As someone with a family, you might have a few questions about aspects of your life that might change with divorce. It is normal to feel nervous about the things you take for granted becoming suddenly difficult—however, with proper communication, you and your family can attain a new sense of normalcy. Read on to learn the answers to a few pressing questions relating to staying in touch with your family post-divorce.
Visiting Relatives with your child and their custody rights;
Enjoying Holidays through visitation schedules; and
Pets as Property in divorce property distribution.
Can my child stay with relatives? Do relatives have visitation rights?
The short answer is yes, but this becomes more of a court process post-divorce.
Grandparent rights, in particular, is a conversation that arises around divorce. If you, the parent, want your parents to have visitation rights, Maryland courts tend to rule in favor of a child’s best interests; if you speak on behalf of your parents in court, there is a strong chance they will allow the visitation. The petitioning parent must show that the proposed visitation dates and times do not conflict with their grandchild’s best interests.
Parental rights allow you to decide how you want to raise your children. If you want your family involved in their lives, that is your choice. Visitation orders do not have to go to court if you prefer going through mediation—a much more accessible, more civil process. If you and your spouse agree that specific visitation times for your children and extended family would benefit their well-being, you can organize and discuss times together.
There are even provisions in place if a non-parent family member needs to take custody of a child. This can be taken to court and argued if you believe it is in the best interest of a child to be removed from a parent’s custody. It is difficult to argue and could have potentially damaging effects on your relationship with your family, but necessary for the health and safety of the child in question.
Can my family and I still enjoy a normal holiday?
Like the visitation listed above, holiday time can factor into the parenting plan you draft with your spouse when organizing child custody.
You can discuss with your spouse how the two of you can split holiday times with your child equitably, rather than worry about who will be taking them when. Divorcing couples approach splitting holidays differently; a lot of how you schedule the day and budget your time depends on the agreement between you and your ex-spouse.
Sometimes, former couples will look at all the major holidays they celebrate and distribute them evenly between the two or alternate. Others will split custody for the day, with their child spending half of the day with one parent and the second half with the other. You could even schedule two holidays around the same time, so you will be able to spend the full holiday with your child.
All divorces are different, but it can be hard to achieve a sense of normalcy regardless of your situation. Chances are, you will not immediately be able to have the same ‘full family’ gatherings you held pre-divorce. Give it time, though; getting used to your new arrangement can take a while. It is bound to feel the same way for your child, too, so do what you can to adapt; you can still make holidays fun for the family post-divorce!
My Spouse Took the Dog—Can I Ever See It Again?
Unfortunate news first: pets are considered property in a divorce.
In divorce, you need to account for all property—furniture, heirlooms, income, benefits, and so on—and who brought it into the marriage. From there, you can either distribute it in mediation or in court. You can read more about Property Distribution in our blog here.
There are a few special considerations for pets when considering them as a piece of property. First, prior ownership of a pet might not matter as much in a divorce. Like other property—say, a couch, a pet can become a piece of marital property as it mixes with shared assets. If both you and your spouse paid for the pet’s wellbeing—for food or veterinary appointments—there is a chance a judge might view this as commingled property.
At the same time, courts will also look at who is a better caregiver. We have mentioned the best interests of a child—at times, a judge considers the pet's best interests, too. The child custody agreement you reach with your spouse might factor into this decision. Shared custody of the pet can happen if you and your spouse agree on it; if there is no agreement, a judge could step in and place the dog in whichever home your child lives in most. Obviously, this is case-by-case.
If maintaining a connection to your pet is important to you, your divorce attorney can help you keep in touch with it.
These three questions just begin to scratch the surface of what you might experience during a divorce; if you want more answers, contact our offices for a free initial consultation. We can help you understand your situation from a legal standpoint and work to set you up as best as possible for your next step in life.