Howard County Divorce Lawyer
In Maryland, divorce can sometimes be a relatively simple process, especially if both sides agree to the terms of the divorce. However, when the divorcing spouses are unable to reach an agreement, things can quickly become messy and complicated.
In either situation, you must consult an experienced Howard County divorce lawyer as soon as possible to make sure that your interests are represented fully. Decisions made in the early stages of the divorce process can greatly impact the outcome and have lasting consequences.
Fred L. Coover, Esquire, has been serving families in the Columbia area and beyond for over 35 years. He understands the ins and outs of the law, and aggressively advocates for his clients to protect their interests. Call Coover Law Firm, LLC today at (410) 995-1100 to arrange a time to discuss your unique situation. In the meantime, learn more about the purpose of the initial consultation with an attorney.
Divorce and Legal Separation in Maryland
In a proceeding for separation or dissolution of marriage (A.K.A. divorce) in Maryland, the parties must come to an agreement on important issues such as the division of marital property, child custody and visitation, and payment of child support. If the divorcing couple cannot reach a resolution on all of these matters, either amongst themselves or with the assistance of a mediator, then they will be decided by the Family Court Judge following a trial on the issues.
The Court has the discretion and authority to rule on matters in the best interest of the children, or based on the most persuasive arguments made by the parties’ attorneys. Even the outcome of child support, which is normally based on statutory guidelines and formulas, may be decided based on the needs of the couple and their children as presented in court.
As such, it’s essential to have a knowledgeable and experienced Howard County divorce lawyer who knows the judges and family law magistrates and understands the nuances specific to your local court system. If you live in Columbia, Clarksville, Ellicott City, Fulton, or other surrounding areas in Howard County, MD, click here for general information about the Circuit Court for Howard County. The Howard County Courthouse is located at 9250 Judicial Way, Ellicott City, Maryland 21043.
Absolute vs. Limited Divorce in Maryland
In Maryland, an “absolute” divorce means that your marriage is dissolved, allowing you to divide your property and remarry.
To be granted an absolute divorce (also known as full divorce), you have to be able to prove that at least one legally accepted reason, or “ground” for divorce, exists.
You and your Howard County divorce lawyer must prove that one of the following circumstances occurred during the marriage:
- Criminal conviction
- Cruelty and harsh conduct
- Desertion of six months or longer (previously one year)
- One-year separation
If you are unable to prove the existence of one of the fault-based grounds for divorce, you can pursue a “no-fault” divorce.
In October 2015, Maryland updated its laws to include a new option for no-fault divorce – “Mutual Consent.” A divorce by mutual consent has no waiting period or separation requirement, encourages divorcing couples without minor children to work out the terms of their divorce by written agreement, and rewards them with a quick, and relatively inexpensive, absolute divorce.
For couples with minor children or those who are otherwise not eligible for a divorce by mutual consent, an absolute divorce can be granted on the grounds of a 6-month physical separation. (Prior to the passing of House Bill 243 in 2021, the required physical separation was for 12 months.) Currently, this is the most common grounds for divorce in Maryland.
In the case of an absolute divorce, a Judge will help settle the following issues:
Spousal Support (Alimony)
In Maryland, alimony payment may be temporary, rehabilitative (awarded for a specific amount of time), or indefinite (this is rare).
Although one parent may be required to pay child support, both parents are legally required to support minor children.
In Maryland, custody may be awarded to one parent (sole custody) or both parents (joint custody or split custody). In joint custody, parents share the responsibility of raising the child(ren). Split custody occurs when two or more children are involved and each parent takes sole custody of one or more of them.
Division of Property
If the parties seeking divorce cannot agree on how their property should be divided, a Judge may order the property to be sold and the proceeds divided between parties. Property can include houses, vehicles, contents of bank accounts, and other assets.
Use of Last Name
A spouse may ask the Court to grant their name change to what it was before the marriage. These requests are almost always granted.
It’s imperative that you hire a Howard County divorce lawyer to help proceedings go as smoothly as possible. Coover Law Firm is competent, knowledgeable, and experienced. Let Mr. Coover help you complete the divorce proceeding quickly and as painlessly as possible.
Limited divorce is less stringent than absolute divorce regarding the grounds you must have in order to file. This type of divorce is not final and essentially allows the State to recognize that you and your partner are living apart but are still legally married.
You may file for a limited divorce if you and your attorney can prove that one of the following occurred:
- Excessively harsh behavior towards the spouse or a minor child
- Mutual, voluntary separation.
In addition to the grounds listed above, couples who wish to divorce may claim the ground of “irreconcilable differences” under House Bill 243, which passed in 2021.
While you are separated, you may still need the protection of the Courts to issue Court Orders, or approve a legally enforceable agreement on matters such as child custody, child support, and property division. A limited divorce offers such legal boundaries.
If a Judge grants a limited divorce, the parties may have to pay:
- Child support
- Child custody
- Spousal support (alimony)
- Use and possession of property (the family home, vehicle, etc.)
Parties can later obtain an absolute divorce once they meet all of the requirements, which will enable them to enter into a romantic relationship or marry another person.
Other reasons for a legal separation or limited divorce include situations in which the parties cannot divorce for religious reasons, or need to stay married for tax or financial reasons, but still wish to live apart. Also, with a limited divorce, the couple leaves open the option of reconciliation, at which time they can come back together and still be legally married.
If you are facing separation or divorce, our Howard County and Columbia MD divorce lawyers can provide the advice and representation you need to ensure that your rights, interests, and family are protected during this emotional time.