The divorce process often begins with A, an act that makes continuing the marriage impossible or, B, a long period of planning.
When you get blindsided with a divorce, many questions quickly arise. Here are just 10 of them.
- My spouse just walked out. I understand I need a “legal separation.” How do I achieve this?
There is no such thing as a “legal separation” in Maryland. When people talk about a legal separation, they often mean one of two things: a separation agreement OR the period of time you must be separated before you can file for divorce. In Maryland, you are either married or divorced.
- My spouse closed all of our bank accounts and is moving out right now. What can I do?
No law prevents your spouse from moving out. You may, however, be able to ask the court for child support and alimony, and to return money to the marital accounts.
You should act quickly and inventory all of your accounts as soon as you are aware of this deception. Occasionally, if your spouse acted sloppily, you may be able to stop the draining of the accounts.
- I’m not getting along with my spouse. We have only been married for days (or weeks or or months). It was a mistake. Can’t I just get an annulment?
Usually, the answer to this question is “no.”
An annulment is not a divorce for a short marriage. It is a declaration that a valid marriage never existed in the first place – an example being if your spouse was still married to someone else, resulting in bigamy. If your marriage is valid, the only way to end it is with a divorce.
- When can I get alimony?
Alimony is determined on a case-by-case basis. Often, married persons reach a written agreement. If not, you have to petition the court for alimony. There will be a hearing and a magistrate or judge will make that determination. The magistrate will first want to identify the status quo, financially. They will then look at your needs and the ability of your spouse to pay alimony.
The length of the marriage and other considerations are often involved at this introductory stage. Courts do not act fast. It is not uncommon to wait 4-6 months from the time a case is filed for an initial alimony hearing, depending on which jurisdiction your case is in.
- Can I talk to an attorney before I set up an appointment?
Absolutely. Any attorney who cannot or will not answer basic questions over the telephone prior to an initial consultation is likely not an attorney you should consider. Law is a service profession. Yes, it is also a business, but it is part of a lawyer’s job to attempt to ease your initial shock and stress during such a difficult time in your life.
- How will I be able to afford an attorney if my spouse drained our accounts?
Some people leverage a home equity line of credit or a credit card. Others turn to family members. Additionally, many religious organizations provide financial aid to those who are struggling. Once your case is filed, a motion for immediate counsel fees can be filed with the court. There will likely be a hearing to determine your eligibility and the amount you are eligible for.
- Why can’t I get an exact quote for my case?
It is not possible to tell you how much your case will cost. Attorneys charge on an hourly basis and cannot predict how many hours will be spent on any given case. Additionally, no attorney can predict how much “fighting” the other side will do, or the amount of negotiation that will be necessary.
- I need someone to look over some documents. How much will this cost?
Reviewing documents requires further consultation so that your attorney can understand the backstory that led to the document’s drafting. This can sometimes be handled at, or following, an initial consultation.
- My ex is not paying child support. What do I do?
There are typically two alternatives. First, you can contact the Child Support Enforcement Office in your jurisdiction, and they can file for the appropriate relief if you cannot afford an attorney. However, these offices are often overwhelmed and do not conduct the thorough discovery of information that a private divorce attorney would provide. Second, you can hire a private attorney to file on your behalf. Child support statutes allow a court to decide whether to shift the burden of your attorneys’ fees onto the party not paying child support.
- My wife and I are not getting along. If I leave the house, can she get me for abandonment?
This requires a more direct conversation.
Yes, when you leave the marital home, it could constitute abandonment. That is a ground for divorce and also a consideration by the court regarding financial relief.
Frequently, the court is far more interested in the cause of the marriage’s breakup, not the final act of leaving. When a marriage has been troubled for months – or even years – leaving it may not not be terribly interesting to a judge.
Each of the above topics should tell you one thing: at the initial stages of separation or divorce planning, your first step should always be contacting an experienced divorce attorney.
SIEGELLAW can help. Call us today at (410) 792-2300.