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If you are contemplating divorce, there is one aspect of Maryland laws that might actually be encouraging under the circumstances. State laws allow for both fault and no-fault grounds for divorce, providing you with some flexibility whether you are filing the petition or expect to receive divorce papers. You do need to include allegations and evidence of misconduct if you want to proceed on a fault-based case, such as adultery, desertion, or cruelty. When your reasons for ending the marriage have nothing to do with misconduct, you will need to live separately from your spouse for at least 12 months before filing.
However, issues of fault aside, there are numerous areas of divorce that can be quite complicated. Fortunately, there are multiple options for resolving them, and you may even benefit from handling these matters out of court. You can trust a Baltimore County divorce lawyer to guide you through the process, but some background information is useful.
Marital Settlement Agreements
Many people operate under the assumption that divorce cases must go to court, but the truth is that the majority of parties resolve at least some of their issues via compromise. Maryland law permits agreements in all key areas:
- Asset division, including what items are marital versus separate property and how to divvy them up;
- Alimony, such as type, amount, and duration; and,
- Custody, visitation, and support for minor children.
One caveat with issues related to children is that the arrangement must serve the child’s best interests. Plus, support needs to be at least the minimum amount under Maryland’s statutory child support guidelines.
Maryland Divorce Mediation
Even if you reach an impasse on these divorce issues, there is the option of mediation; in most Maryland divorce cases, the judge will order the parties to participate. During the proceeding, the parties meet with a mediation professional who is specially trained to facilitate conversation. Each spouse has the opportunity to express their respective goals, helping them see things from the other’s point of view. In many cases, the parties can reach an agreement through guidance from the mediator.
The benefit of mediation is that you can resolve disputes quickly and at a lower cost than litigation. Plus, if you do not reach an agreement or are dissatisfied, you can still go to a court hearing.
Contested Divorce Hearings
When a judge needs to decide on divorce issues, the proceeding works similar to a trial. Both parties will testify, offer evidence, and present arguments in support of their respective positions. The judge will make a determination by applying divorce laws to the facts, so you have less control over the outcome.
A Maryland Divorce Attorney Can Provide Details on Your Options
In many divorce cases, the parties will employ a combination of these alternatives to resolve the important issues. Our team at the Law Office of William F. Mulroney is prepared for marital agreements, mediation, and contested hearings, so please contact our firm to discuss your situation. You can schedule a free initial phone consultation by calling (443) 352-8433 or visiting our website.