Family Law FAQ
Custody & Visitation Rights
What is Legal Custody?
What is Residential Custody?
What is Child Support?
What is Alimony?
The Importance of Determining Paternity
What are Prenuptial or Antenuptial Agreements?
Divorce & Taxes
Tax on Alimony and the Dependency Exemption During or After Divorce
What is Mediation and how does it differ from the Collaborative Process?
Divorce is confusing and emotional, and when children are involved the emotions tend to be heightened. There are different processes for determining custody and visitation, including mediation, collaborative law, the use of a child specialist and litigation. We will guide you through this difficult process and give you strategies which will help you keep your children out of the conflict. Custody and visitation rights issues can be confusing. In Maryland, there are two types of custody - legal custody and residential custody. Back to top.
Legal Custody refers to your decision-making authority over your children, such as choice of school, childcare, religious instruction, and other major decisions. Back to top.
Residential Custody refers to how much time (measured in "overnights") you spend with your children. It is often difficult for parents to craft their own agreement regarding custody and visitation rights, particularly if a parent must move out of the area. If parents are not able to reach an agreement about custody and visitation, a Court must decide their custody issues. This means that parents must spend money litigating the issue, and a Court makes a custody schedule that is good for neither parent. We help our clients create a parenting plan which will best suit the needs of the parents and children, and is flexible to account for the changing needs of the children as they grow. An ideal parenting plan also accommodates the need for schedule changes as time passes, and creates a cost-effective and peaceful method to resolve the inevitable disputes which occur. Back to top.
Child Support is the amount of money which parents pay, on a monthly basis, for the support of a child. Maryland has a "calculator" to determine child support, using the gross income of both parties, the time each parent spends with the children, and other factors. Parties can always agree to a different amount of child support as long as the child's needs are met. Child support orders generally last until a child turns 18, or until up to age 19 for a full-time high school student living at home. The calculation of child support can be a bit confusing, and the on-line calculator does not take into account higher income earning families. We offer a free telephone consultation to assist you in determining the appropriate amount of child support you must pay. Alternatively, to access a child support calculator online, simply copy and paste this link into your web browser: http://www.dhr.state.md.us/CSOCGuide/App/disclaimer.do Back to top.
Alimony is the amount of money a higher wage-earning spouse pays to a spouse who earns less or who does not earn a wage. Alimony can be temporary or final, and it can be for a set period of time or indefinite. Alimony is based on the factors contained in the Maryland Family Law Code. In certain circumstances, either spouse may ask the Court to modify or eliminate alimony if situations change. A spouse may also ask a judge for assistance in collecting (enforcing) a support order. Back to top.
A paternity action establishes the father of a child. Paternity must be established before a court will order visitation, custody, or child support for a child whose parents were unmarried at the time of his or her birth. There are many legal, financial, and ethical issues and they can be overwhelming for all parties involved. If the parties cannot agree on parentage, the Court may order genetic testing. If DNA tests show that you are the biological parent of the child in question, you will be held responsible as a parent even if you only had one sexual encounter. This means you will be responsible for paying child support, but you also have rights to custody or visitation with your child. If you prefer to keep paternity confidential, we can assist you in privately determining paternity, without the need for court intervention. Back to top.
A "prenup", called an "antenuptial agreement" in Maryland, establishes in advance how property will be considered or divided at the time of a divorce or death. An antenuptial agreement can also set parameters on the amount of alimony which will be paid upon divorce. There are many different types of antenuptial agreements, and these agreements have a significant emotional component. We understand the difficult nature of these agreements and if you are considering an antenuptial agreement we encourage you to speak with an attorney before bring the issue up with your fianc‚e. Our firm is able to guide you in the decision of whether an antenuptial agreement is right for your family, while helping you keep your relationship intact. Back to top.
When going through a divorce, tax issues are probably not in the forefront of your mind. However, many tax issues arise when spouses or registered domestic partners separate or divorce, which has the potential to further complicate the already stressful process of divorce. When structuring a marital settlement agreement, we partner with experienced tax professionals who will help you navigate the tax issues and potential penalties. Back to top.
One issue to be negotiated is who will claim the dependency exemption for the parties' children. Child care expenses may often be used as a deduction on the custodial parents' taxes. Another important fact issue is tax on alimony, which is claimed as a deduction by the paying spouse and as income by the receiving spouse. Consideration of the tax burden should be taken into account when resolving family law issues. Back to top.
Both are non-adversarial processes and both are voluntary. In mediation the parties are most often not represented by counsel during the process, although counsel may review agreements made during the process, while in the Collaborative Process, each party is represented. The Collaborative Process works well for people who feel they need the support and advice of their own lawyers. Mediation works well for people who feel that they truly know their own mind and situation, and with the help of a mediator, are comfortable speaking for themselves. If this is the case, Mediation is often chosen so that a person has more direct influence and control over the process and outcome. The mediator's role is to manage the process, facilitate a discussion between the parties, explain the law when asked, act as a neutral to resolve disputes and, once the parties have reached agreements, to draft a separation agreement which can be used in court to obtain an uncontested divorce. Back to top.