MARYLAND FAMILY LAW, DIVORCE, LEGAL SEPARATION, ANNULMENTS & CUSTODY
MARYLAND FAMILY LAW ATTORNEY
Annulments in The State of Maryland
An annulment is a decree establishing that the marriage between two parties never existed. The Maryland Family Court is dealt with deciding the validity of each annulment case and infrequently grants annulments. If the court decides to grant the annulment, it is considered that you and your spouse were never married. If you are seeking an annulment, it is advisable for you to speak with an experienced Maryland family law attorney at The Burton Firm. The standard of proof that must be met to prove an annulment is difficult to meet, but we are very familiar with the Maryland Family Law Court and know what judges and law to expect.
Annulments are generally granted if we can prove that the marriage is invalid. Any party may seek an annulment including a third party. If any of the criteria below is satisfied an annulment is usually granted:
- Either party was married to someone else;
- The parties are related by birth with impermissible degrees (meaning, they are either parents, grandparents, children, or grandchildren or their spouse or spouse’s children, a brother or sister or their children, an aunt or uncle, a stepparent or step-child, or a spouse’s parent, grandparent, or grandchild;
- Either party was legally insane or otherwise mentally incompetent to enter the contract.
- Either party was physically incapable of intercourse;
- Consent was procured by fraud, duress or force;
- Either party lacked understanding to consent;
- The marriage ceremony was performed by someone without legal authority to perform;
- Either party was under the age of 18 (excluding parties that obtained parental consent).
The duration of your marriage is not a factor considered by the Maryland Family Law Court when determining the validity and invalidity of the marriage. Further, a voidable marriage is considered valid until the court declares it to be invalid. If the Maryland Family Law Court determines that none of the above criteria is met, there are other options available to you.
If you are seeking an annulment call The Burton Firm today for a free initial consultation. We can help. We will resolve your questions and concerns, protect your legal rights, and work diligently to get results.
FAMILY LAW LAWYER MARYLAND
Legal Separation in The State of Maryland
Similar to divorce, legal separation is a legal process with the county Courts that will require filing of a petition and will result in a Court order or judgment. However, unlike divorce legal separation will be effective immediately (while for divorce it will take at least six months) but will not change the marital status.
Legal separation will allow the time for the couple to ponder the consequences of divorce and determine if they wish to proceed further while keeping all the medical (depending on the carrier), military and tax benefits in place. However, the date of the filing of the petition serves as the date from which each party’s earning are designated as that party’s sole and separate property. All other issues, i.e., child custody, division of property, spousal support, child support, must also be addressed, where appropriate.
With legal separation reconciliation is possible, though most couples that separate end up filling for divorce.
MARYLAND FAMILY LAW ATTORNEY ON YOUR SIDE
If you are contemplating divorce or legal separation contact our professional team of staff and or attorney will help you determine the right course of action. Contact our office today for a free consultation.
DIVORCE LAWYER MARYLAND
Divorce in The State of Maryland
The divorce rate in the United States is one of the highest in the world, fortunately Maryland is one of the lowest divorce rates in the nation.
The impact is devastating on all parties, including spouses, their children, their friends and their respective families. Aside from emotional anguish, the financial burden of going through a divorce, and then the increasing costs of financing two separate homes leaves no one a real winner.
The divorce process can be timely, and will largely depend on your willingness to work issues out with the other spouse. Cooperation is key. The divorce cannot be legally finalized earlier than six (6) months from the date the Petition for Divorce has been filed. With six (6) months being the shortest amount of time, the divorce will more likely take longer if the particular situation has more issues to resolve:
- Child Custody
- Division of Property (Community/Separate)
- Spousal Support
- Child Support
- Business Division.
Resolving these issues may take longer negotiations and even taking the matter to the Court on a motion. This will increase costs, but these issues are extremely important and you should not take less then what you deserve.
When the judgment will be issued by the Court, the divorce will become final. Each party will be able to remarry if they wish, file single tax returns, etc. The relationship will no longer be recognized by law. That is why you must appreciate the significance of divorce and make sure that this is the right option for you.
MARYLAND RECOGNIZES SEVERAL TYPES OF DIVORCE
First and foremost Maryland is not a “no fault” divorce state. A no-fault divorce is possible only if a couple has been living separately for at least a year, then either spouse can file for divorce. Most couples who file for divorce are based on “irreconcilable differences.” The no fault divorce does not require the proof of fault and any spouse can terminate the marriage for any reason. Even if one of the spouses refuses to participate in the proceeding the divorce will be granted by the Court nonetheless. Though the requirement of fault is not required, if one exists, it can play a role in other divorce proceedings, i.e., visitation, custody, etc. This is why it is important to retain an experience and knowledgeable divorce lawyer who will help you with the process.
Next, the divorce can be an “uncontested” divorce. This divorce is considered uncontested when both spouses agree to go through a divorce and reach an agreement on all issues, including but not limited to, division of property, custody and visitation, financial issues, etc. Though the benefit of this divorce is the fast result, the detriment can be the unfair division of property that you might be entitled to, like alimony/spousal support, division of pension funds, etc. This is why it is important to retain an experience and knowledgeable divorce lawyer who will recognize all property, real, personal or liquid that you are entitled to.
Another divorce that is recognized the Maryland Courts is the “simplified divorce.” Certain prerequisites must be met for the Courts to allow a simplified divorce.
MARYLAND SIMPLIFIED DIVORCE REQUIREMENTS
1) The residency requirement must be met, which means that both spouses are the residents of the state for at least 6 months and resident of the county for at least 3 months prior to the filing of the petition;
2) Both spouses must file jointly with irreconcilable differences as the reason for the divorce;
3) The couple does not owe more than $4,000 in joint debt and does not have more than $25,000 in community property;
4) The couple does not own real estate; and
5) The parties must represent themselves (however you can always retain an attorney as an advisor)
Finally, the Court also recognize the concept of “limited” divorce. Similar to legal separation, limited divorce allows the couple to divide the assets and resolves issues of custody and support while the status remains the same.
If you are contemplating or planning to file for divorce contact Charles County divorce lawyer at our office as soon as possible and our attorneys will help you determine which marriage dissolution proceeding is right for you. When you become our client, our attorneys will promptly and accurately prepare and file all the necessary forms, fight for your custody rights, determine fair visitation rights, determine division of debt and property and make certain you are treated fairly by the Court system and your spouse. Our firm and our team of staff will push the process for a quicker resolution and best results.
CONTACT MARYLAND DIVORCE LAWYER FOR CONSULTATION
The Burton Firm in Prince George’s County and Charles County is an experienced family law firm where the attorney-client working relationship is the basis of the law practice. Maryland divorce lawyer Aubrey Burton, Jr., applies knowledge, experience and zeal when advising and representing clients. Call or e-mail the law firm to schedule a consultation.
DIVORCE ATTORNEY MARYLAND
Residency Requirements for Filing for Divorce in Maryland
In order to file for divorce in Maryland, one party must be residing in the state of Maryland. To prove you are a resident, you must state so in the court papers called a “divorce complaint”. This is also the location in which you should state how many years or months you’ve lived in Maryland. On top of that, courts will also consider where you pay taxes; receive mail, where your personal belongings are, which state has issued your current driver’s license and where you bank.
If you have been a resident for less than one year, you will need to be especially careful about evidence to support your statement in court. Cases have been dismissed and even overturned because of improper proof of residency. The court will be focusing on your intent to live in Maryland so make sure to tell the judge it is your intent to remain in Maryland and support this statement with evidence, such as, having a boss as a witness to testify that your job will keep you in this state.
If the grounds for divorce occurred outside of Maryland, for instance your spouse committed adultery in another state; you or your spouse must have resided in Maryland for at least one year before filing for divorce. After you file for divorce, you or your spouse may move to another state and still have your case heard in Maryland. Keep in mind, if you are handling your divorce yourself or need to attend a hearing, you will need to return to the state.
FAMILY LAW ATTORNEY MARYLAND
Factors the Court Considers for Custody and Visitation
One of the most difficult hardships parents must make when they split is child custody and guardianship. Like other states, Maryland requires judges to make decisions about child custody and visitation based on the best’s interests of the child. And although there isn’t a certain guideline or list of factors the court uses to make the decision, there are many things the judge will take into consideration.
Some of which include the fitness of each parent, the character and reputation of each parent, what the parent wants regarding custody and agreements, the possibility of maintaining family relationships, the child’s preference, the age, health and sex of the child, the residences of each parent, the length of the child’s separation from the parent and whether either parent has voluntarily abandoned the child. Although it’s rare, some courts will prohibit parent’s visitation in order to assure the safety and welfare of the child. These restrictions are implemented to address issues like spouse abuse, child abuse, alcohol and substance abuse, anger management, parents’ education, etc.
Additionally, there are factors the court considers when deciding whether joint custody is appropriate by looking at the relationship of the child to each parent and the relationship of the parents to each other. Divorced parents raising a child together must be able to communicate and make decisions together. The court will look at the capacity of the parents to communicate and reach shared decisions affecting child’s welfare, whether the parents are willing to share custody, the relationship status, the potential disruption to the child’s social and school life created by joint custody, the demands of each parent’s job, the sincerity of either parent’s request for joint custody, the financial status of the parents and the benefit of the parents of awarding joint custody.
And although the court looks into these factors, it’s also important to note that parents do not necessarily have to agree about everything. Even parents who are still married disagree about what’s best for their children, but their views should not be so outrageously different from each other and inflexible. The court definitely views communication skills important however, so even if parents disagree, they need to have clear communication.
MARYLAND FAMILY LAW LAWYER
Grandparents Visitation Rights
If you are a grandparent and want visitation rights with your grandchildren, the ideal way for you to get the petition for child visitation approved and gain visitation rights by the court of Maryland is to either:
- Obtain parental approval;
- Show that the parent is unfit, or
- Show that other extraordinary circumstances are present.
Grandparents Visitation Rights are defined by the Maryland Family Law § 9-102. The statute reads as follows:
An Equity Court may:
- Consider a Petition for reasonable visitation of a grandchild by a grandparent; and
- If the Court finds it to be in the best interest of the child, grant visitation rights to grandparent.
In any visitation case, the Maryland court will always consider the best interest of the child in deciding whether to grant visitation. However, the custody statute does not provide a list of factors for determining the best interest of the child.
It is common for the court to honor the custodial parents visitation schedule and presume that the schedule presented by the custodial parents is in the best interest of the child.
***This guideline is in accords with the Supreme Court case Troxel v. Granville, 120 S.Ct. 2054 (1999). The court determined that it is unconstitutional to “award visitation to any third party at any time based solely on the best interest of the child standard.”
In Maryland, grandparents can file a petition for visitation rights under Maryland Family Law § 9-102. However, it is unlikely that the grandparents will gain approval of the petition unless the grandparents illustrate that the parent is unfit or were denied grandparent visitation completely.
MARYLAND FAMILY LAW ATTORNEY HELPS GRANDPARENTS OBTAIN VISITATION
If you are a grandparent and want visitation rights with your grandchildren, contact an experienced family law attorney that specializes in visitation rights at The Burton Firm today.
We have helped countless of grandparents successfully obtain visitation rights. Contact us today and take advantage of our free consultation policy. We will answer your questions and concerns, advice you of your legal options, and protect your legal rights.