CHILD CUSTODY AND ACCESS
Child custody involves two components: Physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody relates to a person’s right to spend time with his or her child, grandchild, or other child with whom a person has close ties. The court has the authority to order joint legal custody whereby both persons have the right to have the child at least one third of the time; or sole physical custody whereby one person has the right to have the child more than two thirds of the time. Legal custody involves a person’s authority to make major decisions regarding the overall welfare of the child. Such decisions include, but are not necessarily limited to, the child’s education, choice of pediatrician, decisions regarding medical treatment, religious training, mental health services, and types of activities in which the child is permitted to engage. The court has authority to order joint legal custody whereby persons have equal decision-making authority, or sole legal custody whereby one individual has sole decision-making authority.
A large portion of our practice involves obtaining, protecting and preserving a person’s right to have physical access to the child, as well as decision-making authority regarding the welfare of the child. We have extensive experience successfully representing parents, grandparents, and other third parties in custody cases. We ensure that our clients are aware of their legal rights and obligations under Maryland law. We also have experience as court-appointed attorneys representing children caught in high conflict custody cases. We are sensitive to the toll that these cases take on everyone involved and we strive to assist our clients in resolving the issues with the least amount of conflict possible under the particular circumstances of each case. When a case is incapable of resolution through settlement, we have the experience and expertise to present our clients’ cases to the court through effective and zealous advocacy.
Maryland law requires separated parents to support their children in accordance with their combined standards of living. Typically, one parent pays the other parent child support pursuant to a legal formula under Maryland law called the Maryland Child Support Guidelines. We have the ability and expertise to calculate and advocate child support that is both fair to our clients and in the best interest of the children.
Divorce can be a complex, frustrating and stressful process. We recognize that, often, one spouse is more emotionally prepared for the divorce process than the other spouse. Divorce frequently encompasses such issues as child custody and child support, use and possession of the family home, alimony or spousal support, and asset identification and division. Often these issues must be dealt with at a time when spouses are struggling emotionally and financially.
We strive to make the process as painless as possible by taking the time to understand our clients’ individual needs and working with them in a compassionate manner in order to achieve the results to which they are entitled under the law. If it is possible to achieve a positive result through negotiation and settlement, we embrace that process. If not, we prepare our clients and their cases fully in order to maximize the probability of a positive outcome in court.
ALIMONY / SPOUSAL SUPPORT
When spouses separate, there is frequently a disparity between their respective incomes. Depending on the extent of the disparity, one spouse may be entitled to spousal support from the other spouse – either for a specified period of time or, under certain circumstances, indefinitely. There are many factors that a court must consider when deciding the issue of spousal support. Some of those factors are: (1) ability of the person seeking alimony to be self-supporting; (2) time necessary for the person to gain sufficient education or training to find suitable employment; (3) standard of living of the couple prior to separation; (4) length of marriage, (5) age and health of the spouses, and (6) circumstances that contributed to the break-up of the marriage.
We are experienced in applying Maryland law to a given situation in order to educate and advise our clients regarding the likelihood of alimony being awarded. Our aim is to ensure that our clients are fully informed about their cases and to assist them in making wise decisions throughout the process. If alimony is appropriate and/or requested in a specific case, we provide our clients with competent, zealous representation to achieve a favorable result under the law.
Maryland is what is known as an “equitable distribution” state. That is, the judge has discretion to divide marital property in such a manner as to ensure a fair and equitable distribution between the spouses in accordance with the particular circumstances of each case. Marital assets, also called marital property, include all property acquired during the marriage with marital funds, e.g., earnings from employment, and may encompass the marital home, personal property such as vehicles, equipment and furniture, bank accounts, investment accounts, retirement accounts and pensions, and any business interests. Marital property division is often a complex process – sometimes involving assets that are characterized as part marital and part non-marital property. We have the expertise and experience to understand and apply the intricacies of marital property law to a specific case in order to ensure that our clients receive a fair and reasonable portion of the marital estate. We assist our clients by guiding them through this process with understanding, compassion and wisdom.
These days, there are increasing numbers of folks contemplating marriage after having worked many years in order to acquire significant assets and income. In certain circumstances, it may be appropriate for the engaged couple to enter into a “prenuptial agreement” in order to clarify each person’s rights and liabilities in the unfortunate event of divorce. A carefully crafted prenuptial agreement can save a lot of time, stress and money by identifying exactly how assets and income are to be divided in the event of separation, divorce, and even death, thereby obviating the need for a contested case. We have crafted countless such agreements with special care and diplomacy thereby ensuring that our clients are protected regardless of the outcome of the marriage.