Family Law 101
While family law generally refers to the legal issues surrounding a family going through some sort of a transition, attorneys often use the term “family law” to describe the various issues that come up outside the context of divorce.
Any family law issue involves plenty of emotions. Our family law attorneys have been through all kinds of crazy, and we know what to do to help you survive. Whether it’s worrying about child custody arrangements and paternity issues, getting the financial support you need, or protecting you from abuse, we are here to help.
Child Custody and Custodial Access or Visitation
Child custody arrangements affect the overall and every day care of a child or children. There are two basic types of custody to be decided, 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 where the child actually resides and on what schedule. In all custody arrangements, the decision rests on what is in the best interest of the child. For more information on custody and visitation determinations, 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.
Ideally, parents of a minor child will reach an agreement as to the amount of child support to be paid by the non-custodial parent. If they are unable to agree, the custodial parent may petition a judge to determine the amount under the applicable child support guidelines. The guidelines are a mathematical formula, established by statute or law. The guidelines take into account each parent’s income, the support by either parent of “other children” (such as by prior marriages), day care expenses and health care costs. In some cases, based on extraordinary circumstances, the judge may “deviate” from the guidelines, and order an amount of child support different from that established under the guidelines. For more information on child support, including how it is calculated and who must pay child support, see Child Support in Maryland.
Modification of Custody, Child Support or Alimony
Child custody and child support orders are always modifiable when there has been a material change in circumstances affecting those issues. In certain instances, alimony and spousal support may also be modifiable. If there is an existing child custody or support order, and something changes in the future (i.e. relocation, change of employment, etc.), then the parties or court may be able to modify that order to reflect the parties’ current situation.
Enforcement of Court Orders
If one or both of the parties are in violation of an existing order, whether it be for nonpayment of support, denial of visitation, or any other reason, the party who is not in violation may bring that person back to court for an enforcement or contempt proceeding. Sanctions for violating a court order range from minor to severe, and can include jail time and substantial monetary fines. For more information about enforcing a court order, including methods of enforcement and the possible sanctions for violating a court order, see Enforcement of Court Orders.
Family abuse and domestic violence are all too common. Fortunately, there are laws to protect victims of domestic violence, including asking for a protective order against the abusive person. Courts are authorized to issue emergency protective orders, preliminary protective orders and final protective orders, which are all aimed to protect people from domestic violence, including abuse of children and household members. Because of the emergent nature of domestic violence, protective order hearings are given precedence on the court’s schedule, and can happen relatively quickly. For more information about protective orders, including who is eligible for a protective order, what the difference is between a protective order and a peace order, and what types of protection the court can order, see our guide to Protective Orders in Maryland.
For more information and FAQs about family law, read our Family Law Blog.
Contact a Wayside Legal Family Law Attorney
Wayside Legal LLC is an award-winning law firm located in North Bethesda, Maryland, with years of experience handling family law matters throughout Maryland, D.C., and Virginia. If you are facing a family law issue, contact a Wayside Legal attorney today for a consultation to discuss your specific situation.