Finding the right attorney

Going through a divorce can be one of the most stressful times in your life. I know, I have been there. It is my job to take as much of the burden off of you and help you resolve it as amicably as possible. Here are some things that you should think about if you are considering getting divorced.

Before engaging any attorney, you need to make sure that you are comfortable talking to him or her. Open and honest dialogue is only way to effectively represent clients. You also have to find an attorney that both listens and answers all of your questions. If you aren’t sure what questions you ask, here are key points you should discuss during any consultation.

1. Do I have to wait to file for my divorce?
a. If you do not have any minor children, there is no wait to file for a divorce. If you and your spouse can reach a written settlement agreement resolving alimony and property issues, you no longer have to wait to one year to file for a divorce.
b. If you have minor children, you do have to wait for one year to file for a divorce. This means that you must live separate and apart (under a separate roof) for at least year and one day before filing for divorce. There are exceptions including adultery and domestic violence.

2. What is the difference between legal custody and physical custody?
a. Physical custody – Physical custody is defined as where the child or children will reside. The number of overnights the minor child or children spend with each parent determines physical custody.
b. Legal custody – Legal custody are the decisions the parties make regarding the health, education and welfare of the minor child or children. These are not day today parenting decisions such as what the children will eat for dinner. These are decisions such as placing a child on medication, enrolling him or her in therapy, or placing a child in public or private school.

3. How is child support calculated? Child support is determined through a formula created by the court. The formula uses each parties’ gross monthly income, work related child care costs, health insurance costs, extraordinary medical expenses, whether either party pays someone else child support or if one of the parties is paying/receiving alimony.

4. What is marital property? Marital property is anything that is earned during the marriage. What is hard for individuals to understand is that any income earned during the marriage is marital property. Regardless of property is titled, the point in which the funds are placed into this property determines whether it is marital. Here are examples of marital property:
a. The Martial Home – regardless of how titled
b. IRAs, Stocks, Bonds, 401Ks
c. A business, partnership, corporation
d. Household furniture and furnishings
e. Vehicles, boats, trailers, campers

5. Will the court split everything 50/50? The answer is maybe. Maryland is what is known as an Equitable Distribution state. That means that the court uses a list of factors to determine what is fair and equitable in the dividing of assets.

6. How does the court allocate debt? That also depends on the circumstances. If you both come into the marriage with student loans, you will both walk away responsible for it. If you purchase a house and there is a mortgage on the house, then that is a marital debt.

7. How does the court determine alimony? Alimony is not as simple as child support. While there are proposed formulas to use to calculate child support, the court uses several factors including the income of the parties, the age and health of the property, and the amount of any property settlement. Also, unlike child support, every case is different.

There is no magical formula to finding the right attorney. The right attorney will put you at ease by assuring you that not only does he or she understand what you want, is also ready, willing and able to zealously represent you.

I treat all of my clients with the same level of respect and put the same amount of effort into each of their cases. I ask that all of my clients to be open and honest. I cannot effectively represent my clients if they withhold information. The worst thing that can happen is finding out something about my client during a trial. There is nothing I can do at that point to address the issue. I also encourage mediation.

I am a working mother and understand the value of a dollar. I tell all my clients that resist mediation, “you can either put my kids through college or yours, you decide.”