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Bethesda MD Family Law Blog

Divorcing for adultery just got easier for gay Marylanders

Legal same-sex marriages have been taking place here in Maryland since 2013. However, Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh has now clarified what had been a somewhat murky legal issue in the past -- whether a spouse in a same-sex marriage can use adultery as grounds for divorce.

Frosh issued a legal opinion last month stating in part: "We see no reason either to define adultery so narrowly as to ignore ‘the sexual realities of our world'….or to deny same-sex couples the ability to divorce on the same terms as other married couples."

Divorce can teach important life lessons

A divorce is a huge event in anyone's life in Maryland, and people who have gone through it often learn a lot about themselves and about life in general. If you're moving toward a divorce, not only do you want to know what legal steps you need to take, but you also want to consider the following lessons that others have shared.

1. Often, the other person won't change.

How is unpaid child support collected?

Needless to say, it's pretty frustrating to have a judge in Maryland rule that you should be given child support and then to have the other parent fail to make those payments. You may feel like you don't have many options to get the money, but there are actually a lot of steps that can be taken by the proper authorities, such as:

-- Withholding the money for the child support payments from the other person's wages or his or her unemployment benefits.-- Taking the state or federal tax refunds before they get to the person and withdrawing the funds from those returns.-- Making reports about the lack of payments to the credit bureaus, which can influence the person to pay.-- Asking the Motor Vehicle Administration to suspend the person's driver's license until payments are made.-- Taking any money from Maryland lottery winnings in the same way that tax returns are intercepted.-- Using a garnishment system and working with the person's financial institutions.-- Asking for a recreational or professional license to be suspended.-- Taking the person to court for contempt of court and failure to pay.-- Asking for any passport renewals to be denied.-- Turning to federal authorities if the person has tried to skip payments by relocating to a different state.

What unmarried couples should know about buying property together

Many Maryland couples choose to live together before getting married, and many opt never to marry. However, if they purchase property together, the division of that property can get complicated if they break up.

In some cases, one person owns the home where the couple resides, while the other person contributes to the mortgage payment and other household expenses. However, if the deed is in one person's name, the other one has no claim on the home unless he or she is able to prove that both paid for the home, made the mortgage payments and contributed to the maintenance costs. It's best to put that in writing. Otherwise, you may find yourself with nothing to show for your investment in the home.

How can divorce make you a better parent?

Whether you and your spouse are sharing custody of your children after a divorce or you have sole custody, your parenting style will likely need to undergo some changes now that you and your ex are no longer a team. Many divorced people find that they actually become better parents after they divorce. We'll look at some of the reasons why.

You can place more focus on your children's well-being. You no longer have to deal with an unhappy, combative or dysfunctional marriage. Further, you no longer have to balance your children's needs with those of your spouse. Many parents find themselves working harder to make sure that their kids are happy and well-adjusted since they've gone through the upheaval of a divorce.

Why should you get a postnuptial agreement?

Prenuptial agreements, or "prenups" have become so common that most everyone knows what they are. They're not just for movie stars, hedge fund managers and sports franchise owners anymore. They are drawn up by Maryland couples across the economic spectrum.

If you didn't get a prenup before you walked down the aisle, it's not too late to draw up a postnuptial agreement. A postnup details things like how you and your spouse will divide your assets and debts and how you will deal with financial matters should you break up.

Grant awarded to help with Maryland protective orders

Protective orders are a crucial tool in protecting those who are victims of domestic violence. Under Maryland law, these civil orders can be issued by a judge when the victim and abuser have any of the following familial or intimate relationships:

-- Related to each other by marriage, blood or adoption-- Have a child together-- Are parent and child or stepparent and stepchild, as long as they have lived under the same roof for 90 days or more in the last year-- Have been involved in an intimate relationship in which they have lived together for 90 days or more-- Are or were married

Considering the best interests of pets in a marital break-up

For many divorcing couples, one of the most difficult and emotional decisions they have to make is who will get custody of the family pets. Under the law, they are considered property. Therefore, decisions regarding who gets the companion animals, if left to a judge to decide, are often based on who purchased and financially supports the pets rather than what is in their best interests. However, for many people, pets are part of the family.

One estate planning attorney suggests that one way to avoid having pet custody decisions determined by a judge is to draw up a "love contract" that includes a pet clause. It's similar to a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement.

How is debt divided in a divorce?

A significant part of a divorce agreement is the division of a couple's assets. However, the division of debt can be just as impactful on your financial future. Everyone has different types of debt. However, we're going to discuss a few of the most common types and how they may be split up and redistributed in a divorce.

It should be noted that Maryland is not a community property state. That means that there is generally more flexibility in the way that assets and debts are divided than there is for couples in one of those states.

Helping Maryland couples draft separation agreements

Some Maryland couples who seriously contemplate divorce decide to draft a separation agreement. This type of agreement can detail your resolution of a number of issues that will need to be addressed during their separation. It also helps couples think about the things that they'll need to deal with if they decide to move on to a divorce.

Every couple will have different issues to address in their separation agreement. We work with couples to draft an agreement that fits their needs. It can include things such as how property will be divided, who will stay in the primary residence, child support, custody and visitation. It can also address who be responsible for expenses such as utilities, home maintenance costs and mortgage payments as well as things like insurance premiums and loan payments.