What Issues Need to Be Resolved When Couples Separate?

From my experience as a Columbia, Maryland, and Howard County Family Law attorney working with separating and divorcing clients for more than 30 years, I have identified some of the issues that can arise when you and your spouse become separated:

A. Children: If you and your spouse are separated, you need to have a written agreement about who will receive the IRS deductions which are significant. If you don’t have such an agreement and each parent files an income tax return claiming the child or children, the IRS will notify you that both parents are not permitted to claim the same child. Often separated parents may not be communicating and don’t find out until after April 15th that each cannot claim the child or children. To work out an agreement after April 15th may be a hardship for each parent. This is an example of why it is prudent to have a property settlement agreement or a written agreement that deals with this issue.

B. Joint Credit Card Debt: Again, you need an agreement that deals with which party will be responsible to pay the monthly jointly-owned credit card(s). Otherwise, credit card companies will likely charge interest and penalties and may notify credit card services of delinquency which can ruin each party’s credit record. Also, paying off the entire balance may cause you harm if the case is litigated. Here is where I can advise you about the strategy that may be in your best interest.

C. Monthly Living Expenses: Parties often separate not realizing how costly it is to be separated. Budgeting before separation is a good tool but it is far from perfect. Often, I suggest to clients to prepare two budgets, one while still living in the marital residence and another budget for living in a smaller residence that may include services such as lawn care, snow removal, exterior maintenance and repairs. Separating individuals need to understand that the court may provide temporary alimony if their living expenses are significantly greater than their incomes and that in Maryland there are guidelines for establishing child support. Separating parents need to understand that as custodian of their children and lacking a written property settlement agreement, they may be receiving far less than the Maryland Child Support Guidelines state. The guidelines include basic support, child care, babysitting, and extraordinary medical expenses. Also, the court may order health insurance.

D. Lifestyle: When you are separated, the courts seek to maintain the lifestyle to which the parties are accustomed, especially for children. If a child has been receiving a private school education and/or attending extra-curricular activities such as playing soccer, baseball, football, or lacrosse, or taking ballet classes, or taking instruction in a musical instrument, the fees and equipment expenses for that education and/or activity are usually quite expensive. If the incomes are adequate to continue to pay for private education or participation in extra-curricular activities, the court may order their continuation. The court may also order repair or replacement of the roof to the marital home as well as other major repairs.

E. Bankruptcy: Although the U.S. Bankruptcy Courts have raised the requirements for potential applicants, you may be eligible to be discharged or partially discharged from your debt. Filing for bankruptcy may be a temporary step to prevent the foreclosure of your home and prevent litigation from continuing.

The above are some of the issues affecting separated parties and I can provide you with options. Call my office today at 410-730-4404 and schedule an appointment with me, Fredric Antenberg, to discuss this and other separation related issues in a Free Initial Consultation.