Usually at least one spouse, if not both, recognize that the marriage is no longer working well in advance of filing for divorce. However, uncertainty about managing the finances of living separately, or shared parenting responsibilities, delays the couple’s separation. Consulting a lawyer 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.
Interim Separation Agreements
Cooperative divorcing couples may seek to formalize their respective financial responsibilities or co‑parenting schedule during the separation period by a written Separation Agreement or an interim (pendente lite) Court Order. Such agreements can be particularly useful in defining the parties’ rights and obligations where there is a disparity in income between the party with higher earnings and a stay-at-home parent, or where the dependent spouse or minor children have special needs. The parties may agree that the partner with significantly higher earnings will provide financial support and perhaps use and possession of the family home and automobiles to the parent with whom children primarily reside and/or financially dependent spouse. Such an agreement may be informal, and need not be entered as a court order, but it is prudent for the parties to enter into a comprehensive, enforceable written agreement drafted by a family attorney to ensure financial stability and to restrict dissipation of marital property.
Use & Possession of the Family Home
Maryland law provides that a custodial parent may petition the Court for permission to continue living in the family home for up to three years after the divorce for the benefit of children. The Court may apportion the cost of maintaining the home between the parents in addition to child support. Divorcing couples frequently agree that the parent with primary residential custody may remain the family home for a period of years for the children’s benefit until the home can be sold and proceeds divided equitably between the parents.