A Maryland divorce that includes children is governed by child custody laws. In such cases, Maryland laws mandate that a parent is the sole natural guardian of the minor child if the other parent: dies; abandons the family; or is incapable of acting as a parent. The parents of a minor child are jointly and severally responsible for the child's support, care, nurture, welfare, and education, and have the same powers and duties in relation to the child. If the parents live apart, a court may award custody of a minor child to either parent or joint custody to both parents. Neither parent is presumed to have any right to custody that is superior to the right of the other parent. A child who is 16 years old or older and who is subject to a child custody custody order or decree may file a petition to change child custody.
Maryland Child custody laws prohibit access to medical, dental, and educational records concerning the child from being denied to a parent because the parent does not have physical custody of the child.
Child's desire on which parent to live with
In Maryland, children's preference isn't considered when determining in which parent's home he or she will primarily reside. However, at age 16 a child may petition the court for a change in custody. [9-103]
Are you just starting out with divorce, and need a blueprint, or guidance, without it costing an arm and a leg? You will be well served by developing your own Parenting Plan, Visitation Schedule and Child Custody Schedule.
Download Maryland Divorce Forms
[Maryland Code - Family Law Chapter - Section: 5-203, 8-207, 8-208, 9-101]
A marriage annulment in MD is a court decree voiding or invalidating the marriage as if it never occurred. Marriage annulments (sometimes referred to as a marital annulment) in Maryland require a greater degree of "proof" than do fault divorces or petitions for legal separation. Acceptable grounds for annulments in Maryland courts include:
- Consanguinity - Incest, a marriage with a blood relation like parent, child, stepchild, grandparent, grandchild, aunt, nephew, uncle or niece,
Bigamy - a prohibition from marrying a person already married,
Impotency - your spouse is unable to meet your physical and sexual needs,
Mental Disability - your spouse has some kind of mental disability both temporary and permanent and
Duress if you have been forced into a marriage, you may petition for an annulment.
Maryland identifies two types of marriage that fail into the annulment category
Void marriages - they are illegal from the very beginning and as such you lose the choice of staying married. In legal terms, these marriages are void ab initio, or void marriages. These marriages are characterized by one of the following: one party was already married when the new marriage took place, marrying someone closely related to you, if either of you were under 18 years old unless the minor received parental permission or the wife gave birth while a minor,. Void marriages don't require a court-ordered annulment but it's wise to get one to eliminate any future problems.
Voidable Marriages - these marriages require an annulment decree from a court, and include: under the influence of drugs or alcohol when you married, one spouse lied to the other in order to deceive the other for the purposes of marrying, impotence, and duress, where you were threatened if you did not agree to marry.
[Maryland Code - Family Law Chapter - Sections: 2-201, 2-202, 5-202, 2-301]
Did you want fries with that? In this case, a Maryland child support payment schedule comes with a Maryland divorce. Child support is expected to be divided between the parents in proportion to their adjusted actual incomes. If one or both parents have made a request for alimony or maintenance in the proceeding in which a child support award is sought, the court will decide the issue and amount of alimony or maintenance before determining the MD child support obligation.
In the event that the court awards alimony or maintenance, the amount of alimony or maintenance will be considered actual income for the recipient of the alimony or maintenance and will be subtracted from the income of the payer of the alimony or maintenance before the court determines the amount of a child support award.
Should a parent be voluntarily unemployed or under-employed, child support can be imputed (assumed and assigned).
Child care expenses incurred on behalf of a child due to employment or job search of either parent shall be added to the basic obligation and shall be divided between the parents in proportion to their adjusted actual incomes.
Except in cases of shared physical custody, each parent's child support obligation shall be determined by adding each parent's respective share of the basic MD child support obligation, work-related child care expenses, extraordinary medical expenses, and additional expenses. The court expects that the custodial parent will spend that parent's total child support obligation directly on the child or children.
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Maryland child support guidelines provide that in cases where a marriage annulment or marital annulment is sought, and there are children of the marriage, that those children be afforded the same rights, protections and parental financial support, including that the children are not considered illegitimate offspring of the parents, that other children of the state receive. Termination of Maryland child support occurs at age 19 if the child is still in High School.
If a marriage separation (sometimes referred to as a marital separation or legal separation) has been decreed, the court may make such further orders for the support and maintenance of either spouse and for the support, maintenance, and education of minor children, by either spouse, or out of the property of either spouse, as the court deemed appropriate.
'Shared physical custody' means that each parent keeps the child or children overnight for more than 35% of the year and that both parents contribute to the expenses of the child or children in addition to the payment of child support. In cases of shared physical custody, the adjusted basic child support obligation shall first be divided between the parents in proportion to their respective adjusted actual incomes, then each parent's share shall be multiplied by the percentage of time the children spend with the other parent to determine the theoretical basic child support obligation owed to the other parent. The parent owing the greater amount shall owe the difference in the two amounts as child support.
[Maryland Code - Family Law Chapter - Section: 8-206, 12-101, 12-201, 12-202, 12-203]
In MD, if a couple are living separate lives, are not having sexual relations and are not sleeping under the same roof (in the same residence), then they are separated. A formal legal separation (sometimes referred to as a marital separation) is not available in Maryland in order to have a couple considered separate.
- To file for divorce on the basis of desertion, constructive desertion, conviction of a felony or voluntary separation, you must be separated for at least 12 months;
- To file for divorce on the basis of adultery, cruelty of treatment or excessively vicious conduct, the divorce can be filed at any time after you separate;
- To file for divorce based on a two year separation, you must be separated for two years;
- To file for divorce based on an insanity claim, the insane spouse must have been committed to a mental institution for at least three years and one of the spouses must have been a resident of Maryland for at least two years.
Couples are wise to put together and agree upon a separation agreement that settles all of their marital property rights, alimony claims, and other issues.
Maryland affords you the opportunity to come to a divorce settlement with your spouse, and if you are unable to agree, the court will impose its own divorce settlement of the marital assets. The court will divide those marital assets in an equitable manner. It will determine which property is marital property, determine the value of the marital property, and may transfer ownership of an interest in property, grant a monetary award, or both, as an adjustment of the equities and rights of the parties concerning marital property, whether or not alimony is awarded.
The court may transfer ownership of an interest in: A pension, retirement, profit sharing, or deferred compensation plan, from one party to either or both parties; and subject to the consent of any lien holders, family use personal property, from one or both parties to either or both parties.
Marital property includes the property acquired during the marriage, excluding property acquired prior to marriage, acquired by inheritance of gift from a third party, excluded by a pre-nuptial agreement or other mutually agreed contract, or property directly traceable to the property described above.
Lock up the assets
If you think your spouse might try to hide assets, or spend them, we suggest you file a petition for a financial temporary restraining order. This order prevents liquidating assets or spending money beyond the basic necessities of daily living. You might first consider allocating enough funds to see yourself through, because the restraining order will apply to you too.
[Maryland Code - Family Law Chapter - Section: 8-202, 8-203, 8-205]
Alimony (also known as spousal support or maintenance) may be awarded to either party by the court if there is a request for alimony, or as part of a decree that grants:
1.) an annulment. 2.) a limited divorce or 3.) an absolute divorce.
Such awards can be for specific periods of time, or permanent. Factors that lend themselves to a fair and equitable award can be:
- the ability of the party seeking alimony to be wholly or partly self-supporting,
- the time necessary for the party seeking alimony to gain sufficient education or training to enable that party to find suitable employment,
- the standard of living that the parties established during their marriage,
- the duration of the marriage; the contributions, monetary and non monetary, of each party to the well-being of the family,
- the circumstances that contributed to the estrangement of the parties,
- the age of each party; the physical and mental condition of each party,
- the ability of the party from whom alimony is sought to meet that party's needs while meeting the needs of the party seeking alimony,
- any agreement between the parties,
- the financial needs and financial resources of each party, including: all income and assets, including property that does not produce income,
- any award made under Maryland divorce laws §§ 8-205 and 8-208 of this article,
- the nature and amount of the financial obligations of each party; and the right of each party to receive retirement benefits,
- Alimony can be awarded for an indefinite period if the court finds that: due to age, illness, infirmity, or disability, the party seeking alimony cannot reasonably be expected to make substantial progress toward becoming self-supporting; or even after the party seeking alimony will have made as much progress toward becoming self-supporting as can reasonably be expected, the respective standards of living of the parties will be unconscionably disparate.
[Maryland Code - Family Law Chapter - Section: 11-106]
Maryland divorce laws allow you and your partner the opportunity to fashion a Parenting Agreement and Visitation Schedule. Should there remain disputes about the division of parenting time, the court will impose a schedule without any input by you. Be aware, however, that if you two cannot agree on an overall Parenting Plan, the court will have one for you; one that may be disagreeable to at least one of you. If you and your spouse can agree on a parenting schedule, leave nothing to interpretation. Be as specific as you can including the right language in your agreement
How will custody be defined in the final decree? What are the rights and responsibilities? Who has legal custody? Which holiday does the child spend with you? What time and where may the other parent pick the child up? What time should the child be returned home? What is the procedure to follow if either of you are running late and won't be there on time? How much notice should you be given if they are planning a vacation? How far away may the other spouse move? What about future partners?
Should those partners stay overnight in front of the children? If you are unable to reach agreement, the court will impose a standard set of times that may include: alternate weekend visitation (3-day weekends included), mid-week visitation, sharing of the children during periods of school recess -winter, spring and summer, New Year's Eve, Easter, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, Thanksgiving, and Christmas with one parent or the other in alternate years, Father's Day with Father, Mother's Day with Mother, alternate years on the children's birthdays, and open communication by phone and computer.
If you and the
reasonable and loving less than enthusiastic divorcing spouse are unable to agree to a plan, you should know that the court will impose its own plan, and normally one parent is unhappy with the division of parenting time. This would be your clue to making a plan work with your spouse a high priority.
When putting together a Parenting Plan, you'll want to avoid forgetting, or omitting any important details. One way to cover everything is to use a Parenting Plan Template.
The grounds for divorce are:
- desertion, if: the desertion has continued for 12 months without interruption before the filing of the application for divorce; the desertion is deliberate and final; and there is no reasonable expectation of reconciliation,
- Voluntary separation. It will be considered voluntary separation, if: The parties voluntarily have lived separate and apart without cohabitation for 12 months without interruption before the filing of the application for divorce; and There is no reasonable expectation of reconciliation,
- Conviction of a felony or misdemeanor in any state or in any court of the United States if before the filing of the application for divorce the defendant has: been sentenced to serve at least 3 years or an indeterminate sentence in a penal institution; and served 12 months of the sentence; 2-year separation,
- When the parties have lived separate and apart without cohabitation for 2 years without interruption before the filing of the application for divorce,
- Insanity if: the insane spouse has been confined in a mental institution, hospital, or other similar institution for at least 3 years before the filing of the application for divorce; the court determines from the testimony of at least two physicians who are competent in psychiatry that the insanity is incurable and there is no hope of recovery; and one of the parties has been a resident of this State for at least two years before the filing of the application for divorce,
- Cruelty of treatment toward the complaining party or a minor child of the complaining party, if there is no reasonable expectation of reconciliation, or
- Excessively vicious conduct toward the complaining party or a minor child of the complaining party, if there is no reasonable expectation of reconciliation.
[Maryland Code - Family Law Chapter - Section: 7-103]
The court can require the parties to seek counseling for themselves or for a child of the parties under such terms and conditions that the court considers appropriate if: either party makes a motion for counseling in an effort to improve conditions of their marriage; a party, the child of the parties, the child's guardian ad litem or court appointed special advocate, or the court makes a motion for counseling for the child, or the court makes a motion for counseling for parties who are the parents of a child less than eighteen (18) years of age.
Joint counseling. The court may not require joint counseling of the parties:
- without the consent of both parties, or
- if there is evidence that the other party has demonstrated a pattern of domestic or family violence against a family or household member.
The 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 interests of the child, grant visitation rights to the grandparent. Maryland's grandparent visitation law is all of one sentence, which simply states that grandparents can petition for and may be granted visitation if it is in the best interests of the child. Because nothing is defined, these cases rely more on case law.
A Word On Your Journey Toward Healing And Recovery ...
At some point in the process, you will likely discover that you will not be able to manage the divorce recovery all by yourself. If you are a man, you are apt to bury the hurt and anguish and force yourself to Move On. However, unresolved feelings are just that- unresolved, and are likely to become issues later on. If you are a woman, you will feel the process more, and likely will experience a feeling of loss while feeling lost. We recommend you spend time discovering why things worked out as they did, so that you grow with the new knowledge. We offer a myriad of tools that can get you to the other side. The more you learn, the less you fear. Trust us on this. Spend some time and a few bucks and the return will be ten-fold.