Family Domestic Law FAQ

1. What is the difference between a legal separation and a divorce?

The legal process is the same. While in the absence of adultery, parties must both (a) separate; and (b) remain physically separated on an uninterrupted bases for at least 12 months before either party may legally seek a divorce from the Court, a legal separation can be achieved by agreement of the parties, does not involve a “waiting period” and does not necessarily involve a Court. Divorces cannot be final for at least 6 months, while a legal separation can be final almost immediately. The largest difference between the two is that if you proceed with divorce you are no longer married. A legal separation only separates the two parties – they remain married.

2. Do I really need an attorney?

Yes. Going through divorce, child custody or support, adoption, etc. without an attorney is like riding a bicycle with no handlebars. You will get somewhere, but chances are you will not end up where you want to be and you will likely get hurt along the way.

The majority of people who represent themselves focus on things that are not important. Coover Law Firm, LLC attorneys are trained to recognize and deal with the most important issues.

3. What is “equitable distribution”?

Equitable distribution is a method for dividing the marital assets in a manner that is fair and equitable, which is different from equal. Your Coover Law Firm, LLC divorce attorney can assist you in the most fair and equitable way to divide your marital assets.

4. How much child support will I receive?

In Maryland, the amount of child support each parent is responsible to pay is generally determined through a formula known as the Maryland Child Support Guidelines. The Guidelines take the following factors into consideration:

  • Income of each parent;
  • Number of children;
  • Work related child care expenses;
  • Health insurance costs for each child;
  • Extraordinary regular medical expenses for each child; and
  • Number of overnights with each parent

Through the Guidelines and with the assistance of a Coover Law Firm, LLC attorney, it is generally possible to determine the amount of child support that the Court will require each party to pay. Under certain circumstances, the Court can order amounts greater or lesser than the Guidelines amount to be paid.

For your convenience, a link to a Maryland Child Support guidelines calculator is provided below. Please use the calculator as a guide only in addition to consulting with a Coover Law Firm, LLC attorney. Coover Law Firm, LLC cannot be responsible for the accuracy of either the calculator or the results you obtain from it.

5. What can I do if my ex-spouse refuses to pay child support?

If your ex-spouse has been ordered to pay either child support or maintenance and fails to do so, you can ask the court to hold your ex-spouse in contempt of court. If found to be in contempt, your ex-spouse could be imprisoned. Another available remedy is to garnish his/her wages; the disobedient ex-spouse’s employer will deduct money from his/her paycheck and pay you directly.

6. How does the court determine what is in the best interest of my children in a child custody case?

The court will examine a number of factors, including who the children are living with at the time the custody determination is made, the children’s historical relationship with each of the parents, and each of the parents’ ability to care for the children.

7. What is adoption?

Adoption is “the legal and social process involving the transfer of rights over a child from a set of birth parents to a set of adoptive parents”. Adoption is a huge, life-altering decision that will affect the future of many people. Consequently, you will need to collect as much information about adoption as you can in order to make an informed decision based on the child’s best interests. An attorney should be number one on your list of people to contact before deciding to adopt.

8. Once the divorce is final, can creditors place liens or judgments against real estate owned jointly by the divorced couple due to the debts of one of the former spouses?

In short, the answer is yes. Tenancy by the entirety is a very protective status of title available only to married people. When a married couple owns property as tenants by the entirety, the law considers the real estate to be owned by the marital union, not the individuals. This means that the separate creditors of each of the married individuals are not able to reach through that special title and gain access to the real estate in order to satisfy a debt. However, the instant the divorce is final, tenancy by the entirety is dissolved. In that instant, when the judgment of divorce is entered, former spouses co-own that property as tenants in common – a status of title that provides much less protection against creditors. For more information, check out this blog.