Jeffrey N. Greenblatt

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Jeffrey N. Greenblatt of Joseph, Greenwald & Laake, PA

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Rockville MD Divorce Law Blog

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Divorce rates may not be changing much

People in Maryland may have seen an interesting article about the often-quoted figure that half of all marriages end in divorce. While it seems easy to quote and sounds believable, statistical analysis shows that this is not the case and probably never has been in history. In fact, the divorce rate across the United States seems to be dropping since the economic downturn that began in 2007, so 50% is a figure that has even less merit today.

Oddly enough, though, there is no one single accepted or preferred methodology when it comes to calculating the number of marriages that end in divorce, so depending on who you ask, the figure could fluctuate. Another problem is the lack of reliable data, which has made tracking the outcome of every divorce across state lines and the passing of many years extremely difficult.

Maryland child custody disputes can cross borders

Maryland child custody issues can be complicated, especially when parents are unable to reach an agreement on what is best for their children. Because nothing really hits closer to a parent's heart than decisions relating to their children, it is not surprising that child custody battles are among the most intensely fought legal conflicts any client will ever face. In some extreme cases, parents are even driven to bend or break the law to keep another parent from exercising their legal right to child custody.

While good legal counsel will never instruct a parent to break the law or disobey a court order, some parents either take matters into their own hands or disregard their attorney's advice. In some cases, parents may get caught up in the emotion and drama and make the rash decision flee the state, or even the country, with their children. Not only does this violate the rights of the other parent and potentially jeopardize the fleeing parent's rights to future child custody, but it could be grounds for serious criminal charges as well. At the very least, fleeing the state constitutes interference with the other parent's custody, but it could give rise to more serious felonies, up to and including kidnapping.

How does the Maryland divorce mediation process work?

People in Maryland who are considering or are in the midst of divorce should probably be prepared for mediation at some point in the process. Mediation is quickly becoming a commonplace method to help divorcing couples deal with child custody disputes, visitation, financial issues and essentially any other area of dispute in a divorce.

The first step for people considering filing for divorce is selecting an experienced family law attorney. Depending on the situation and the issues at hand, an attorney might suggest that the parties attend mediation voluntarily. Couples may be better off by instigating the mediation process themselves, before the case ever comes to court. By voluntarily entering into mediation, the couples can work through all of the details of concern, including financial issues such as property division, spousal support and children's issues such as agreeing on joint custody and a parenting plan. In voluntary mediation, an attorney is not mandatory, but it is always recommended that a person have legal counsel on hand to help them through the process and ensure that their rights are being protected.

What the court considers in child custody cases

In a divorce with children, one of the most common areas of dispute and conflict is the issue of child custody. Both parents typically want to continue to have a meaningful and significant relationship with their children after a divorce, but sometimes even well-intended parents can disagree about what constitutes the best interests of the child.

When a Maryland court is forced to make this crucial decision, the judge has a lot of leeway in determining the best interests of the child standard as applied to the case at issue. Understanding that every case is unique, the court is not held to strict guidelines when imposing child custody and visitation orders. Rather, the judge draws from case law and statutes in order to reach what he or she believes is the most appropriate conclusion on the sole or joint custody of a child.

Oil tycoon's divorce among biggest in history

People in Maryland and across the U.S. may have seen the news headlines about Harold Hamm, one of the richest men in the world, and his recent billion-dollar divorce settlement. Hamm is the CEO and founder of Continental Resources, one of the nation's largest oil and gas corporations. His net worth is estimated at slightly over $18 billion, but his ex-wife will soon be seeing a nice chunk of that after their high asset divorce settlement.

The divorce, which took place in another state over a nine-week period, ended with a judge's ruling that Sue Ann Hamm, his wife of 25 years, was entitled to just shy of $1 billion of their marital wealth. The former Mrs. Hamm will receive the bulk of the property division award over time, including $320 million up front and at least $7 million each month until the balance is paid.

Getting help to pursue a modification order is essential

People in Maryland who have gone through a divorce may feel as if a great weight has been lifted off of their shoulders. In some ways, it certainly has. Getting out of a messy divorce or a bad relationship can be a very freeing feeling, but for parents and people with alimony orders, it may not be the end of their legal obligations to their children or their ex-spouse.

In a Maryland divorce, there is always the possibility that one party will be required to pay alimony to the other party. Generally this is based on the income of each party as well as their reasonable needs of the person receiving the support. Depending on the situation, the court may grant alimony for a short period of time until the receiving party is able to get on their feet and support themselves. However, in some cases the temporary rehabilitative alimony order can be extended, and in some cases alimony can even be ordered to run indefinitely.

Alimony is not a given in many divorces

People in Maryland may have seen a recent editorial article in Forbes about the likelihood of spouses, in particular stay-at-home mothers, receiving court-ordered alimony after a divorce. The trend in recent years has been that women, even mothers who have elected to stay at home and raise the children rather than enter the workforce, may not be as likely to receive alimony as they once were. According to recent studies 97 percent of all people in 2010 receiving alimony were women, so this is an issue that clearly affects women more than men after a divorce.

Part of the reason is due to the fact that gender equality in the workforce has been increasing, and in the eyes of many courts, women have as much opportunity to earn a reasonable paycheck as men do. According to the federal Department of Labor, 75 percent of all women in the U.S. work, and in about 40 percent of households a woman is the primary income-earner. So in light of this changing trend, courts may not be as likely to order the ex-husband to pay alimony to their spouse after their divorce.

What can Maryland courts do when a spouse or parent gets violent?

People in Maryland who have ever had to live in fear of abuse, stalking or domestic violence know how difficult it can be to go on with their lives. Domestic abuse is a significant problem in society, and even then, the full depth of the problem cannot be accurately measured because so many people stay silent and pray that the problem will go away. Unfortunately, doing nothing to protect one's self and one's children is not often a safe option. But, fortunately, an experienced family law attorney can help victims of domestic abuse and violence secure a protective order or peace order to stop the cycle of abuse.

Many domestic violence episodes accompany other domestic troubles, such as a divorce or a child custody dispute. These stressful situations can push people to act irrationally and aggressively, but there is never any excuse for violence or abuse. People who have suffered, or fear for their safety or the safety of their children, should seek out a protective order. A protective order can be secured against any person who is a current or former spouse, an intimate household partner, or a parent of a child in common. Likewise, a minor child can also secure a protective order against a parent or stepparent.

Expensive weddings may lead to divorce, study shows

People in Maryland may have seen a recent news articles about the correlation between the cost of a wedding and the likelihood of divorce. Everyone knows how expensive it can be to prepare for hundreds of friends and family and make everything just perfect for the big day, but most people may not realize that how much they spend could be an indicator of future marital longevity.

Perhaps surprisingly, a recent study performed by economics professors at Emory University showed that those who have a less expensive wedding are less likely to get a divorce. And shockingly, those who spent over $20,000 on their wedding divorced approximately 1.6 times as often as those whose weddings cost less than $10,000.

Maryland courts have broad powers in property division

People in Maryland have probably heard stories about the property division process from a friend or family member who has gone through a divorce. In a divorce, the court has the duty to distribute the marital property of the two spouses. This equitable division can take many different forms, though, and the court has great powers when it comes to telling a person how to handle their property in response to a divorce petition.

In a divorce action, it is up to the court to determine the value of all of the marital property at issue. This often includes many different kinds of property, including but not limited to real estate, vehicles, financial accounts and retirement accounts or pensions.

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