FAMILY LAW

Relationships, marriage, children, and the many situations where they go wrong can lead to disastrous personal and financial consequences. Getting help to resolve your legal matter is an important step of the process and can give you peace of mind that your best interests are being protected during this sensitive time. The Maryland family law attorneys at The Saint Yves Law Firm understand you need experience, support, and compassion, and we are here to provide all that while resolving the family law matters at hand. 

 
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Domestic Violence

The first step in stopping domestic violence is recognizing it is unacceptable and you don’t need to live with such behavior. Domestic violence encompasses many behaviors – some criminal, all unacceptable. Though some are not criminal because they are not physical, they include behaviors such as:

  • Controlling your time or what you do

  • Limiting access to friends and family

  • Financially withholding resources

  • Degrading comments

Physical abuse includes not only physical violence, but also includes threats of violence connected to the belief of the abuser’s ability to follow through on the threats. If you are the victim of violence, you may be eligible for various forms of relief and should contact a Maryland family lawyer for assistance with either a protective order or peace order; these are the legal remedies for victims of domestic violence in addition to any criminal penalties abusers face.

 
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Divorce

Leaving your marriage is never easy, but the right attorney can help it be as quick, smooth, and painless as possible. In Maryland, you may file for divorce if you or your spouse are a resident of the state, if one spouse is a resident of the state, or if the grounds for divorce occurred in the state of Maryland. There are two types of divorces – absolute and limited. 


Absolute divorce ends your marriage and permits a court to make decisions about issues such as property division, alimony, and child support. Afterward, a party may remarry. Absolute divorce can come from:

  • Mutual consent (no-fault divorce)

  • 12-month separation

  • Adultery

  • Insanity

  • Certain criminal convictions that carry long incarceration terms

 

Limited divorce does not end a marriage. Rather, the couple lives apart and cannot have sexual relations with each other nor can they have sexual relations with anyone else. The grounds must be stated and include any of the following:

  • Cruelty and excessively vicious conduct

  • Voluntary separation of at least one year

  • Desertion

 

A limited divorce decree states the separation date and makes decisions regarding custody, child support, alimony, and property. Once those issues are decided you are eligible for an absolute divorce.

Asset Division

Maryland is an equitable distribution state, meaning property and asset division is designed to be fair – not necessarily 50/50 equality. A number of factors play into the decision, such as each spouse’s contribution to the marriage, alimony, age, wrongdoing, what was brought into the marriage by each party, and possible financial inequalities between the spouses post-divorce. Generally, each party is entitled to keep assets they had before the marriage and gifts or inheritance left solely to that spouse during a marriage. However, if the assets were used to improve marital property or were commingled, they may be subject to equitable distribution as well. 

Child Support

Child support is often a contentious issue; Maryland attempted to solve the problem by creating a statute including a mathematical formula that applies Maryland’s child support guidelines. Every case involving child support must use the legislatively required guidelines. Important factors within the guidelines include:

  • Each spouse’s gross income

  • The alimony involved in this case

  • Any alimony paid in a different case

  • Child support a party pays from a separate case

  • Physical child custody

  • If custody is shared, the number of each parent’s overnights

  • A child’s health insurance, special medical, and daycare expenses 

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Child Custody

Custody of children after a divorce is often a stressful issue. Maryland divides custody into legal and physical categories. These are either “sole” legal and/or physical custody awarded to one parent or “joint” legal custody or “shared” physical custody awarded to both parents and may incorporate tie-breaking authority. 

Physical Custody

Currently, “shared” custody means one parent has at least 128 overnights a year (this is subject to change in the October 2021 legislative year) with their child while the rest is spent with the other parent; anything less is sole custody. Sole custody means the parent without physical custody never sees their child. Visitation can take a variety of forms and schedules, and largely depend on the particulars of a case. 


In some circumstances, supervised visits that include a third party may be ordered. However, a court can reject parents’ custody and visitation plans even if both parents are in agreement if the court feels the proposed plan is not in the child’s best interest or may modify custody if a material change in circumstance occurs.

Legal Custody

Legal custody involves authority to make decisions regarding the child. If a parent is awarded sole legal custody, they decide on:

 

  • Education

  • Medical decisions

  • Religion

  • School activities

  • Matters regarding their overall welfare

If the parents have joint legal custody, they decide what is in their child’s best interests. In some cases, if parents cannot agree, a court may award one parent authority to make the final decision (tie-breaking authority).

 
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Uncontested Adoption

Family law also includes issues of adoption, which creates a legal parent-child relationship through a judicial order between an adoptee and someone who is not their natural parent. It relieves an adoptee’s natural parents of all their parental rights and obligations to the adoptee. An uncontested adoption must be consented to by the adoptee’s natural parents if they can be located and the adoptee themselves if they are 10 years of age or older. 


The three types of adoption – public agency, private agency, and independent adoptions, all follow a similar process. In Maryland, they begin with a petition for adoption being filed in Circuit Court including various exhibits. After investigations and reports are made to the court, the petition is either approved or denied at a hearing. 

 
 
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Guardianship

Courts in Maryland may appoint a guardian to individuals unable to care for themselves personally or financially due to disability, age, or illness. Guardianship may be awarded over an adult or a minor child.

To be a minor’s guardian in Maryland, the court must be petitioned and provide notice to all interested parties of the petition. If no party objects, the court may decide whether to grant the guardianship with or without a hearing. If a guardian was nominated by a parent or in their will, it usually heavily influences a court’s determination. However, the court will always hear the objection or hold a hearing if an objection exists.

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Name Change Applications

Adults

In Maryland, most name changes occur because of a marriage, divorce, or adoption, but any adult can change their name for any legal, non-fraudulent reason that does not interfere with another’s rights. For adults, name changes can occur through usage or by filing a petition and going to court. Use involves picking name, using it in daily life, and changing records with certain government departments and agencies. However, filing a Petition for Change of Name is most effective. After filing a petition:

  • Unless a court waives it, notice of your request must be published in a newspaper circulated in your county 

  • If no person objects, a judge may sign an order granting the name change

  • If anyone objects, files an objection, and sends a copy to you, you have 15 days to file a response with the court

Minors

Unless an option or divorce occurs, a minor’s name cannot be changed without a court petition. The procedure is largely the same as an adult name change, but to complete the petition you must:

  • Know the names of the biological parents

  • Produce a document reflecting the minor’s current name – a passport, for example

The consent of the parents or guardians is also generally advisable for an easy transition.

 
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Pre- and Post-Nuptial Agreements

These legal agreements are created either before the marriage or after marriage and are meant to protect one or both spouses in the event of divorce. Prenuptial agreements can deal with nearly any issue the couple wants to address prior to marriage and enforceable if certain conditions are met. However, typically they settle issues related to:

  • Each spouse’s assets, debts, and property rights

  • How assets brought into the marriage and acquired during marriage are to be divided if divorce occurs

  • Protection of any children’s interests either spouse brings into the marriage from future relationships

Post-nuptial agreements deal with largely the same issues as prenuptial agreements but are created and executed once the couple has already married. In Maryland, post-nuptial agreements are usually enforceable as contracts as long as they don’t run contrary to public policy.

 

Speak to a Maryland Family Law Attorney Today

Family and domestic issues can be incredibly stressful and often contain consequences that reach far beyond the individuals directly involved. To understand your options and get help successfully resolving your matter, schedule a consultation with our office, and let's talk. We have spent years helping clients like you secure favorable outcomes on difficult cases. We are here to answer your questions, discuss your options, and help you get the solution you deserve.