Q. How much will my divorce cost?
A. The legal fee and costs in a divorce case in Maryland will be determined primarily by the amount of attorney and paralegal time expended on the matter. Initial consultation on Family Law & Estate Planning matters is now offered at a reduced rate. Accident cases, wrongful death, motor torts & criminal cases are not charged a fee for the initial consultation. A contested custody case can be extremely expensive because of the amount of time required and the seriousness of the issues. However, many issues can be settled by agreement, requiring less time on the attorney’s part, saving significant expense. See the section titled “Your Role in Controlling Your Fee.” While it is not possible to predict the time required for a case in advance, the attorney may be able to provide some insight based upon information supplied at the initial conference. As the facts of the case change, so will the cost.
Q. My spouse and I worked everything out. Do we need an attorney?
A. Yes. An agreement in verbal form is very difficult to enforce. Often parties believe they have an agreement but find out they have left out significant details in their discussion. Any agreement regarding the settlement of property or marital issues should be reduced to writing by an attorney representing one of the parties. A carefully drafted Voluntary Separation and Property Settlement Agreement can save the parties thousands of dollars by documenting the nature and extent of their agreement early on. In the process of drafting the agreement, the attorney can advise his client as to the fairness of the proposed contract and suggest details for inclusion in the document. The more complete an agreement, the less likely there will be misunderstandings later. Some of the issues a settlement agreement can address are: pensions, IRAs, 401(k)s, retirement plans, alimony, monetary awards, division of property, custody, visitation, vacations, holiday schedules, relocation issues, emergency procedures, health insurance, real estate, debts, transportation for exchange of children, schooling, college, motor vehicles, and tax exemptions.
Q. Should I wait until we separate to see an attorney?
A. No. As soon as you realize there is a domestic issue, you should schedule an appointment to meet with your prospective attorney and the appointment should be arranged so that your spouse is unaware of the visit. Proper preparation for a divorce begins prior to the separation, if at all possible.
Q. Do I qualify for an annulment?
A. The vast majority of clients requesting an annulment actually need a divorce. The correct choice can usually be determined at the initial consultation.
Q. How is child support set?
A. The State of Maryland has codified a Guidelines Worksheet with a formula for calculating the support paid for children. The figure is determined by a mathematical calculation based primarily upon the actual gross income of the parents, the amount of work related child care expense, certain extraordinary expenses for the child, and other factors.
Q. What is alimony?
A. Three types of alimony are available under Maryland law. Temporary Alimony, also known as APL or alimony pendente lite is the most quickly available form. The others are known as Rehabilitative Alimony and Indefinite Alimony. The factors taken into consideration in deciding a request for alimony are different for each type.
Q. What is a Separation Agreement?
A. As a married couple is separating with the purpose and intent of divorcing, Maryland law will permit them to enter into a contract to settle any or all issues between them. Issues pertaining to their minor children are subject to review by the Court. Parties should not execute or attempt to draft such an agreement without legal counsel.
Q. What is a Pre-Nuptial Contract and should I have one?
A. A prenuptual agreement is only valid in Maryland if executed prior to the marriage. The purpose of such an agreement is to limit or simplify the division of property, obligations for alimony and monetary awards, and court proceedings in the event the marriage fails. Each party should be represented by their own attorney and a full written financial disclosure is necessary in order to assure the validity of the agreement.
Q. I might have committed a crime. What should I do?
A. Never discuss potentially criminal conduct with anyone until after you have reviewed the entire situation in consultation with your attorney. Did you know that Maryland law allows law enforcement under certain circumstances to record your telephone conversation with other people without your knowledge or consent?
For more information on Divorce, read our “Divorce Do’s and Don’ts – A Free Checklist of Tips“