Family Law Attorney serving the entire Eastern Shore of Maryland, including Worcester, Wicomico, and Somerset Counties
Are you facing a divorce? You’ve Come To The Right Place
It’s the question that keeps you up at night — should you end your marriage or try to work things out with your spouse? This will be one of the most difficult decisions you’ll ever have to make.
If you have children, the stakes get even higher. You worry about the impact this will have on their lives and feel a tremendous amount of pressure to do the right thing.
The truth is — if you’re at the point where you’re looking for a divorce attorney, you know you’ve done everything possible to save your marriage and are ready to move on.
There’s no doubt that this is a challenging time in your life, and the thought of going through a complex legal process can seem daunting. That’s why it’s vitally important to retain an attorney you can trust, someone who will treat you with compassion and understanding and is willing to fight for what is important to you.
I’m J. Christopher Llinas, a family law attorney with over 18 years of experience. My promise to you is that I will be your strongest supporter and ally throughout this process. I will strongly advocate on your behalf and will work diligently to negotiate a fair settlement that benefits you and your family.
If disputes cannot be resolved amicably, we will pursue a positive outcome in court. My goal is to make sure you and your family are taken care of, not taken advantage of.
Major issues concerning your future are at stake– issues like:
- division of marital property
- spousal and child support
- who will get custody of the children
You’ll need a steady hand to make sure your rights are being protected and you’re being treated fairly.
Don’t gamble with your future. Call Ocean Pines family lawyer Christopher Llinas today to request a free initial consultation at (443) 235-5793.
First Step: Determining Eligibility and Filing a Petition
In order to start the divorce process, you must file a complaint in the circuit court where you or your spouse lives. The law requires that you or your spouse must have been a resident for one year prior to and at the time that you file for a divorce.
Once your spouse has been served, he/she can file an answer which admits or denies the claims in the complaint. The deadline for answering the complaint is 30 days.
If your spouse is out of state, the deadline is 60 days, and if they are out of the country the deadline is 90 days.
Absolute Divorce Or Limited Divorce – Which One Is Right For You?
There are two options for obtaining a divorce in the state of Maryland.
An absolute divorce, which permanently dissolves the marriage, or a limited divorce, which is a legal separation supervised by the court.
To obtain an Absolute Divorce, you must provide a legally accepted reason to dissolve
- If your spouse is “at-fault,” you must prove he/she acted in ways that were destructive to your marriage.
- If you decide not to assign blame in the divorce, you may file under the grounds of a 12-month separation, stating that you and your spouse have not lived together for a year.
If you choose to obtain an at-fault divorce, Maryland Family Code lists specific at-fault
grounds to choose from:
- Permanent and incurable insanity
- Conviction of a crime
- Cruelty of treatment
- Excessively vicious conduct
In an Absolute Divorce, all relevant issues will be addressed and resolved in order to determine your rights to the following:
- marital property and assets
- child custody
- child support
In a Limited Divorce, you will technically remain married and cannot remarry. The court can resolve the same issues in an Absolute Divorce except for:
- property issues
- sale of marital home and other real property
- and more
A Limited Divorce is usually a good option for older couples who no longer want to be married, but also don’t want to lose everything they’ve built during their years together. Limited divorces can also appeal to people who don’t want an actual divorce for religious reasons, but neither do they want to continue a life together.
To obtain a Limited Divorce, you must file under one of the following:
- Voluntary separation (no-fault)
- Excessively vicious conduct
- Extreme cruelty of treatment to spouse or child
Will My Divorce Get Messy Or Can It Be Amicable?
Every divorce has its own set of unique circumstances that affect whether the process will be quick and painless, or combative and exhausting.
This is your divorce, and how you choose to proceed is entirely up to you and your
Generally speaking, no one wants to experience emotional hardship and suffering or be treated with cruelty by another. The best way to preserve your sanity and prevent unnecessary stress and sadness is to consider an alternative dispute resolution method as a means of divorce.
There are some instances when spouses are filled with so much anger and resentment that a civil compromise is near impossible to achieve. If this is the case, it is necessary to take matters to court and fight for what you feel you deserve.
There are several methods used during the divorce process that can be classified as alternatives to going to trial. These include:
- collaborative law
If you and your spouse reach an impasse during the proceedings, any one of these can be used to resolve disputes.
Mediation is a confidential and collaborative process in which a mediator or unbiased third party meets with you and your spouse in an attempt to amicably resolve contested issues related to your divorce.
The benefits of using a mediator include the opportunity to reach your own conclusions about your future, versus having a judge decide what is best for you and your family.
Mediation also helps you avoid a costly and drawn out court battle, allowing you instead to discuss personal matters without being intimidated in a trial atmosphere.
Mediation usually lasts 2-3 sessions, with each session lasting around 2 hours each.
As your attorney, my role in mediation will be to act as a close adviser. I will provide guidance about how to conduct yourself in discussions with your spouse and can help you make decisions on such matters as rejecting or accepting a settlement.
Arbitration is similar to mediation, but is a more formal process that involves attending
a hearing with an arbitrator (usually a retired judge) who will encourage you and your spouse to reach resolution on the key issues.
The arbitrator will be chosen by myself and your spouse’s attorney. The downside to arbitration is that an arbitrator’s decision is final and cannot be appealed.
Collaborative Law is a non-adversarial process in which each party is represented by an attorney and allows for input from trained specialists, such as divorce coaches, financial advisers and child specialists.
When engaging in the collaborative law process, each party must agree that they will not under any circumstance pursue litigation in court.
This automatically encourages everyone to act in good faith to reach a mutual compromise.
The collaborative process:
- fosters respect between the parties
- is sensitive to the needs and feelings of the children
- is driven by open and positive communication
The downside to collaboration is that if it doesn’t work, lawyers on both sides will be required to withdraw from your case and you will have to start the entire process over with new representation.
If agreement cannot be accomplished in mediation or arbitration, matters will try to be resolved in litigation.
Litigation is by nature adversarial, with each side vying for what they want. Taking this route can be emotionally and financially draining, and especially hard on the children.
Keep in mind you will have little or no control over the final decisions, which will be made by a judge.
As your attorney, my initial goal will always be to pursue an alternative method of dispute resolution; however, I won’t hesitate to litigate in court if your spouse and/or the other attorney are unwilling to cooperate.
How Will Our Property And Debts Be Divided?
If you and your spouse cannot agree on how to divide your marital property, the court will decide for you. Marital property includes whatever has been acquired during the marriage, including:
- bank accounts
- stocks, bonds
- retirement plans
Property you owned prior to the divorce is not subject to division unless you changed the title to include your spouse.
The Circuit Court will first classify which property and debt is considered to be marital, will assign a monetary value to the property and debt, and will distribute the assets in an equitable fashion.
In Maryland, “equitable” is defined as “what is fair under the circumstances, not what is equal.”
In order to make sure the distribution is fair, the judge examines the contributions each spouse made to the marriage. This includes financial contribution as well as who took care of the children. Other factors taken into consideration while dividing property include:
- Length of your marriage
- Age, health and physical/mental condition of you and your spouse
- The economic circumstances of you and your spouse
- The value of all of your property interests
- Any marital misconduct that resulted in the divorce
Are You Concerned With Paying For Or Receiving Alimony?
Alimony, or spousal support, is a financial payment made from one spouse to another on a temporary or indefinite basis after divorce.
There are three different types of alimony in Maryland:
Alimony Pendente Lite: This type of alimony is awarded throughout the course of the divorce proceedings — from the actual filing until the divorce is final.
The purpose is to maintain the “status quo.” There is no guarantee that pendente lite will be awarded after the divorce.
Rehabilitative Alimony: This type of alimony is awarded for a limited amount of time or until the recipient can support themselves.
During this time, the recipient is usually taking steps toward achieving financial independence by either finishing school or attending career development training. Rehabilitative alimony can last between 3-10 years.
Indefinite Alimony: In rare cases, alimony can be awarded with no specific or set endpoint. This is usually applicable when the recipient is unable to become self-supporting due to disability, age, or illness.
In some instances in which the recipient’s standard of living is vastly different, alimony may be awarded to make up the difference. Indefinite alimony would terminate upon remarriage or the death of a receiving spouse.
Who Will Get Custody Of Our Children?
To determine custody, the court in Maryland will do what is in “the best interests of the children.”
Before your divorce is finalized, a temporary custody arrangement will be put in place. In most cases, the ruling is to let the children remain in their current living situation, unless for some reason it’s not in their best interests.
Legal Custody vs. Physical Custody
Maryland courts recognizes two types of custody: legal and physical.
Legal custody refers to the right to make major long-term decisions concerning the welfare of your children. This may include issues such as your children’s:
- religious beliefs
- extracurricular activities
If the court grants joint legal custody, you and your spouse will both be involved in making these types of decisions.
Physical custody determines where the children will live on a daily basis.
A parent who is awarded sole physical custody will physically have the children with them the majority of the time while the non-custodial parent will be awarded visitation according to a predetermined schedule.
If a judge rules in favor of joint physical custody, the children will be able to spend significant time with each parent in split residences.
Maryland’s child support guidelines follow an incomes shared model to calculate the appropriate amount of support. This calculation is based on the incomes of you and your spouse, the number of children you have, as well as the cost of health insurance, daycare and alimony payments.
This can be a complicated area of family law and, as your attorney, I can help you navigate this process.
Need a Divorce Attorney in Ocean City, MD?
Are you getting a divorce? Do you need help resolving custody issues?
Whatever family dispute you are grappling with, family law attorney J. Christopher Llinas can help you resolve the matter quickly and painlessly. Give him a call today to schedule a free consultation at (443) 235-5793.