedby valid agreement, or
      • (4) directly traceable to any of thesesources.
What does “separated” mean?
  • Not residing under the same roof and not engaging in sexual intercourse with your spouse.
How long must I be separated before filing for divorce?
  • The length of time you must be separated in order to file for divorce depends on the grounds for divorce:
  • If you are filing for divorce on the basis of desertion, constructive desertion, conviction of a felony, or voluntary separation, the length of the separation must be at least 12 months.
  • If you are filing for divorce on the basis of cruelty of treatment or excessively vicious conduct, the divorce may be filed at any time after separation.
  • If you are filing for divorce on the basis of adultery, you do not have to be separated.
  • If you are filing based on a statutory separation, you must be separated for one year. Before November 2011, the time period for a statutory separation was two years.
  • If you are filing on the basis of insanity, the insane spouse must have been committed to a mental institution for at least three years and one of the spouses must have been a resident of Maryland for two years.
How does the court determine alimony?
  • The court takes a number of factors into consideration. These factors include:
    • (1) ability to be wholly or partly self-supporting,
    • (2) time needed for education or training,
    • (3) the ability of the party from whom alimony is sought to meet that party’s needs while meeting the needs of the party seeking alimony,
    • (4) family living standard.
  • In addition, the Court looks at many of the same factors considered in making a monetary award. Here is a list of some of these factors:
    • (1) the duration of the marriage;
    • (2) the contributions, monetary and nonmonetary, of each party to the well-being of the family;
    • (3) the circumstances that contributed to the estrangement of the parties;
    • (4) the age of each party;
    • (5) the physical and mental condition of each party;
    • (6) any agreement between the parties;
    • (7) the financial needs and financial resources of each party, including:
      • (i) all income and assets, including property that does not produce income;
      • (ii) any monetary award or use and possession award;
      • (iii) the nature and amount of the financial obligations of each party; and
      • (iv) the right of each party to receive retirement benefits.
How long do you have to live in Maryland to file for divorce?
  • You may file for divorce in Maryland if the grounds for divorce occurred in Maryland or if at least one spouse has lived in Maryland for one year prior to the filing of divorce. The divorce complaint must be filed in the circuit court for the county where the plaintiff (the party filing for divorce) lives or where the defendant (other party) lives, works or owns a business.
Do courts encourage separation agreements?
  • Yes. Separation agreements are generally favored by
  • Maryland courts as a peaceful means of terminating marital
  • strife and discord so long as they are not contrary to public
  • policy.
Is a separation agreement enforceable?
  • Yes, it can be enforced either through contempt proceedings or as a contract that one party is breaching.
What issues can be addressed in separation agreements?
  • In Maryland, a husband and wife may make a valid and enforceable agreement that relates to alimony, support, property rights, or personal rights. Provisions regarding custody and visitation, child support, alimony, debts, pets, cars, household furnishings, health insurance, life insurance, retirement and survivor benefits, business interests, bank accounts and investments, and attorney fees may also be included in a separation agreement.
How is child support determined?
  • Maryland has adopted child support guidelines. The guidelines are computed using each parent’s “actual income,” adjusted for (1) preexisting child support actually paid, and (2) alimony (deducted from payor and added to payee). The outcome is affected by certain expenses which are divided proportionately based on the parties’ incomes: 1) health insurance premiums (if child included), (2) work-related child care, (3) extraordinary medical expenses, and (4) additional expenses (which may include: special or private school, transportation between parents’ homes).
What constitutes income for child support purposes?
  • “Actual income,” which is what counts for computing child support, means income from any source. “Actual income” includes:(i) Salaries;(ii) Wages;(iii) Commissions;(iv)Bonuses;(v) Dividend income;(vi) Pension income;(vii) Interest income; (viii) Trust income; (ix) Annuity income; (x) Social Security benefits; (xi) Workers’ compensation benefits; (xii) Unemployment insurance benefits; (xiii) Disability insurance benefits; and (xiv) Alimony or maintenance received. “Actual income” is not limited to these categories. Read more FAQs about expense reimbursements or in-kind payments, self-employment income, overtime and other categories.
What does the court look at in determining custody of children?
  • The court looks at what is in the best interest of the child.
What are the different types of custody of children?
  • Embraced within the meaning of “custody” are the concepts of “legal” and “physical” custody.
  • Legal custody carries with it the right and obligation to make long range decisions involving education, religious training, discipline, medical care, and other matters of major significance concerning a child’s life and welfare.
  • Physical custody means the right and obligation to provide a home for the child and to make the day-to-day decisions required during the time the child is actually with the parent having such custody.
  • Joint legal custody means that both parents have an equal voice in making legal custody decisions, and neither parent’s rights are superior to the other.
  • Joint physical custody is in reality “shared” or “divided” custody. Shared physical custody may, but need not, be on a 50/50 basis, and in fact most commonly will involve custody by one parent during the school year and by the other during summer vacation months, or division between weekdays and weekends, or between days and nights.
  • Sole legal custody means that parent has the solo decision in making legal decisions of the child and the other parent does not have a say
  • Sole physical custody means that parent has physical custody over the child and can allow the other parent visitation of the child.

Fred Antenberg is a family lawyer, practicing over 30 years in Howard County and who is licensed to appear in all counties of Maryland and in Baltimore City. Fred's office is located in Columbia, Maryland. He has practiced mainly in Central Maryland in a wide variety of family law matters, including but not limited to divorce, custody, child support, marital property, and domestic violence.

Call Fred for a free initial consultation at 410-730-4404.