Litigating a Family Law Case

Having practiced family law in Howard County and surrounding Maryland counties for over 30 years, I have considerable experience in the filing of lawsuits for divorce and other family law matters.

This introduction to filing a lawsuit in family law matters covers many broad topics and includes many subtopics.

First, we make an assessment of your needs, lay out a foundation of information, and evaluate how a lawsuit may best apply to your needs. The assessment includes gathering information about your children and determining whether or not it will be in the best interests of your childrens' needs to proceed with the lawsuit. Often the recommendation is made to file a lawsuit because there is a need to have an order of custody and the Court can order child support and other related needs of children from the date of filing. The same reasoning applies to alimony.

Our assessment will continue, covering extensive information including but not limited to:

  • Tools that reduce stress during a lawsuit
  • Encouraging Client's to read our website regarding items above and below as the more knowledge you have about the lawsuit, its rules, the more secure you will feel
  • Selecting the courthouse depending on the rules of court o Grounds for divorce
  • Domestic Violence
  • Financial Needs and how the court may respond • Marital property
  • Alimony
  • Deferred compensation/Pensions
  • Separation
  • The pros and cons of litigation
  • Working as a team
  • Discussing division of responsibilities as the more you can do regarding your lawsuit/case, the less the lawsuit may cost in legal fees
  • The court process
  • Scheduling Orders
  • Mediation and alternative dispute resolution
  • Discovery
  • Property Settlement Agreements after suit has been filed o Settlement Conferences
  • Resolution

We review the options available to you and answer your questions and then develop both a plan and a strategy.

The overall benefit of filing a lawsuit is the structure and the deadlines that require both parties to come to a resolution of their differences.

When we represent a spouse who advises us that the other spouse will not bring to resolution issues such as paying child support or alimony, property division, or other important issues, and we then file suit, amazing changes in behavior often result on the part of the non-cooperative spouse. When we say "non-cooperative spouse", we mean that we explore any possibility of an opportunity existing to come to terms over the many issues that are needed to be resolved. After making good faith efforts, we may come to the realization that making such reasonable efforts is no longer warranted.

The non-cooperative spouse may be willing to come to a resolution because that spouse (1) begins to realize that the case can be resolved quickly; (2) doesn't want to go to the expense of hiring an attorney; (3) has hired an attorney who has enlightened him/her as to what the court may do in regard to splitting assets (including pensions), ordering child support, and ordering alimony on a temporary basis; or (4) just wants the marriage to end as soon as possible.

Once a lawsuit has been filed, one of the more important tools in litigation is the Scheduling Order. The Scheduling Order requires each party, through their attorney, to meet specific deadlines and it also sets out dates for conferences and hearings. Typically the courts will not change a deadline without compelling reasons. This is where teamwork is important because both the attorney and the client must work closely together so that deadlines are met. Most of the deadlines require the client to provide information, to be available on specific dates, and to provide maximum cooperation. If the deadlines are not met, the court may impose sanctions such as financial fines or may not permit certain evidence to be admitted into evidence.

One of the dates typically included in a Scheduling Order is a date for the Scheduling Conference. Then, after the scheduling conference is held, a date is established for a Magistrate's Hearing, usually within 6 to 12 weeks of the scheduling conference, to hear the main issues in the case regarding child custody, support, visitation, alimony, exclusive use and possession of the marital home, attorney fees, and other forms of relief. The magistrate, at the conclusion of the Magistrate's Hearing, prepares a proposed order which is presented to a judge, who typically signs the proposed order unless either party has appealed the proposed order by filing exceptions to it. When the order is finally signed, the parties are bound by its terms.

This divorce litigation process is further described under the subtopics in this Family Law - Litigation section. Reading these additional articles will give you a broad-based, general understanding of the major issues, elements, and steps involved in obtaining a divorce though the filing of a lawsuit.

I, Fredric G. Antenberg, have over 30 years of family law experience and provide client services to individuals primarily in Howard County and Central Maryland but also in other Maryland jurisdictions. At the time of the writing of this article, I am representing clients in both Talbot County and Montgomery County, Maryland. Call me today at 410 730 4404 for a Free Initial Consultation.