Family and Domestic Law
Helping Your Family Through The Tough Times
Our attention is focused on guiding our clients through a myriad of problems during what can be tumultuous times.
Through experience, an understanding of Maryland domestic law and its nuances, and a genuine compassion for the welfare of all our clients, our goal is to put the client in the best possible position to move forward with his or her life, and prosper in a post-divorce environment.
VISITATION AND DECISIONS: PHYSICAL AND LEGAL CUSTODY ARRANGEMENTS
Where custody of a minor child is at issue, the standard to be applied is the “best interest of the minor child.” In considering the best interest of the minor child, one can look to the parental history consisting of time spent with the minor child in activities of daily living, such as caregiving, participation in educational and recreational activities, the potential of that parent to maintain natural family relations with the other parent, and the fitness of the parents.
There are two different types of physical custody arrangements: primary physical custody and shared physical custody. The court has the ability to award physical custody to either parent, or shared physical custody to both parents. With primary physical custody, the non-custodial parent would generally have visitation privileges consisting of scheduled visits during the week and/or over a weekend. Under certain circumstances, where there is a concern with regard to the ability of the non-custodial parent to care for the child, the visitation can be restricted as it relates to time and location. In addition, the visitation can be supervised, wherein the minor child must be accompanied by a responsible third party when visiting the non-custodial parent during a scheduled visitation.
In a shared physical custody relationship, each parent must have the minor child with him or her at least thirty-five percent of the nights during the course of any given year. Acknowledging that there may be different levels of parental involvement from a time factor, our preference is stay away from labels to help the children understand that the both Husband and Wife will each continue in a parental role moving forward. Such an approach influences and takes into the account the role of both parents in further promoting the best interests of the children.
Legal custody, unlike physical custody, pertains to decisions made by a parent or parents on behalf of a child involving matters such as health, education, welfare and religion. With joint legal custody, both parents participate equally in the decision making process. In a sole legal custody arrangement, only one parent makes such decisions on behalf of the minor child. Generally, joint legal custody is more suitable when mom and dad are able to communicate with one another as it relates to the matters involving the welfare and best interests of the minor child(ren). If mom and dad cannot communicate with one another, it is highly unlikely that they will be able to make decisions together. Regardless of whether there is sole legal custody or joint legal custody, any decision requires that the person making the decision be fit and proper to do so, and the most important criteria for said decision is that it be in the best interest of the minor child or children.
CHILD SUPPORT DETERMINATIONS
In the State of Maryland, the non-custodial parent is obligated to pay child support, and he or she is responsible for paying child support until the minor child reaches the age of eighteen and has completed high school. However, in no event should the parent paying child support be obligated to pay this support once the child reaches the age of nineteen. The obligation to pay child support also ends with the death of the parent obligated to pay child support, the death of the child or the emancipation of the child, whichever is the first to occur. Where the parties have a shared physical custody arrangement, the party to pay child support is determined by his or her gross adjusted income and the percentage of nights per year that the minor child or children reside with that parent. The payment of child support begins when one party makes a formal request of an award of child support to the court by motion or contained within a Complaint.
The Maryland legislature has created child support guidelines, which are presumptively correct when calculating child support. The Maryland Child Support Guidelines can be found in Rule 9-206 of the Family Law Article of the Annotated Code of Maryland.
The amount of child support to be paid by one party can subsequently be modified when there is a change in circumstances, such as a loss of employment or change in income. We are familiar with the basis for modifications and what to do should there be a need to modify child support.
Whereas child support is paid for the benefit of a minor child, alimony is spousal support paid by one spouse for the benefit of the other spouse. Alimony is defined in Section 11 of the Family Law Article of the Annotated Code of Maryland. There are eleven factors considered by the court when considering a request for permanent alimony. Some of the factors to be considered include the disparity in income between the parties, the length of the marriage, the reasons for the breakup of the marriage, the age of the parties, health of the parties, the ability to earn more, and the overall condition of the respective parties, as measured by available financial resources, ownership of property, real or personal, and inheritance. Often times, the various factors are assigned different weights when deciding whether alimony should by paid by one party to another.
For divorces in Maryland, marital property is not determined by title, but rather as to when the property was acquired by the Husband and/or Wife. Any property acquired during the course of the marriage, whether by Husband and/or Wife, is marital property, with a few notable exceptions.
Examples of non-marital property would be a gift from a third party made specifically to either husband or wife, or when one party inherits property from a third party. The parties can alter how marital property is defined for distribution purposes by way of a prenuptial, antenuptial or postnuptial agreements.
We are also involved in the preparation of Prenuptial Agreements, in which we would prepare such an Agreement on behalf of one party in advance of the marriage. Prenuptial Agreements are often used where one party has significantly greater assets than the other party, and it is prudent to protect such assets, and such growth, whether passive or not, so it would remain non-marital property throughout the marriage. Often times, Prenuptial Agreements are used when there are second marriages and you wish to protect and preserve assets for the benefit of children from the first marriage, or to protect family businesses.