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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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.

Separation agreements can alleviate big headaches

People in Maryland may have noticed that more and more couples are entering into prenuptial agreements prior to tying the knot. While in previous generations such a contract might have been considered unseemly or unusual, couples today know have learned their lesson from the messy, litigation-heavy divorces of their parent's generation and have embraced the prenuptial agreement, or "prenup," as an essential step in the marriage process.

Couples who didn't sign a prenup in their marriage may have more property division concerns if they divorce, but there are still plenty of legal steps a spouse can take to protect themselves and their assets prior to a divorce. In particular they may want to enter into a post-nuptial contract, which is essentially the same thing as a prenup, but the main difference is the timing. As the name indicates, a post-nuptial contract takes place after the couple has married.

Do parents have the right to child custody after divorce?

When parents in Maryland get divorced, one of the most important questions to them is whether they will be able to enjoy spending time with their children as much as they did during the marriage. While every divorce and child custody arrangement is different, many parents will be pleased to know that unless there is a very good reason for prohibiting time with their children, such as abuse or substance addiction, then parents are still entitled to reasonable parenting time and visitation with their children.

In most Maryland divorce cases, divorcing parents are required to attend mediation, in which both parents attend a negotiation and brainstorming session in order to try to reach an agreement as to the child custody arrangement. Mediation is helpful because it allows both parents the opportunity to express their wishes for the child custody and visitation arrangement. In a custody dispute, oftentimes nobody wins, so the objective of mediation is to help parents find common ground and work to build a schedule and parenting plan that fits the needs of the parents and most importantly, is also in the best interests of the child.

Defining and stopping domestic violence

With so much controversy over domestic violence in the news, a lot of people in Maryland probably have questions about how state law defines domestic violence, and what people who are concerned about domestic abuse can do to protect themselves.

Most people know that physically assaulting a spouse, child or other household member constitutes domestic violence, but there are other acts that are included within the definition. For example, it doesn't necessarily require a person to harm another person physically, it can also include putting a person in fear of harm, including making threats or acting menacingly towards such person. It may also include stalking a person, which may include trespassing or following a person, or otherwise harassing them. Finally, it may also include holding someone against their will.

Baltimore Ravens star Rice cut from team, banned from NFL

People in Maryland and all over the country have been transfixed on the story of Ravens running back Ray Rice, who was recently banned from the NFL and cut from the team after graphic footage of Rice knocking his wife unconscious with a punch in a hotel elevator surfaced in media outlets. The story has taken many twists and turns, and has led many concerned fans and observers to criticize the NFL for not doing enough to combat the scourge of domestic abuse.

The original altercation between Rice and his wife took place in a casino in Atlantic City on February 15th. Shortly afterwards, media jumped on camera footage of Rice dragging the body of his unconscious wife from the elevator, and Rice was charged with third-degree assault, a charge which could result in a prison sentence of up to 5 years. Rice was originally suspended by the NFL for two games after agreeing to seek counseling and participate in a criminal diversion case which would have allowed him to get his charges dismissed.

Domestic violence danger may increase during a divorce

People in Maryland know that divorce can be extremely stressful, and unfortunately many people are not well equipped to deal with the negative emotions and stress that often accompany a marital breakup. One tragic, but common side effect of a high-conflict divorce is domestic violence and if the problem is not met head-on with immediate legal action, the consequences can be devastating.

Domestic violence can happen in any household, and even people who seem the least likely to ever become physically or emotionally abusive may become aggressive or violent under the stressful circumstances presented by a divorce. This is never acceptable under any circumstances, and nobody should ever have to feel threatened or frightened by the actions of a domestic partner. Our firm understands what a difficult situation this can be for people.

Should you file a separation agreement before divorce?

Divorce can be a complex process, especially for people that have children or have to deal with splitting up a significant amount of marital assets. Not surprisingly, there are many potentially stumbling blocks that might cause delays before the actual finalized divorce settlement is reached. Even then, the court must review and agree to accept the settlement, which can be an arduous process if the settlement is in dispute.

Maryland courts have tried to accommodate people's needs by offering different solutions, including temporary orders that might serve to keep the status quo between the divorcing parties in the time until the final divorce decree is issued. Given that the divorce process can be lengthy for reasons that extend beyond the parties' control, some divorcing parents and spouses may want to talk to their attorney about a separation agreement.

Moving with children after a divorce can be complicated

People in Maryland may have seen a recent editorial about some of the issues that some parents may face if they want to relocate to another state or a great distance from their ex. Parents in Maryland who want to relocate should always consult with their family law attorney before proceeding to move away, as doing so without taking the proper legal steps could result in serious repercussions that could include criminal charges or otherwise negatively affect their child custody rights.

The thought of moving away and making a clean break after a divorce makes sense for a lot of people who have gone through a tumultuous divorce, but when there are children involved, it is ultimately important to take their needs, as well as the rights of the ex-spouse, into account. In most divorces in Maryland, both parents are presumed to have equal rights when it comes to decisions of major significance to the child, such as the child's place of residence, education and health care. Unless there is a good reason to deny a parent visitation or parenting time, each parent is also entitled to receive reasonable access to the child.

What are the steps to determining child custody?

One of the most important issues any parent will have to consider after a divorce or separation is child custody. Not only is this a highly personal and emotional topic for parents, but it is often the source of some of the most fierce conflicts, both in and out of court. The Maryland legal system recognizes this potential, which is why they have established rules of procedure to try to minimize conflict between parents. The system also tries to encourage cooperation amongst the parents to achieve a child custody and visitation arrangement that can accommodate both parents' rights to play an active role in raising their children.

Unless there is a very strong reason to deny parents shared legal custody, such as a history of abuse, debilitating substance use or addiction, insanity or incarceration, both parents are entitled to an equal say in how a child is to be raised. Under shared legal custody, neither parent's rights are superior to the other, so when areas of disagreement arise, the court must intervene with a solution to the problem.

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