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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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.

Understanding grounds for divorce under state law

In Maryland, getting started with a divorce filing isn't always as simple as just filling out some paperwork. Maryland law requires a married couple to meet certain qualifications before an absolute divorce can be granted, so it helps to know what grounds qualify a person to file for divorce before getting started.

According to Maryland law, there are several ways a person can justify seeking an absolute divorce, meaning that a spouse can divorce their partner even if the partner objects. One way is for the couple to have been separated for the requisite period of time. A person must have either lived separately from their spouse for at least two years, and during this time the spouses must not have either had sexual intercourse or even spent a night together under the same roof.

How to determine what property is subject to division in divorce

People in Maryland who are going through divorce face a lot of uncertainty, and surely have a lot of questions on their minds. One of the main concerns in most divorce cases is the family finances, and how that situation may change once couples have finalized their divorce. Under Maryland law, each party is entitled to an equitable property division settlement, meaning only that the decision is fair to both parties. This may not mean an exact fifty-fifty split, and may depend on certain factors.

First of all though, the court must determine what constitutes marital property and what constitutes separate property. Marital property is subject to equitable division, while separate property is considered the property of one of the spouses and will remain that spouse's property after the divorce. Marital property is generally defined as all property obtained during the marriage, including, in most circumstances, assets and debt accrued by either party.

A prenuptial agreement makes sense for many couples

When most people in Maryland prepare to get married, they have a million important things on their mind. Where will the couple live? Who will be responsible for the family's income? All of these decisions require a lot of careful thought, and with so many important issues to take care of, it's not surprising that a lot of couples don't want to think about the "what if." Specifically, they don't want to ask, "What if things don't work out and we decide to divorce?" But given the statistics that "what if" is likely to occur at some point in many marriages, every couple should consider entering into a prenuptial agreement prior to tying the knot.

Prenuptial agreements are incredibly useful when it comes to deciding issues in the event of an eventual divorce, especially when it comes time to determine asset division. The prenup should spell out, in no uncertain terms, what property each spouse should expect to walk away with in the event of a divorce. Unless the couple signs a prenuptial agreement covering the distribution of assets, all of the property obtained during the marriage can become a potential source of disagreement and even litigation during the divorce. While Maryland has not yet signed on to the Uniform Premarital Agreement Act, which standardizes prenuptial agreement laws nationwide, Maryland statutes still address the issue of prenuptial agreements.

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