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Rockville Family Law Blog

The payment of legal fees and court costs in a divorce

When a couple divorces in Maryland, the court may order either spouse to pay the other the cost, or reasonable and necessary expense, of either defending or prosecuting the proceeding. The expenses associated with a divorce proceeding are court costs, legal fees and suit money. When making a determination, the court will evaluate two factors.

One factor is the financial needs and resources of each spouse. The other is whether there was significant justification for either defending or prosecuting the matter. In other words, the court will decide whether the court action was frivolous in nature.

What are the responsibilities of a guardian?

Under Maryland law, when an individual is no longer able to take care of themselves, a guardian may be appointed by the court. This inability to care of one's self may come about due to illness, injury or mental disability. There are different types of guardians. A person can be a guardian of the property, which means that the disabled individual is unable to make decisions about their property. They might also be a guardian of the person, which means that an individual is unable to make decisions regarding their food, shelter or healthcare. Some situations allow the same person to be both, which means they have a generalized authority over the individual's care. A guardian is expected to always act in the best interest of the disabled person.

Actions that are within the authority of the guardian of the property include selling property, negotiating with creditors, paying claims, retaining assets and borrowing money. A guardian of the person has the authority to make decisions about the disabled person's clothing, shelter, food and health care. This includes consenting to healthcare treatments and treatments that sustain an individual's life. The guardian must secure court authorization before making a decision that poses a considerable risk to the disabled individual. An individual who is guardian of both property and the person has the same authority and responsibility as a parent does over their child.

What is a Best Interest Attorney?

In legal cases concerning issues about access to a child, Maryland courts might assign a best interest attorney to the minor. Best interest attorneys have specific duties that are designed to advocate what most advantageous for the child's well-being.

A best interest attorney, which replaces the term guardian ad litem, is appointed by the court to advocate on a child's behalf. The court expects these advocates to be impartial toward both parents, showing concern only for the child's well-being. While a best interest attorney does represent the child's welfare, the individual works under the auspices of the court. Therefore, in some situations, this type of legal advocate may be compelled to reveal confidential details to the court.

Maryland alimony attorneys

If you are seeking spousal support during a divorce, our attorneys at Fait, Wise & DiLima, LLP may be able to help advocate for your position. During a court hearing, a judge considers various factors before awarding alimony, and we are prepared to utilize all our legal knowledge to help you possibly obtain a fair alimony award.

In Maryland, courts consider 12 different factors when making a ruling about alimony payments after a divorce. Some of those factors are the length of the marriage, the reasons for the divorce and the ability of the recipient to become self-sufficient. The financial resources and needs of both ex-spouses are also taken into account along with the ability for the paying individual to afford the alimony payments.

When the courts modify a child support ruling or agreement

Child support orders are legally binding, but it's important for parents to realize that the orders can be changed. There is a variety of reasons that a parent in Maryland who is making or receiving child support payments can request a modification of a child support order. It's best to file these motions in court so that the modification is legally binding. Verbal agreements are more easily confused down the road.

Modification of a child support order is usually made if the income of a parent changes substantially. In Maryland, the courts will likely alter a support order if the income of a parent changes by 25 percent or more. This is regardless of whether a parent's income has increased or decreased.

Learning about dividing property

Maryland courts follow specific procedures when determining how to dispose of a couple's property through divorce. The first step is to determine whether property is considered separate or marital property. Marital property is generally the property that either you or your spouse acquired during your marriage, such as a bank account, real estate, business, vehicle, furniture, securities, retirement plan or pension. Professional licenses obtained during the marriage are not considered marital property, however.

Separate property is considered property that is not part of the marital estate. Gifts received by one spouse from a third party, as well as inheritances received during the marriage, are normally considered separate property. However, if separate property is commingled with marital property, it may become marital property.

Guardians can oversee needs of minors and adults

Due to many different types of circumstances, there may be times in the lives of both children and adults in Maryland when they need guardians in order to make sure their needs are met. This generally happens in a family law hearing when a family member or other individual feels that a person requires assistance in having his or her needs represented.

During a court hearing regarding the welfare of a child or disabled individual, the judge may decide that the person needs someone to speak on his or her behalf when it comes to medical or life decisions. However, only certain people are deemed by the court as being capable of providing unbiased representation in these cases. The court will tend to honor any guardianship status set up prior to court hearings above all others. From there, the hierarchy flows to a blood relative and then to a social services coordinator with knowledge of the individual's situation.

Domestic partners and benefits eligibility

Maryland recognizes both same-sex marriage and same-sex partnerships as valid, legal relationships. Spouses and partners of state employees have been eligible under state law to receive benefits as dependents of their state employee spouses/partners. For people who entered into same-sex marriages in other states where the marriages are also recognized as legally valid, Maryland recognizes those marriages as well, making their dependent spouses/partners equally able to access state benefits.

The State of Maryland Employee Benefit Program began authorizing coverage for same-sex spouses and domestic partners of state employees in 2009. Employees and their spouses/partners who are at least 18 years old, of the same sex, not related and have been in the committed relationship for at least 12 months are eligible.

Grounds for divorce in Maryland

In Maryland, there are two classification for divorce. They are limited divorce and absolute divorce. Grounds for each type of divorce are specified by law.

A limited divorce designates certain rights and responsibilities for each spouse. However, it does not completely dissolve the marital union. Under limited divorce, parties are not allowed to remarry and final decisions regarding property division are not assigned. In essence, it is the equivalent of a legal separation. Grounds for limited divorce include excessively vicious conduct, cruelty of treatment toward a spouse or a child and parties voluntarily living apart from each other without cohabitation or the reasonable expectation of a reconciliation.

The determining factors in Maryland child custody cases

When couples with children initiate the process of dissolving their marriage, one of the largest issues that must be resolved is child custody. When the divorcing parents and their advocates cannot come to a settlement on their own, the court may determine the details regarding custody of the children, either awarding one parent with sole custody or both parents with joint custody.

The court's decisions are made on a case-by-case basis, and there is no standard set of factors that the court must consider when deciding child custody issues. However, one of the factors that courts commonly do take into consideration is the family home. The parent who emerges from the asset-division process of a divorce in possession of the property may be in good standing before the court, which is charged with looking after a child's best interests.

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Rockville, MD 20850
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