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Annapolis Divorce Law Blog

Property division can be complicated during divorce

Getting divorced can be overwhelming both emotionally and financially. The process can be especially stressful for people with high-value assets or many assets that must be taken into consideration. Several tips may help people protect their interests when dealing with property division during a divorce proceeding in Maryland.

Separate property cannot be divided between two people in a marriage, while community property is to be divided between both parties. One party might claim that particular assets solely belong to him or her, but it is wise for the other party to explore whether or not this claim is valid. One may wish to trace the transformations and history of assets so that ownership issues may be resolved. For instance, one item may have been sold for cash, and this cash might have gone to purchasing a different item.

Hidden assets are more common than you think in property division

So, you are either contemplating divorce or you have already decided to go through it. Either way, it is a big decision in your life that is going to impact your future, and there is no guarantee it is going to be a smooth ride. This is particularly true if you have marital assets that must go through the process of property division here in Maryland.

Most couples want to assume that they know everything there is to know about their soon-to-be ex-spouse and the assets that they share. However, this is not always the case. In fact, a large majority of marriages have some level of hidden assets.

Same-sex marriage decision imminent from Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court's decision on the question of same-sex marriage is due within the new few weeks, and if past practice is any indication of their behavior, it is likely that it will be among the last decisions released this term.

How they decide the case could either greatly resolve the question of same-sex marriage throughout the entire country, or they could more narrowly tailor their decision in a way that limits the scope and potentially could add further confusion and complexity.

Child Custody and visitation rights of unmarried fathers

Unmarried fathers in Maryland are at a disadvantage because they do not automatically have parental rights. To be part of their children's lives, unmarried fathers have to petition family courts to be recognized as legal parents and have child custody rights. In cases where the mother does not dispute paternity, both parents can simply sign and file a paternity acknowledgement with the court or state agency. This can be done when the baby is born or at a later stage.

However, if the mother of the child disputes a father's parental rights, paternity has to be legally established through DNA testing. Upon establishing paternity, a court order will give the father custody rights such as visitation rights. A parenting plan can then be negotiated, and it would commonly include details such as who would have primary custody and a visitation schedule for the other parent. Parents will also have to agree on who will be responsible for making decisions about the education, religion and health care of the child. Parents may also be proactive and include directives on how modifications to the parenting plan would be handled.

Many view child support laws as unfair, survey says

A recent study looks at the ways in which individuals view current standards in the calculation of child support. The research was conducted in order to provide lawmakers with information needed to look into whether changes are called for within the way that child support is handled in Maryland and across the nation. The findings suggest that many people share an idea of how these support payments should be determined, but that the current system is not in line with those beliefs.

Specifically, researchers found that many people feel strongly that child support payments should take into account the income of the custodial parent, which is usually the mother. In some states, only the non-custodial parent's income is taken into consideration when structuring support payments. This can lead to a scenario in which one parent is unduly burdened, when the other is perfectly capable to providing for the shared child to a greater degree.

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.

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