Most people would agree that a divorce settlement is a much more favorable option than litigation. With a settlement, there is room for compromise and conversation, as opposed to judge determining all of the outcomes. However, as the settlement experience can still be very stressful and tense for each party, it can be best to go through a divorce settlement checklist to ensure that you have not left out any significant details in your settlement.
If you take the time to thoroughly answer these 20 questions, you will be much more prepared to seek a successful divorce settlement:
Questions About The Children
Divorce becomes much more complicated when children are involved. Below are some key pieces of information to have ready:
- Who will have joint or sole legal custody of each child?
- Is your child adopted and will there be any special issues regarding the adoption degree to consider?
- What is your ideal day-to-day schedule for each child?
- What is your ideal vacation schedule for each child? How many weeks of vacation time will each parent spend with the children?
- What do you want your holiday schedule to look like? Determine which parent the children will be with for each major holiday.
- When will the children have breaks from school? Decide which parent they will spend those breaks with.
- Are there any rules or restrictions regarding telephone contact with the other parent?
- Who will transport the children when they are to be exchanged between parents?
- Which parent will maintain insurance coverage for the children?
- Who will claim the children for income tax purposes?
- How much will each parent pay toward childcare, such as daycare services or tuition?
- How much will each parent pay toward basic child support?
Financial and Legal Questions
As a married couple, you are joined legally and financially. There are many questions you need to ask yourself as you separate these connections:
13.How is marital debt to be divided?
14.If alimony is to be paid, how much is expected, and how long is it to be paid?
15.Who is responsible for attorney fees, or will they be divided equally?
16.Will either spouse be changing his or her name?
17.How will marital property be fairly valued and divided?
18.Does each spouse agree to complete any paperwork necessary to transfer property or assets?
19.Does each party agree to employ the aid of a mediator should future parenting or financial conflicts arise?
20.If one party has hidden marital assets, does the court retain the ability to reopen the case?
Of course, each divorcing couple’s story is going to be different and complicated, but asking these questions and having this information ready will help the settlement process proceed more smoothly and quickly while also preventing the omission of any important issues.
As anyone who has been through a divorce will tell you, the process is not a fun experience. It can certainly be a painful, often frustrating, situation, which you want to get through as quickly as possible. And depending on the nature of your divorce proceedings, it can potentially be an expensive process. Although uncontested divorces are usually done quickly and with minimal expense, traditional contested divorces can incur significant legal expenses along the way.
When filing for divorce, you might be tempted by the multitude of online resources offering free divorce documents. You might be thinking that this sounds like the quick and easy route, and that lawyers and attorneys only make the situation more complicated. By following this mentality, you will most likely find yourself in quite a legal mess.
Common Mistakes with DIY Free Forms
Courts face couples every day that have mistakenly decided to file for divorce on their own. These couples are often turned away without a divorce because the documents do not meet the assorted, and often times nebulous, state requirements. Unfortunately, just having two spouses who agree that they wish to obtain a divorce is not sufficient to finalize a divorce, and the court is not legally allowed to offer the couple any legal guidance when requirements are not met. So, often times the parties involved have wasted time and energy, as well as emotional energy in a futile attempt to obtain a divorce, and are left with no knowledge of how to proceed.
In other words, just because the forms are available online, and it is possible to file for divorce without the assistance of a lawyer, that doesn’t mean you should. There is information online that explains to people how dentists pull teeth, but that doesn’t mean that when you have an infected tooth that you will pull it at home, without the professional help of a dentist!
Lawyers Do What Forms Cannot
When you attempt to complete a task, and you are unfamiliar with the details, you do not know how to react when something goes wrong. This is when acting on your own becomes dangerous and is especially true with something as complicated as divorce.
Professional lawyers spend many years studying the law, including all of the terminology, the language, the processes, and the documents. A lawyer knows the best course of action to follow in order to expedite the process and protect your best interests along the way. If for any reason you do run into trouble in court, you then have a lawyer on your side that will know how to swiftly fix the problem.
Filing your divorce papers yourself is a great way to drag out the divorce process indefinitely and to be reminded that just because something is free doesn’t make it a good fit for you. By hiring a lawyer, or at least consulting with one first, you will be able to ensure that your filing will be completed correctly the very first time and you can move on with your life.
07 May 2012
Most divorcing couples settle the details of their divorce out of court or in proceedings known as uncontested or “no fault” divorces. But no matter how amicable or contemptuous your spouse appears to be when the process begins, during divorce proceedings it is always a good idea to do your research and take your time when dividing property and debt. By having the right information, and knowing exactly what you want from the settlement, you can manage a less distressing divorce proceeding.
The first step to obtaining a less distressing divorce proceeding is to educate yourself about the process of getting a divorce. Each state has its own laws concerning dividing marital property, and you should be certain you understand exactly what property is marital property before deciding who should get what and what you are entitled to.
Generally speaking, the majority of states, including Maryland, consider any and all property acquired during the marriage to be marital property, regardless of whose name it is titled or registered under. The only exceptions to this rule are assets that were accrued before the marriage, inherited assets, or gifts.
The family home is frequently an asset that causes the most trouble during a divorce settlement, as it is often the most valuable. In many cases, neither spouse can reasonably afford to keep up the mortgage payments or other costs of the home with just one salary. In this situation, the court will generally require that the home be sold and the remaining money is divided between the two parties.
In other cases, and with the goal of keeping a more stable environment for children, the family home is kept within joint ownership of the couple, and each spouse continues to cover a certain portion of the expenses of the home for an extended period of time. When the house is eventually sold, the profits are then divided amongst the couple.
Assigning Debt Liability
During a divorce settlement, it is not only property and assets that are divided; the debts incurred by you and your spouse must also be divided. Remember, even if a credit card is in your spouse’s name, any debt accrued during the marriage belongs to each of you equally.
A divorce settlement can be drawn up stating that one spouse is responsible for paying off one debt, while the other spouse is responsible for another. Even though the debt has been assigned to your ex-spouse, if he or she stops making payments, your credit score may potentially still be affected. To ensure that the debts are taken care of, it is wise to have a duplicate statement sent to your address, or request immediate notification if any payments are missed or late. Proper debt management and maintenance is a major motivator to ensuring that divorce proceedings to not become overly contentious.
Remember, when dividing the property and the debt, you need to protect your future, and the future of your children. Even though you and your spouse are no longer a married couple, you will need to be able to communicate these issues and form a reasonable plan that will be fair and beneficial to each party. This is when research takes a back seat to the guidance of an experienced and qualified divorce attorney , who can relieve much of the stress of attempting to understand the laws as applied in Maryland, while simultaneously attempting to reach an agreement with your estranged spouse.
26 Mar 2012
Tax consequences follow every decision made in a family, a fact which often comes to the forefront during divorce proceedings . Whether there is a divorce, annulment, separate maintenance agreement, or dissolution, taxes need to be considered in making informed choices.
Married couples in Maryland typically file joint tax returns. The husband and wife are responsible jointly and individually for payment of correct taxes on their taxable income. One spouse may contribute little or no income but will still be liable if the other spouse understates or makes an underpayment of the amount of income tax due.
Innocent Spouse Option
A spouse in Maryland can now elect to seek innocent spouse status if he or she meets all of the following five criteria:
- A joint return was made,
- There was an understatement of tax attributable to erroneous items of the individual’s spouse,
- In signing the return the individual did not know, and had no reason to know, that there was an understatement of tax,
- Taking into account all of the facts and circumstances it is inequitable to hold the individual liable for the deficiency in tax,
- The individual files an innocent spouse election with the IRS and elects to apply for relief no later than two years after the date of the Service’s first collection activity after July 22, 1998, with respect to the individual.
Separation of Liability Option
The tax code now has separate elective rules for taxpayers in Maryland who are no longer married, legally separated, or not living together. If a spouse qualifies for such an election, the divorced or separated spouse’s liability for any assessed deficiency cannot exceed the portion of such deficiency considered allocable to the individual spouse.
Relief from the other spouse’s liability is barred to the extent the electing tax payer had actual knowledge of the understated tax. A divorced or separated individual seeking separation of liability status with regard to a previously filed joint return must meet the following criteria:
- A joint return was made,
- At the time relief is elected the individual is no longer married to, is legally separated from, or has been living apart at all times for at least 12 months from his or her spouse or former spouse; or the spouse died.
- The individual elects to apply for relief no later than two years after the date of the Service’s first collection activity after July 22, 1998, with respect to the individual,
- The liability remains unpaid at the time relief is elected.
Neither the innocent spouse nor the separation of liability option authorizes relief from tax liabilities that were properly reported on the return but not paid. However, such relief is now available in Maryland as an “equitable relief” option.
To learn more about Maryland’s divorce laws and how they may affect your tax situation, please contact one of our family law attorneys today as these situations can become quite complicated and solutions should be customized for each individual.
12 Mar 2012
Divorcing can be one of the most difficult times in a person’s life. The divorce procedure has been well documented as one of the highest known factors for incurring stress. This is because divorce combines a multitude of well known, high-stress situations, such as breaking up with a partner, re-location, major changes to the family structure, and new financial burdens.
We understand how difficult the divorce procedure can be and have devised a thorough checklist to ensure the last thing you have to worry about is whether you have forgotten something important.
If you are currently going through a divorce, feel free to grab a pen and paper and go through each item on this checklist to assess where you currently are in the process. Include any comments, ideas, and questions you might have. If you feel that you have a lot you are unsure of or worried about, ask one our divorce attorneys about it. You may be surprised at how much you have to learn, and how much easier the process can be if you have an ally and advocate on your side.
This list is by no means “all inclusive”, but it will give you a great start to understanding the requirements of your future divorce. The good news is that no matter if you choose to pursue a traditional contested divorce, or a no-fault uncontested divorce, this checklist can help you get started with the process.
Custody and Access of Children
- Legal Custody. Will there be joint or sole legal custody?
- Routine Access Schedule: Where will the children be on a given day?
- Vacation Access Schedule: How many weeks of uninterrupted vacation time with the children?
- Holiday Access Schedule: Who will the children celebrate with in a given year? What are they currently used to?
- School Breaks: Where will the children spend their vacation time?
- Telephone Contact: What will the rules concerning communication with the children by phone?
- Transportation: Who will transport the children for parenting time exchanges?
- Best Interest of the Child: With all of these factors, which is the best for the children, not necessarily you or your spouse?
Child Support, Income Tax and Other Child Expenses
- Basic Child Support: How much does it cost to support the children? What do the Maryland Child Support Guidelines say the child support should be?
- Medical/Dental Child Support: Who will insure the children?
- Child Care Support: How much will each parent pay for daycare?
- Security for Support: Should one or both parents secure life insurance for the benefit of the children?
- Income Tax Exemptions: Who claims the children on their income taxes?
- Spousal Maintenance/Alimony: How much and for how long will one spouse need support before he or she can become self supporting?
Property, Pre-Separation Debts and More
- Medical Insurance: Will each party cover his or her own insurance?
- Marital Property: What is a fair and equitable way to value and divide marital property?
- Non-Marital Property: What is considered non-marital property? Does the holder of a non-marital interest retain that interest without inquiry?
- Pre and Post Separation Debts: How is the marital debt divided?
- Fees and Costs: Will one party pay attorneys’ fees and court costs, or will each be responsible for his or her own fees and costs?
- Name Change: Does either spouse wish to change their name?
- Ongoing Conflicts: Will the parties agree to mediate?
- Documents: Do each agree to execute all paperwork necessary to transfer property interests?
- Non-Disclosure: Does the court retain the ability to re-open the case?
A New York trial court judge ordered a six weekend sentence to a woman for civil contempt, based on a finding that she had deliberately alienated her children from their father, her ex-husband, in violation of their separation agreement signed at divorce. After an extensive hearing and hours of testimony by the father, the Judge found that there were countless instances in which the wife interfered with the father’s ability to exercise his visitation rights, in addition to harsh attempts to manipulate the children into favoring their step-father over their biological father. The Judge also noted that the mother had made false claims that the father had sexually abused the children. The Judge noted that not only was this allegation completely false and harmful to the father, but also harmed the child by subjecting the minor to an unnecessary investigation by Child Protective Services, all for the mother’s own malicious motivations.
The case is still pending on appeal by the mother, so the appellate court could overturn or reduce the sentence, which in addition to jail time also included thousands of dollars of attorney’s fees to be paid by the mother. But, if the judgment isn’t overruled, this could stand as precedent for other jurisdictions to follow, at their own discretion, sending a message that malicious behavior in child custody arrangements will not be tolerated.
13 May 2010
The Maryland Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s award of indefinite alimony for a wife in the amount of $3,000 a month after a 21-year marriage. The court determined that the wife would not be able to maintain her accustomed lifestyle without alimony and that an unconscionable disparity existed and would continue to exist between the parties without this award. The court found that there was no chance that the wife would be able to make more money than she currently does, considering her education level and age, and thus, based on her current income, she was unable of becoming self-sustaining. By comparing the husband’s disposal income to the wife’s, the court found a great disparity, considering the couple’s assets and in light of the wife being the primary caregiver to the couple’s minor child. In light of the deficit faced by the wife, the trial court looked to the AAML guidelines to determine an appropriate alimony award. These guidelines provide a formulaic approach to calculating the amount and duration for alimony awards. The court, however, did not find this to be determinative, and instead used it for informational purposes only to get a general idea of what an appropriate award would be. By taking into consideration other facts such as the savings that has been demonstrated by the couple during the marriage and the sacrifices the wife made both in raising the children and allowing the husband to further his career. The appellate court found that there was nothing wrong with this approach to determining an alimony award. Though the Md. Fam. Law 11-106 statute governing alimony awards does not include some of the factors the court considered in using the AAML guidelines, the court found that the AAML guidelines were reasonable and the approach used in is line with the goals of the Maryland statute.