Family Law

Family Lawyers in Hagerstown, Maryland

Choosing an attorney is an important and difficult decision. And this is even more so when selecting a family attorney. We know that domestic issues (whether divorce, marital settlement agreement, custody, child support, adoption, guardianship or domestic violence) require that you receive direct, practical guidance. Not every attorney is right for every client. We know that, and therefore we encourage you to ask your friends, co-workers, neighbors and family members if they have ever used our services — and whether they were satisfied with those services. We also invite you to consult with us in person (this is your opportunity to “take an attorney for a test-ride”) to determine if you are comfortable with us and our approach to your case. If you are not feeling a connection, then you need to keep searching until you find the attorney who suits your particular needs.

A capable attorney named Abraham Lincoln said that “A lawyer’s time and advice are his stock in trade.” He was right. Lawyers do not offer any tangible product: they provide you with advice and confidence. We think you will find that we are understanding, responsive, and creative — but firm when needed. We understand the value in resolving matters promptly and fairly, so that you and your loved ones can move on with your lives. We also recognize that there are situations which, regrettably, cannot be resolved outside of a courtroom. We have the experience to guide you through the family law process, regardless of where the path takes you.  Below are some definitions of various family law issues:

Contested Divorce

In the State of Maryland an Absolute Divorce, requires legal grounds before a case can be filed with the Court. Those grounds include but are not limited to, adultery; desertion; extreme cruelty; a 12 month separation; and conviction of a felony or misdemeanor in any State or Federal court. Your situation must meet the statutory requirements of the elements of the grounds for Absolute Divorce before it can be granted by the Court. It is at the Court’s discretion to interpret the situation you are in and to decide whether your situation meets the requirements for the grounds for divorce. This is where an attorney can be a great benefit and an advocate for your position. Attorney’s know how the courts operate and they know what the judges are looking for so it is definitely an advantage to use an attorney for the divorce proceedings.

It is possible to obtain a Limited Divorce (or temporary divorce) if the grounds cannot be met immediately. In this case, the Court would determine the temporary terms of child support, alimony, custody, marital property division and any remaining issues and the parties would come back to the Court for a final determination of those issues when they have grounds for an Absolute Divorce. Grounds for a Limited Divorce include but are not limited to cruelty to a spouse or a minor child; excessively vicious conduct to a spouse or minor child; and desertion or separation if the parties are living separate and apart without cohabitation.

Uncontested Divorce

An uncontested divorce is the quickest way to obtain divorce, however, the parties must be in complete agreement as to all issues that pertain to child custody, alimony and division of marital property. The parties must enter into a Marital Settlement Agreement which is a written contract that spells out the terms they have agreed to before an Absolute Divorce is finalized.

Marital Settlement Agreement – A Marital Settlement Agreement, as mentioned before, is a contract between both parties that sets forth their agreement as to child custody, child support, visitation, alimony, the division of marital and non-marital property, such as the home, vehicles, possessions, etc., owned by the parties and any other issues arising out of the marriage. Negotiating a Marital Settlement Agreement is a great way to peacefully resolve the issues involved in dissolving the marriage, however, it can be a difficult and somewhat long, drawn out proposition if the parties are acrimonious. It is always to your advantage to obtain an attorney who knows the law, the judges and the court system in your county and can advise you on the best way to proceed to a successful agreement or represent you in a mediation. At the time of an Absolute Divorce, the Marital Settlement Agreement is incorporated into the final Judgment of Absolute Divorce so that it becomes not only the terms the parties have agreed upon, but is also a contract that either party can sue the other if the contract is broken in any way. This might include an action to collect monies that were not paid as agreed or violation of the agreement as to child support, visitation and other issues.

Custody

During the divorce proceedings, custody of the children born of the marriage will be with one or both parents whether via agreement or Court Order. However, until the Court makes a final determination both parents are presumed to have equal rights to the children. The Court will always determine custody based on what is in the best interest of the children.

  • Temporary Custody – is called “Pendente Lite” and custody and placement of the children is temporarily determined pending the finalization of the divorce. The Court will place the child with the custodial parent based on what is in the best interest of the children.
  • Sole Legal Custody – is where one parent has full decision making authority for the children. This can include the children’s, religion, discipline, education, medical care and other major matters relating to the children’s general welfare.
  • Primary Physical Custody – is when one parent is given or takes primary responsibility for care for the children. This parent provides the home and cares for the child the majority of the time.
  • Joint Legal Custody – means that both parents share equally in making the decisions and providing for the general welfare of the children. In this situation, the parents must consult and agree with each other regarding the major issues of the children such as education, religion, medical care, etc. It is possible for one parent to have ultimate tie-breaking authority on these issues in the event that they cannot reach an agreement. Certain issues can be allocated to one or the other parent as well. These conditions should be spelled out in writing either in a Marital Settlement Agreement or by Court order.

Child Support

During a divorce, the financial support of the children becomes a concern of the Court. Generally, child support is paid to the custodial parent for the care and maintenance of each child. In the State of Maryland there are Child Support Guidelines that take into consideration certain expenses such as child care, medical care and/or health insurance, how much time the child spends with one parent versus the other and the parties incomes in determining child support payments.

Separation agreement/Marital Property Settlement Agreement

In the state of Maryland a couple can arrange to have a Separation Agreement if there is little to no hope for reconciliation between the individuals and they have agreed to live separate and apart. Separation Agreements are favorable because it is a peaceful way of terminating and resolving all issues pertaining to dissolving a marriage. When an agreement is made the support of any children is taken into consideration along with the support of either spouse, division of marital and non-marital properties and monetary awards. A Separation Agreement does not terminate the existing marriage and/or union, additionally it does not allow for either of the parties to remarry or commit adultery during the separation.

Pre-Nuptial Agreement/Antenuptial Agreement

In the state of Maryland, prior to marriage, the individuals involved may sign a prenuptial agreement also known as an antenuptial agreement. The agreement addresses the property rights before and during the marriage, and/or inheritance rights based on individuals and children or future children. Additionally they are presumed valid as long as the contract is properly written and the parties knowingly and willingly entered into the agreement.

Protective Orders

In the State of Maryland Protective Orders are given in stages, Interim, Temporary and Final. They are given to individuals who have shown by a preponderance of the evidence that they are in imminent danger of physical emotional or other forms of harm and require immediate protection. You may need an attorney to defend you if a Protective Order has been temporarily put in place against you or you may need an attorney to present your case if you are filing for a Protective Order.

Peace Order

In the State of Maryland, those individuals who do not qualify for a Protective Order can be eligible for a Peace Order. A Peace Order states that any individual can acquire to have a Peace Order against another individual that is causing them disturbance and from whom they wish to be refrained from contact.