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Baltimore, Annapolis, Belair & Maryland Premier Divorce Lawyer
Couples consult with a divorce lawyer for many reasons. Over time, spouses can drift apart. Others fear for their safety because of domestic violence and abuse. Or, you might be unable to forgive your spouse’s misconduct or infidelity. Regardless of your motivation, divorce is a difficult process. Before you file, you should learn about Maryland’s divorce laws and procedures.
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The Way it Works
The separation, divorce, and the entire process can take anywhere from a few months to several years. It certainly depends on your specific situation. We always encourage litigants to try and resolve the situation without protracted involvement with the courts. Of course, there are situations where this cannot be avoided. Depending upon whether or not the situation is uncontested or contested, your scenario can change dramatically. Many times individuals go into a separation looking forward to divorce thinking that it is undoubtedly a contested scenario. Many times, with the experience of our lawyers we can find a way to cut off months of litigation, time, and expense to fix a situation quickly.
When someone comes into my office and discusses their situation, I prefer to take the “umbrella” approach. Many times, people see things in a certain light and they miss certain aspects that may assist them. Our job is to look at your situation from a global perspective and take the approach that best suit you and others involved. Many people have thanked us for taking this approach because of the heartache, energy, and time saved.
An Aggressive Approach
On the other hand, there is certainly a time and place for proceeding in an aggressive matter. We protect our clients to the utmost of our ability by applying every step of the judicial process necessary. The lawyers you choose to help you for your divorce process make a huge difference in your quality of life as well as others. We are here to minimize and reduce distress as well as difficulty. As an established law firm, we have been representing people in Baltimore, Annapolis, Bel Air and throughout the entire State of Maryland since 1993. You should call us at 443-709-9999 for a free consultation to see where you stand. You will be happy you did.
Our attorneys at James E. Crawford Law and Associates represent clients in all types of divorce cases in Maryland, including:
- Children and Divorce
- Contact Maryland Legal Separation Lawyers
- Divorce and Bankruptcy
- Divorce Costs
- Divorce Mediation
- Divorce Separation Agreements
- Domestic Partnerships
- High-asset Divorce
- Maryland Divorce Laws
- Men and Divorce
- Military Divorce
- Post-Judgment Modifications
- Pre-Court Settlement
- Preparing for Divorce
- Same-Sex Marriage and Divorce
- The Divorce Process
- Uncontested Divorce
- Uncontested vs. Contested Divorce
- Women and Divorce
Understanding Maryland’s Divorce Laws
If you or your family are involved in an out-of-state or in-state family law issue, do not assume that the same rules apply in Annapolis, Baltimore, Bel Air or anywhere else. Every state & jurisdiction may have its own divorce laws and procedures. If you do not follow Maryland’s rules, your divorce might be denied or delayed. And, you might lose valuable property and custody rights.
Unlike some states, Maryland couples cannot “file” for “legal separation” in a court of law. You can certainly “enter into” a legal separation agreement and “sign” an agreement, but the Court does not “litigate” a separation agreement. Instead, if there is no agreement, the parties must proceed with a divorce in court. There are two types of divorce in Maryland: absolute and limited.
- Absolute Divorce: An absolute divorce is a full and final ending to your marital bonds. When granting an Absolute Divorce, a Judge then has the ability to be able to make rulings regarding marital property (which includes your home, pension, any asset acquired during the marriage), custody, child support, visitation, and alimony (when appropriate). Moreover, a spouse who is awarded an Absolute Divorce is able to remarry
- Limited Divorce: A limited divorce which is often referred to as a “mensa divorce” is nothing more than a judicial recognition of separation without the parties being fully dissolved from their marriage. A limited divorce grants a Judge limited powers to issue decrees generally surrounding the issues of alimony, custody, visitation, child support, and use and possession. For practical purposes, a Limited Divorce is very helpful in the event that a divorcing spouse needs immediate relief regarding the topics of alimony, custody, visitation, and/or child support and cannot wait for an absolute divorce. A limited divorce does not terminate the marital relationship and neither spouse can remarry.
In the State of Maryland, you must meet a ground for divorce in order to be awarded either an absolute or limited divorce. The Maryland Legislature has clearly defined the grounds for divorce for every individual seeking a divorce in the State of Maryland.
The grounds for an absolute divorce are as follows:
(a) The court may decree an absolute divorce on the following grounds:
(2) desertion, if:
(i) the desertion has continued for 12 months without interruption before the filing of the application for divorce;
(ii) the desertion is deliberate and final; and
(iii) there is no reasonable expectation of reconciliation;
(3) conviction of a felony or misdemeanor in any state or in any court of the United States if before the filing of the application for divorce the defendant has:
(i) been sentenced to serve at least 3 years or an indeterminate sentence in a penal institution; and
(ii) served 12 months of the sentence;
(4) 12–month separation, when the parties have lived separate and apart without cohabitation for 12 months without interruption before the filing of the application for divorce;
(5) insanity if:
(i) the insane spouse has been confined in a mental institution, hospital, or other similar institution for at least 3 years before the filing of the application for divorce;
(ii) the court determines from the testimony of at least 2 physicians who are competent in psychiatry that the insanity is incurable and there is no hope of recovery; and
(iii) 1 of the parties has been a resident of this State for at least 2 years before the filing of the application for divorce;
(6) cruelty of treatment toward the complaining party or a minor child of the complaining party, if there is no reasonable expectation of reconciliation;
(7) excessively vicious conduct toward the complaining party or a minor child of the complaining party, if there is no reasonable expectation of reconciliation; or
(8) mutual consent, if:
(i) the parties do not have any minor children in common;
(ii) the parties execute and submit to the court a written settlement agreement signed by both parties that resolves all issues relating to:
1. alimony; and
2. the distribution of property, including the relief provided in §§ 8–205 and 8–208 of this article;
(iii) neither party files a pleading to set aside the settlement agreement prior to the divorce hearing required under the Maryland Rules; and
(iv) both parties appear before the court at the absolute divorce hearing.
(b) Recrimination is not a bar to either party obtaining an absolute divorce on the grounds set forth in subsection (a)(1) through (7) of this section, but is a factor to be considered by the court in a case involving the ground of adultery.
(c) Res judicata with respect to another ground under this section is not a bar to either party obtaining an absolute divorce on the ground of 12–month separation.
(d) Condonation is not an absolute bar to a decree of an absolute divorce on the ground of adultery, but is a factor to be considered by the court in determining whether the divorce should be decreed.
(e) (1) A court may decree an absolute divorce even if a party has obtained a limited divorce.
(2) If a party obtained a limited divorce on the ground of desertion that at the time of the decree did not meet the requirements of subsection (a)(2) of this section, the party may obtain an absolute divorce on the ground of desertion when the desertion meets the requirements of subsection (a)(2) of this section.
(f) If a court decrees an absolute divorce on the grounds of mutual consent under subsection (a)(8) of this section, the court may:
(1) merge or incorporate the settlement agreement into the divorce decree; and
(2) modify or enforce the settlement agreement consistent with Title 8, Subtitle 1 of this article.
The grounds for a limited divorce are;
(a) The court may decree a limited divorce on the following grounds:
(1) cruelty of treatment of the complaining party or of a minor child of the complaining party;
(2) excessively vicious conduct to the complaining party or to a minor child of the complaining party;
(3) desertion; or
(4) separation, if the parties are living separate and apart without cohabitation.
(b) The court may decree a divorce under this section for a limited time or for an indefinite time.
(c) The court that granted a decree of limited divorce may revoke the decree at any time on the joint application of the parties.
(d) If an absolute divorce is prayed and the evidence is sufficient to entitle the parties to a limited divorce, but not to an absolute divorce, the court may decree a limited divorce.
Depending on your circumstances, you might qualify for either an absolute or limited divorce, but it requires experienced attorneys to properly analyze your circumstances to best advise you on the grounds that you need to proceed on.
It must be remembered that during a divorce, you and your spouse must address a series of legal issues. For most couples, child custody, support payments, and property distribution are their biggest concerns. Importantly, Maryland is not a “community property” state. During a divorce, the court must distribute your property equitably (rather than simply dividing it 50/50). The court will consider a series of factors, including, but not limited to, the length of your marriage, your economic circumstances, and any misconduct when dividing marital property.
The Divorce Process
Before you file for divorce, you should take some time to think about your priorities and organize your evidence. During this time, consider:
- Your financial welfare: Can you cover your living expenses without support from your spouse? Do you need additional training or education before re-entering the workforce?
- Your parenting goals: How will you co-parent with your spouse after the divorce? How will you share custody and child-related expenses?
- Your personal safety: If you fear domestic violence, do you have a safety plan in place? Do you need a protective order?
- Your property: How should you and your spouse divide your marital property? Are there assets that you want or need after the divorce (such as the family home)? Do you have a valid nuptial agreement in place?
You should also compile documents addressing your finances, past domestic violence, and other issues. These documents will help your divorce lawyer understand the main issues and identify possible problems in your claim.
Once you have clearly stated objectives and well-organized documents, you should contact an experienced divorce lawyer. Your lawyer will help you fine-tune your goals, craft a legal strategy that protects your interests, and file a Complaint for Divorce. Once your spouse responds to your complaint, you will begin the difficult process of wrapping up your marriage. This typically involves extensive negotiations and mediation (when a neutral third party helps you negotiate a divorce settlement).
If you cannot agree on the terms of your divorce, the court will schedule your case for trial. After both sides present their evidence and legal arguments, a circuit court judge will either approve or deny your divorce and make decisions about your property, time with your children, and need for spousal or child support. If you disagree with the judge’s decision, you have the right to appeal.
Do I Really Need a Divorce Lawyer?
Most people cannot properly handle a divorce without the guidance of an experienced Baltimore divorce lawyer. Divorces can quickly become emotionally charged and contentious — especially if the case involves children and significant assets (or debts). Without a lawyer, you might agree to an unfair divorce settlement or lose valuable time with your children. However, a lawyer can help you avoid a trial by negotiating a fair divorce settlement. And, if a trial is needed, a divorce lawyer will craft defenses to your spouse’s claims.
Consult with a Baltimore Divorce Lawyer
If you are considering a divorce, it’s in your best interest to consult with a Baltimore divorce lawyer. At James E. Crawford & Associates, we have guided our clients through divorces and legal separations since 1992. We provide compassionate advice and aggressive legal representation, ensuring that our clients receive their fair share of child custody and marital property. Contact us for a free and confidential evaluation today.