Frequently Asked Questions
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Maryland uses an "income shares" model to calculate child support, which is referred to as the Maryland Child Support Guidelines. The income shares model is based on the concept that the child should receive the same proportion of parental income that the child would have received in an intact family. Child support is based on the monthly gross income of each party (before taxes). The guidelines take into account both parents' income, how many minor children are in the family, the cost of health insurance for the children, the access schedule for each parent, and the costs of child care and extraordinary medical expenses.
For purposes of calculating child support, “income” means income from any source, which can include any of the following:
- Dividend income;
- Pension income;
- Interest income;
- Trust income;
- Annuity income;
- Social Security benefits;
- Workers' compensation benefits;
- Unemployment insurance benefits;
- Disability insurance benefits; and
- Alimony or maintenance received
When one parent voluntarily quits their job to avoid paying child support, the court can consider that parent to be “voluntarily impoverished.” If it this is proven, the court will still treat that parent as if they are earning income and will “impute” income to them for purposes of calculating child support.
If one parent has primary physical custody of the minor children, and the other parent has less 92 overnights during the year then the primary physical custody guidelines worksheet will be used to calculate child support. If the parties have a shared physical custody schedule, so that both parents have at least of overnights during the year, then it is appropriate to use the shared physical custody guidelines worksheet.
If the combined income between the parents is less than $180,000 per year, or $15,000 per month, then the Maryland Child Support Guidelines will be used to calculate child support. However, if the combined income between the parties exceeds $180,000 per year, then the court will have discretion in establishing the child support amount.
Under Maryland law, child support is to be paid until the minor child reaches the age of 18. If the child turns 18 during his senior year of high school, child support must be paid until the child turns 18 or graduates, whichever first occurs.
Child support is always modifiable in Maryland, meaning that the amount can increase or decrease. However, the party seeking to modify has the burden of establishing that there has been a material change in circumstance that warrants modification of the child support. This can mean that a parent has lost a job; a parent is making less money; a parent is making more money; or other changes in circumstances.
Alimony, also referred to as spousal support, is the payment of support by one spouse to the other. Spousal support is awarded only if the judge orders it at one party's request, or if the parties agree to it.
There are designated statutory factors that a Maryland court must consider in determining whether to order a party to pay alimony, a few of which include:
- The length of the marriage
- The age and health of the parties
- The ability of the party who is seeking alimony to be wholly or partly self-supporting
- The reasons for the parties' estrangement and divorce
- The standard of living established during the marriage
- The length of time it would take one party to become self-supporting
- The contributions, both monetary and non-monetary, of each party to the well-being of the family
- The ability of the party from whom alimony is sought to meet his or her own financial needs while meeting the needs of the party seeking alimony
There are three types of alimony in Maryland: alimony pendente lite, rehabilitative alimony, and indefinite alimony.
Alimony pendente lite is a form of support awarded during the divorce process and terminates on or before the date the divorce is final. A court can award this type of alimony between the time you file for divorce (and make a request for alimony) and the time the divorce is final. The purpose of this type of alimony is to maintain the status quo during the litigation.
Rehabilitative alimony is the most likely form of alimony that is awarded, if at all. This type of alimony is awarded for a limited duration and is designed to help one party become self-supporting.
Indefinite alimony is rarely awarded, but it may be appropriate under the circumstances of your case. Under Maryland law, a person may receive indefinite alimony only if, due to age, illness, or a disability, he or she cannot (1) make reasonable progress toward becoming self-supporting or (2) even if reasonable progress is possible, the lifestyles of the parties will be unconscionably disparate following the divorce without an indefinite alimony award.
Unless the parties agree otherwise, alimony terminates on the death of either party; on the marriage of the spouse receiving alimony; or if the court finds that termination is necessary to avoid a harsh and inequitable result.
Maryland alimony awards may be modified, extended, or changed or ended in the future. This may happen if one of the ex-spouses asks the court to consider the alimony amount in the future and circumstances have changed.
A Protective Order is a form of relief for victims of domestic violence.
A victim of domestic violence is eligible to file for a Protective Order in Maryland so long as he or she:
- Is the current or former spouse of the alleged abuser;
- Has a child with the alleged abuser;
- Had an intimate relationship and lived with the alleged abuser for 90 days within the last year; or
- Is related by blood or marriage to the alleged abuser.
A Petitioner may also seek protection for a minor child or vulnerable adult who is abused or threatened with abuse by a household member.
The alleged victim must prove one or more of the following acts occurred:
- An act that caused serious bodily harm or that placed the victim in fear of imminent serious bodily harm;
- An assault of any degree;
- Rape or sexual offense or attempted rape or sexual offense;
- False imprisonment;
- Child abuse; or
If a Final Protective Order is granted, the Judge can:
- Order the Respondent not to abuse, threaten to abuse, or contact the Petitioner
- Order the Respondent not to enter the residence of the Petitioner
- Order the Respondent to vacate the home
- Order the Respondent to stay away from the Petitioner’s place of employment
- Order the Respondent to stay away from the minor child’s childcare provider
- Grant custody and access of the minor children
- Order the Respondent to pay emergency family maintenance
- Award use and possession of a vehicle jointly owned by the parties
- Award use and possession of a pet
- Order the Respondent into counseling
- Order the Respondent to turn over firearms
A Final Protective Order is effective for up to one year. However, the court can extend a Final Protective Order for an additional six (6) months for good cause, after notice to the parties and a hearing.
Child custody is a term that refers to both legal and physical custody of minor children.
A parent with legal custody decides on long-term decisions involving the child’s life, including education, religion, medical care, and other major decisions concerning the child’s general health and welfare. Parents of their children have joint legal custody unless the court orders otherwise.
Physical custody is the time each parent spends with the child. The term “primary residential parent” means just as it sounds: the parent with whom the child primarily resides. The majority of children whose parents do not live together primarily reside with one of their parents; however, a growing number of children for an equal, or nearly equal, amount of time with parents who do not live together.
In Maryland, the court will resolve a custody dispute based on a determination of the child’s best interest. There is no litmus test for deciding what is in the child’s best interest. Custody determinations are made on a case-by-case basis, and can widely vary because of the different facts and circumstances of each case.
Some of the factors the court will consider in custody disputes include some of the following factors, but this is a non-exhaustive list:
- Fitness of the parents
- Character and reputation of the parties
- Willingness of the parents to share custody
- The preference of the child when the child is of sufficient age and capacity to form a rational judgment
- Capacity of the parents to communicate and reach shared decisions affecting the child’s welfare
- The geographic proximity of the parent’s residences and opportunities for time with each parent
- The ability of each parent to maintain a stable and appropriate home for the child
- The potential disruption of the child’s social and school life
No, there is no maternal preference. Neither parent is given preference solely because of their sex. Parents are considered joint natural guardians of their children. In determining custody, the Court must decide what is in the child's best interests. The Court does this by considering a number of factors, some of which include the following:
1) Capacity of the parents to communicate and to reach share decisions affecting the child’s welfare
2) Willingness of the parents to share custody
3) Fitness of the parents
4) Relationship established between the child and each parent
5) Preferences of the child
6) Potential disruption of the child’s social and school life
7) Geographic proximity of the parental homes
8) Demands of parental employment
9) Age and the number of the children
10) Sincerity the parents request
11) Financial status of the parents
12) Impact on state or federal assistance
13) Benefit to parents and
14) Other factors that the Court deems relevant and appropriate
Yes. A parent’s access to their child is not conditional upon their payment of child support. Child support and access are two separate issues. The court does not look favorably on a parent who withholds visits from the parent that owes child support. Instead, to enforce a child support order, the parent owed the child support should file a petition for contempt for non-payment of support and use the court process to deal with the unpaid child support.
Yes, you must show that there has been a material change in circumstance since the entry of the last Order to meet the burden to modify it. Some examples of material changes are a child’s increase in age; a child wanting to spend more time with one parent; or a change in the child’s grades.
A limited divorce is similar to what many people would refer to as a legal separation: it governs the rights and responsibilities of spouses who live apart, but does not actually end the marriage relationship.
An absolute divorce is what most people think of when they refer to divorce; it completely severs the marriage relationship, divides property and debts, and establishes child custody, spousal support (if any), parenting time, and child support.
There are a number of grounds for divorce in Maryland. They are:
- Divorce by mutual consent
- Twelve-month continuous separation without cohabitation
- Cruelty of treatment
- Excessively vicious conduct
- One spouse having been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor with at least a three-year sentence.
To get a divorce in Maryland, the grounds for the divorce must have occurred in Maryland, or at least one of the parties must have resided in Maryland for at least six months prior to filing.
Yes, so long as you and your spouse do not have minor children together; you have entered into a written separation agreement; and you both appear at the divorce hearing. If you meet these criteria, then there is no waiting period to get divorced under the ground of mutual consent.
If I have minor children, or don't have a separation agreement, how long do I have to wait to get divorced in Maryland?
In Maryland, the parties typically must live separate and apart without cohabitation for twelve consecutive months before an absolute divorce can be granted. There are some grounds for divorce, like adultery, that do not require a waiting period, and you can also get divorced immediately if adultery is proven.
In order to obtain a divorce based on the grounds of adultery, you must prove that your spouse had the disposition and opportunity to commit the act. Circumstantial evidence is allowed to prove the adultery so long as it establishes both the disposition and the opportunity to commit the act. Private detectives, e-mails, photographs, and testimony from the paramour can all be used to establish the ground for adultery.
Maryland is an "equitable division" state, which means the court will not divide property fifty-fifty, but instead, in a way that is fair and equitable under the circumstances. This equitable division need not be exactly equal, but often is close to equal.
No, a court cannot require one spouse to pay the sole credit card debt of the other. If the credit card debt is in the joint names of the parties, then you are both responsible for that debt. If the credit card debt was incurred to pay family expenses, the court may take that into consideration when considering the monetary award.
The term "property" encompasses many things, including the obvious, like houses, cars, bank accounts, jewelry, furniture, and art. But property is more than things you can lay your hands on; it also includes intangible things, like patents, trademarks, the value of certain investments, and goodwill in a business.
Marital property is all property, however titled, acquired by one or both parties during the marriage. Marital property includes any interest in real property held as tenants by the entireties unless that real property is excluded by valid agreement.
Non-marital or separate property is any property that was acquired before the marriage; acquired by inheritance or gift from a third party; is excluded by valid agreement; or is directly traceable to any of the foregoing sources.
"Dissipation" is the term for one spouse using marital property for his or her own benefit for a purpose unrelated to the marriage, at a time where the marriage is undergoing an irreconcilable breakdown. If the court finds that the property was dissipated, it will value it and treat it as if it still exists and use it as part of the property division to the detriment of the spouse that used it.
A monetary award is an order from the court giving to one party a financial award of marital property in an absolute divorce. It is intended to compensate a spouse who holds title to less than an equitable portion of property.
The court must determine the following factors prior to entering a monetary award:
- The monetary and non-monetary contributions of each party to the well-being of the family;
- The value of all property interests of each party;
- The economic circumstances of each party at the time the award is to be made;
- The circumstances that contributed to the breakdown of the marriage;
- The duration of the marriage;
- The age of each party;
- The physical and mental condition of each party;
- How and when specific marital property was acquired and the effort expended by each party in accumulating the marital property;
- The contribution by either party to the acquisition of real property held by the parties as tenants by the entirety;
- Any award of alimony and any award or other provision that the court has made with respect to family use personal property or the family home; and
- Any other factor that the court considers necessary or appropriate to consider in order to arrive at a fair and equitable monetary award or transfer of an interest in marital property.