Family Law Litigation in Maryland Explained

What is Family Law Litigation?

Family law litigation is the process of attempting to solve domestic issues in a court of law. A judge will review the case and evidence then hand down a decision. The orders made by a judge are legally binding. Both parties must agree to the orders given.

If spouses or partners cannot agree on certain conditions, litigation may be necessary. The courts will use the laws and regulations that are already on the books. The judge will take into account the best interests of all involved parties when making a decision.

Types of Family Law:

Here are some of the most common types of Maryland family law and current rules and laws that are in place:

  1. Abortion is currently legal in the state of Maryland. As of this writing, abortions are not allowed after 20 weeks of pregnancy. However, exceptions may be made if the fetus has significant abnormalities, or if the pregnancy itself has put the mother’s health or life at risk. Minors who are seeking an abortion must inform at least one parent or guardian of their intentions.
  2. Adoption. Any single person or couple is allowed to adopt children in Maryland. Same-sex couples can also adopt children. If an adoption is requested for a child over the age of ten, that child’s consent is mandatory. This rule will only apply if the child’s natural parents no longer have parental rights to them.
  3. Alimony/spousal support. Spousal support or alimony may be awarded after a marriage has ended. Once a divorce is granted, one spouse may be ordered to pay their former partner a certain sum of money on a consistent basis. The exact amount and payment frequency will be decided by a judge. Alimony is intended to help a person get back on their feet financially and should not cause a financial hardship on the partner who is required to make such payments.
  4. Annulment makes a marriage appear as though it never happened. A court must have substantial proof that the union was invalid before an annulment will be granted. The person or couple who is asking for an annulment may need to verify that they are related by marriage or birth, were legally married to another person at the time, were mentally incompetent or legally insane, not of legal age or lacked a parent or guardian’s permission or that consent was gained by force, duress or fraud. Annulment of a marriage does not make any children that the couple had legitimate, but it does allow for support of those children and protect the partners’ property rights. One person may even be awarded alimony in certain cases.
  5. Child Abuse. Minors cannot be emotionally, physically or sexually abused by adults in Maryland. Doctors, teachers and other authority figures that have regular interactions and access to children are required to report any suspected or observed incidents of child abuse to local authorities. Children may be separated from their parents, placed in temporary care or other arrangements that are deemed necessary by Maryland Child Protective Services.
  6. Child Custody. Legal and physical custody of a child may be determined by a court when parents separate or file for divorce. Custody may be awarded to one or both parents. A grandparent or other family member may be given temporary custody in emergency situations, if a parent is incarcerated or if one or both of the child’s parents have passed away. The age and health of the child and their parents, proximity to school and relatives, religious views, financial resources and the child’s preference are some factors that a judge will use when making child custody decisions.
  7. Child Visitation. A parent or relative who was not granted custody of a child during divorce proceedings may be allowed to visit them on a regular basis. Visitation schedules may be worked out between both parents before going to court. If the couple cannot make their own arrangements, a judge will set the visitation schedules. These schedules should work around the schedules for the child and their parents or guardians. Visitation arrangements may be flexible and can be modified if necessary.
  8. Divorce. Maryland currently allows for limited or absolute divorces. Limited divorces are temporary and the couple may get back together afterwards. An absolute divorce will terminate a marriage completely. The court will usually ask for reasons as to why the divorce is being requested. Divorces either have specific grounds (such as abandonment of one partner, cruelty, violence, incarceration or insanity), orcertain grounds (including desertion, involuntarily or voluntary separation or cruelty) for no-fault divorce claims. At least one partner must reside in Maryland before asking for a divorce.
  9. Domestic Violence. Domestic violence is abuse, cruelty or other violent acts that are committed by one spouse against their partner, child or other people living in the home. This can also include rape, sexual assault, stalking and false imprisonment. All domestic violence occurrences must be reported within 48 hours from when they first happened. Officers should have reasonable belief that the offender committed the act and could tamper with evidence, cause injury, damage property or elude authorities if not arrested.
  10. Legal Age. In the state of Maryland, a person is considered a legal adult once they turn 18. Some minors may ask for emancipation from their parents. Emancipation allows people who are as young as 15 to choose their own healthcare, schooling and make other similar decisions. Minors cannot enter into legally enforceable contracts that do not benefit them. Contracts can be ratified once the child is of legal age.
  11. Marriage Requirements. A person cannot be married in Maryland without parental approval until they are 18 years old. A 16or 17-year-old person can only get married if a physician has confirmed that they have given birth to a child or are pregnant and parental consent has been granted to both partners. Relatives cannot marry one another. Same-sex marriages are allowed as long as any other existing laws do not prohibit the union.
  12. Marital Property. Courts can evaluate all monetary and non-monetary assets that spouses contributed to a marriage. This is made possible under the Maryland Marital Property Act. Money, housing, vehicles and other items may be marital or non-marital property. These distinctions can be important when deciding which partner will receive what items during a divorce.
  13. Name Changes. Maryland residents can change their names at any time. The only restrictions are that a new name can’t interfere with others’ rights and the name change can’t be made for fraudulent or illegal activities. The name that is chosen should be something that the person will use in their daily life. A Petition for Name Change must be requested in the circuit court where the person resides. The request notice may be published in local newspapers. If anyone publicly objects to the name change, they must file an objection and send a copy of that document to the person who is trying to change their name.
  14. Prohibited Marriage. Bigamy is not allowed in Maryland. People who are already legally married can’t marry another person at the same time. The only exceptions to this rule are if the person doesn’t know where their first spouse is currently living and if that spouse has not been anywhere near them for at least seven years.
  15. Protective Orders. Protective orders serve some of the same purposes in Maryland as restraining orders do in other states. They may be enacted to prevent people who have been accused of stalking, rape, assault, false imprisonment, or threats of violence from contacting their victims. Interim and temporary protective orders may be granted before the final protective order can be enforced.

If you have questions or concerns about any of these or other family law topics, contact us today. We’ll sit down with you and listen to what you have to say. Our trained professionals can advise you about possible outcomes and actions. We can even assist in preparing or assembling some of the necessary paperwork. We always have your best interests at heart and our main goal is to get you back on the right track again.

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