How did it come to this? It seems like just yesterday you were walking down the aisle and exchanging vows. At that time, you knew it would be forever. Although 50% of all marriages end in divorce, nothing was going to stop the two of you.
Today, however, you are living just like roommates, the love gone, fighting about the most simple things. Although the marriage is over, you still look back at that day and wonder what could have gone differently. There are so many emotions.
Here you are - scared, angry, embarrassed, sad, alone - looking for a divorce lawyer. You have a ton of questions, starting with: “what is going to happen now?”
You are not alone anymore. Wayside Legal can help. We have been there before. With years of experience handling all types of divorce cases, we can guide you through the uncertainty and back to your life.
If you are considering a separation and divorce, or you are already starting the process, make sure to see our suggestions for Ten Steps to Take in Preparation for Divorce.
Contested Divorce vs. Uncontested Divorce
There are two types of divorces - contested or uncontested. A contested divorce is when the parties cannot agree either to get a divorce or on the resulting terms of the divorce, such as a division of marital property and assets, allocation of marital debts, alimony and spousal support, custody of the children, child support, etc. An uncontested divorce occurs when the parties agree on all the issues arising out of their marriage and separation, and the court does not need to decide on the terms of the divorce. Generally, an uncontested divorce proceeds much more quickly through the court system, and will be less costly to the parties.
Many times a case will start out as a contested divorce and, as it moves through the court process, the parties agree on all the various issues before trial - often called a settlement. At this point, the divorce then becomes uncontested. For more information on settlement agreements, including what they are and what they are not, see our page on Marital Settlement Agreements.
Grounds for Divorce
There is only one entity in each jurisdiction that can actually grant a divorce, which is the applicable court prescribed by statute to handle divorce cases. But in all cases, there must be a ground, or reason, for the divorce. In Maryland and Virginia, those grounds can be “fault” grounds, such as adultery or desertion, or “no fault” grounds, such as a separation for a period of time. In D.C., fault grounds do not exist, and the only reasons for divorce are no fault grounds. For more information, including the various waiting periods for a no fault divorce and what must be proven for a fault divorce, see Grounds for Divorce in Maryland.
While “legal separation” can involve filing a case with the court, there is no requirement that couples file for a legal separation before they are considered to be living separate for divorce reasons. If the parties are in fact living separate and apart as defined by law, then they are legally separated for the purposes of filing for divorce. If someone really wants a piece of paper signed by a Judge, however, there are certain proceedings that will result in what many people think of as a legal separation. For more information, including how to distinguish between desertion and separation, see Legal Separation in Maryland.
The Divorce Process
Although a divorce case can take many complicated twists and turns, the process itself is relatively predictable. Before someone files for divorce, either or both parties often engage in trying to resolve the various issues arising out of their separation. Sometimes, the entire case can be resolved before filing. Once a ground for divorce exists, one spouse may choose to file for divorce at the courthouse. The divorce case follows a pattern set by the local rules of the jurisdiction where it is filed, but usually starts with a scheduling hearing and ends with a divorce trial. In between those two court dates, the attorneys and parties can gather information about some or all of the relevant issues, and try to resolve them. One or both parties can apply to the court for temporary relief, such as alimony or child support to be paid while the case is pending. If the parties can’t settle all of their issues, then the court holds a trial and a Judge decides what will happen.
Alimony and Spousal Support
Alimony, also referred to as spousal support, can be awarded while the divorce case is pending in court (called pendente lite alimony), or can be awarded indefinitely or for a period of time after the divorce is granted. For more information, including how courts determine alimony and spousal support, alimony and spousal support guidelines, and the tax consequences of alimony and spousal support, see Alimony in Maryland.
Temporary Assistance (Pendente Lite Relief)
What happens if someone needs help while the divorce case is moving through the court process, but before a final decision is made, either by agreement or a decision by the Judge? A party can ask the court to award temporary assistance to help get through the period from the start of the divorce case to the end of the divorce case.
Property Division and Marital Property
Courts have the authority to divide marital property, tangible and intangible, real and personal. While often such property is divided 50/50, it doesn’t have to be that way and there are many cases where marital property is not divided evenly. There are also differences in the laws and definitions between the three jurisdictions, which have a significant impact on the results in each. For more information, including the distinction between marital and separate property, and how the court decides how to divide property, see Equitable Distribution in Maryland.
The Marital Home
The marital home, where the parties live or lived prior to their separation, is often the most valuable property to address in a divorce. The parties have various options regarding how to deal with the marital home. Perhaps they should sell the marital home and spit the proceeds. Maybe one spouse wants to buy out the other, refinance the loan, and keep the marital home. How to resolve what happens to the marital home is an important issue in many divorce cases. For more information, including options for selling or refinancing, read about how to divide the marital home in divorce.
Division of Retirement Accounts and Plans
When facing divorce, both private employees and government employees and their spouses need to be familiar with how their retirement accounts are structured, funded, and ultimately, how they could be affected by a divorce. Generally, an account that is funded during the marriage, whether in whole or in part is subject to division in a divorce case.
Child Custody and Visitation
There are two forms of custody, legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody refers to who makes the decisions affecting the most important aspects of the child’s life, such as healthcare and educational decisions. Physical custody refers to the arrangement of where the child actually resides. The overriding concern in making legal and physical custody determinations is what is in the best interest of the child. For more information on custody and visitation law, including types of custody and custodial arrangements, how custody is decided, and the best interest of the child standard, see our Guide to Child Custody in Maryland.
Support for children is generally determined according to the applicable child support guidelines for the jurisdiction involved in that particular case (i.e. Maryland child support guidelines, Virginia child support guidelines, or District of Columbia child support guidelines), which take into account the gross income of both parents, the cost of any work-related child care, and the cost of health insurance for the child. There are certain, narrow exceptions to this general rule. For more information on child support, including how it is calculated and who must pay child support, see Child Support in Maryland.
For more information and FAQs about divorce, read our Divorce Blog.
Contact a Wayside Legal Divorce Attorney
Wayside Legal LLC is an award-winning law firm located in North Bethesda, Maryland, with years of experience handling divorce proceedings throughout Maryland, D.C., and Virginia. If you are facing a separation and divorce from your spouse, contact a Wayside Legal attorney today for a consultation to discuss your specific situation.