Separation & Divorce Planning
Usually at least one spouse, if not both, recognize that the marriage is no longer working well before filing for divorce. However, uncertainty about managing the finances of living separately, or shared parenting responsibilities, delays the couple’s separation. Consulting a family law attorney specialized in divorce and child custody matters early can assist the couple in moving forward while addressing these concerns responsibly by negotiating an interim Separation Agreement until the divorce is final.
Child Custody & Parenting Access
Children do not choose divorce – nor should they be asked to choose between parents. Ideally, divorcing parents should place their children’s best interests ahead of their own in making decisions about sharing time with each parent, their education and outside activities, letting kids be kids. But parents’ fears about losing access to their children often prolong divorce to their children’s detriment.
Divorcing parents each have a legal duty to provide necessary financial support for their children’s wellbeing. However, the burden of support may fall more heavily on the non-custodial parent with whom the children may spend fewer than 35% of overnights, effectively paying support as though the other parent were the ‘sole parent’. Recent Maryland legislation partially remedies this imbalance, by awarding child support on a ‘shared’ basis for parents who host their children more than 25% of overnights, but awards so far remain nearly as lopsided as ‘sole’ awards, giving non-custodial parents the incentive to negotiate access plans seeking parental financial advantage, sometimes to their children’s detriment.
Alimony & Spousal Support
After divorce, a dependent spouse may have a claim to spousal support (alimony), either transitional or indefinite, because of earning disparities during the marriage. The amount of spousal support depends upon the length of the marriage, respective ages and needs of the parties, available family resources and the causes leading to the breakup of the marriage. However, indefinite alimony is generally disfavored by the courts in favor of transitional alimony for a period of years. And where a spouse is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed the court can impute income to reduce spousal support.
Marital property – your home, investments, retirement account, or business – may be divided by agreement or court order to allocate interests equitably (but not necessarily equally) between divorcing spouses. Courts typically remedy the imbalance by issuing a monetary award transferring cash between divorcing spouses. However, where premarital contributions to purchase the marital home or premarital retirement savings exist, non-marital gifts or inheritances were received during the marriage, or valuation of a business present valuation is disputed, I can help untangle the parties’ respective interests to negotiate a fair settlement.
As an alternative to costly litigation that erodes co-parenting cooperation, I encourage parties to directly negotiate the terms of custody arrangements, property division and prospective family support with the support of collaborative lawyers, coaches (social workers) and neutral financial professionals. Parties are empowered by this process to develop creative solutions that suit their families’ needs and circumstances, sometimes agreeing to arrangements that are more generous than the law strictly requires.