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Annapolis Divorce Law Blog

Some issues are often unanticipated in property division

Divorcing couples in Maryland and elsewhere will likely be anticipating the issues that are commonly associated with the end of a relationship. Maryland is an equitable distribution state, which allows divorcing couples to come up with fair -- court approved -- ways in which their assets will be divided. A lot of attention will be paid to determine who is to get what, and divorcing couples may also be aware that incomes, inheritances and retirement funds need addressing in the property division process.

However, these matters, combined with the many decisions that have to be made about child custody, parenting plans and visitation, may be overwhelming, and some important issues may go unaddressed. It is not uncommon for the parent who will keep the children to assume responsibility for the family home, without considering the ongoing expenses of maintaining such a property. The future value of the home will be unknown; therefore, a retirement fund could prove to be more beneficial.

Do divorce restrictions work?

In Maryland, you have to wait a year, separated from your spouse, before you can file a divorce. Other states are enacting similar laws, in an effort to make divorce more difficult and place impediments to people divorcing on an impulse. Arkansas now has a 540-day processing period for a divorce, after the unhappy couple have been separated for 18 months. But does this work?

Oklahoma has recently enacted mandatory parenting courses for couples with children who wish to divorce. Ironically, according to one set of rankings, Arkansas has the second highest divorce rate, while Oklahoma ranks number four. By comparison, Massachusetts and New Jersey, perceived as liberal divorce states, rank towards the end of the list with half the rate of those more restrictive states.

Beware parental alienation

No one ever says divorce is easy. The end of your marriage is then end of many things; your hopes watching your children become progress from toddlers to young adults heading off to college, of growing old together and building the lifetime of memories a family creates.

But it is not an end to your being a parent. Whatever form you custody agreement takes, it is important that both parents remain involved with their children's lives. Because it is your marriage that has ended, not your role as parent. While your relationship with your spouse may have changed greatly, their relationship with you and with your former spouse remains unaltered.

Could Justice Roberts write the same-sex marriage opinion?

With the oral arguments complete in the U.S. Supreme Court last week on the topic of same-sex marriage, much of the discussion that followed attempted to analyze the questions asked by Justice Kennedy. Justice Kennedy has written the opinion in the most influential of cases involving homosexual rights and same-sex marriage.

He authored the Windsor opinion last year, which struck down parts of the Defense of Marriage Act, and most court observers assume it is all but certain that he would likely author the decision in this case, which could remove the last barriers to same sex marriage and divorce for all states in the nation.

Does jail time encourage child support payment?

Child support is often a contentious issue. Those who pay frequently feel the system treats them unfairly because they are required to make payments for their children, but in the case of many fathers, feel the money subsidized their former wives. Many women feel they often do not receive the support they need for their children and that the system is unconcerned.

Sadly, they both may be right. Child support payments are often not paid. But the reasons for that nonpayment vary. A middle-aged man earning close to $100,000 a year may be resentful of his ex-wife receiving a substantial payment of child support. He may attempt to hide assets or in some cases simply attempt to stop all payment, sometimes by going off the grid or even fleeing the country.

Your divorce attorney provides the experience

There's the old saying about practice makes perfect. One issue many people who begin the divorce process find is that never having experienced it before, they don't understand the process.

From the nomenclature of the rules of civil procedure to trying to imagine what sort of decision process they need to have in place to determine emergency medical treatment for their child when the other parent is unavailable, they simply do not have the experience necessary to make some decisions.

The stress you feel in your divorce is not your imagination

Divorce can be very stressful. The need to dissolve your marriage is bad enough. Once your relationship with your partner has deteriorated to this level, simply interacting with them can be difficult and emotionally stressful. Add to this the foreign world of family law courts with its strange and intimidating jargon of discovery, interrogatories, depositions and hearings you can just feel the stress building.

And it is not just your imagination. A study published this week in the medical journal Circulation found that women have higher risk of suffering a heart attack after they have had a divorce. The study was designed to control for the traditional causes of heart problems, to show the influence, if any, of divorce.

Beneficiary designations need to be changed after a divorce

Divorce is unsettling. From your set routines and patterns of behavior, to the allocation of your assets for your retirement accounts. You have to dissolve your marriage and all of the formal contractual arrangements that you created during your time with your spouse.

You need to separate your bank accounts, you need to sell your family home or pay off the mortgage and obtain a new mortgage for only one spouse. You need to draft a new will and create a new estate plan that will provide the structure for your life without your spouse as you move towards retirement.

Good child care can be an important factor in military divorce

As the home of the United States Naval Academy, it is no surprise that many families living in and around Annapolis are military families. Whether you are a service member or are married to one, you understand that there are certain challenges unique to life in the military.

This also follows in divorce. The state divorce laws and general process in Maryland are the same for military families as they are for non-military ones, but the issues can be very different. Military laws can also have an effect. Custody is a primary example. 

Statistics, child support and your divorce

Child support and child custody are inexorably linked. In most states, like Maryland, the amount of child support due varies depending on amount of time a child spends with a parent. But just looking at some numbers can be misleading, and looking at aggregate numbers tell you little of what that means to an individual.

For instance, one could be surprised to learn that more fathers than mothers receive nothing in child support payments. Data from 2011 shows that 32 percent of custodial fathers receive no child support. For custodial mothers, the number was 25.1 percent.

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