Top 5 Questions in Divorce Consults
Top 5 Divorce Consult FAQs
One of the things I love about family law is that every case is different. While the issues are often the same, what works for one family will not work for another. That being said, there are some questions that come up in almost all divorce consults. Below are the top 5 questions I am asked in consults and along with brief answers for each. Bear in mind all the answers under Maryland law. Divorce laws vary from state to state.
- How long is my divorce going to take? This is always a hard one. First, the Covid-19 pandemic has backed courts up. Second, it depends on where you are. Where we are located, in Howard County, the answer at this time is if your case is fully contested and goes to trial, no less than a year. If you need multiple days for trial, then it will likely be longer.
- Do I have to wait the full year for anything to be done? No! In either divorce cases, you can ask the court for pendente lite Pendente lite is temporary relief while your action is pending. While a pendente lite order is not a final disposition of the matters in your case, it can put rules in place temporarily for custody, access, child support, use and possession of a home, and alimony. The hearing will be set for a much shorter amount of time than your custody or divorce trial and usually occurs within a few months of the case being filed.
- How much is this case going to cost? This is always one of my favorite questions. The answer is, it is wholly dependent on you and your spouse. Most divorce cases settle, it is possible that can happen right at the beginning of the case and you and your spouse can work out all of the issues with your attorneys. If that’s the case, a divorce certainly does not have to cost a ton of money. If there are a lot of issues and there is no hope of resolution, or there aren’t meaningful settlement discussions until the end of the case, then you’re going to spend significantly more. It’s also important to note that if there are larger assets and businesses, or other complicating factors, the cost of a divorce is likely to be higher.
- Do I have to be legally separated for a year before getting divorced? No. Preliminarily, there is no such thing as a “legal separation” in Maryland. Your separation date from your spouse is the date that you and your spouse last cohabitated together (slept under the same roof) and/or had marital relations. If you have fault-based grounds in Maryland, such as adultery, cruelty, or excessively cruel treatment, you can file for divorce right away. Fault-based grounds must be proven at trial. If you and your spouse are just unhappy and do not have fault-based grounds, then absent having an agreement you do have to be separated for one (1) year before you are eligible for an absolute divorce. If you have an agreement with your spouse that is reduced to writing and resolves all issues incident to your marriage (property, custody, access, alimony, child support, etc.), then the court does not require a 1 year waiting period.
- Will I get (or have to pay) alimony? It depends. The court determines alimony based on 12 factors, some the major ones being the length of the marriage, the income (or earning potential) of each party, and the ability of the party from whom alimony is sought to pay alimony. Unlike child support, there are no mandatory guidelines. We have a program we run to give us a ballpark of what alimony may look like but the program does not allow for consideration of a lot of the non-monetary factors of alimony. If alimony is at issue in a trial, the judge has a lot of discretion in weighing factors and what evidence to consider. In a consult we may be able to give you an idea of if there’s going to be alimony, but it is something that can’t usually be determined in an initial meeting.
As I said in the beginning, every family is different. If you find yourself wondering if you are heading down the road to a divorce, just want to know what your options/rights are, or if your spouse has already filed, a divorce consult can give you a full picture of your rights and status. At Weinberg & Schwartz we practice all over Maryland and are currently accepting new clients!