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Preliminary Relief, Domestic Violence Laws, and the Attorney’s Role
Prior to the final hearing, the court may award spousal and child support, custody, visitation, use of the marital home, and attorney fees on an interim basis.
Domestic Violence Laws:
Household members have a fundamental right, recognized by Maryland statute, to be free from domestic abuse, such as assault, battery, forced sexual contact, or threats of the same. Where there is abuse, a victim may file a court petition for relief without prior notice to the abuser and obtain an immediate temporary restraining order, a no contact order, summary eviction of the abuser from the home, use and possession of the home, custody of the children, as well as emergency financial assistance, for a period of a week, extendable to six months or more after a hearing. Accordingly, a party facing the prospect of divorce or separation should avoid taking any action involving a household member which might be construed as abusive, whether or not so intended, as it is often difficult to persuade a divorce court to change the "status quo" created by an earlier domestic violence order.
The Attorney's Role:
Under Maryland law, an attorney cannot represent both spouses in a divorce case, even an uncontested one.
There are few times in a person's life when independent legal advice and representation are more essential than at the time of a divorce. In the absence of an agreement, the court will take actions that severely impact the life of the parties for some time. These actions are often discretionary, and, while there are many technical traps for the unwary, there are also few fixed rules to go by. Also, the divorce or separation is typically a highly emotional experience which renders many level headed people emotionally vulnerable and prone to ill-considered actions.
Accordingly, a lawyer representing a divorce client before the court of assisting with the negotiation of a separation agreement brings to bear all of his judgment, skill and experience. The circumstances of a person in the process of divorce or separation require no less.
Maryland law requires equitable distribution of property in a divorce. The court determines a fair award of property and debt. Unless the couple can reach a settlement, the court divides the marital property, pension, retirement, profit sharing or deferred-compensation plans. The court considers contributions of each party, the well being of the family, the property value, the economic circumstances of each spouse as well as current situations such as age, mental state, the duration of the marriage, and the interest each party has in the property.
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