I would wager that the vast majority of people about to go through a divorce–whether you are seeking a Howard County divorce attorney such as SIEGELLAW or any other jurisdiction– do a lot of reading. I would also wager that much of that reading is on the Internet. You’re reading this blog, right?
You can find anything if you search for it correctly. The trouble is that you can find anything if you search for it correctly. You will read about how important it is to hire a private investigator to show that your spouse is having an affair. You will also read how it is utterly unimportant and that a judge could absolutely care less.
Who is right? Who is wrong? How do I know whose advice to rely upon?
The only answer I can give you right now is to get yourself to a highly experienced divorce attorney who will provide a thorough initial consultation to educate you and provide recommendations on how best to proceed.
Let’s start with some basic information that will help you understand when, if ever, it is important to talk about “fault” during a divorce.
First, please understand there is a huge difference between the “grounds” for the divorce as opposed to the topics upon which fault is important.
In Maryland, there are several grounds for actually obtaining your divorce. They are divided into two categories, fault and no fault. The most popular fault grounds are adultery, abandonment/desertion, constructive desertion and excessive cruelty of treatment/ domestic violence. The only real no fault ground is a one year separation.
What does all this mean?
During the course of a divorce trial, you have to show that you are actually entitled to obtain the divorce. You often cannot obtain any other relief from the Court until you prove you are entitled to a divorce. The easy example is the no fault one year separation. You have to live in separate residences for more than one year before filing for the divorce, and you have to prove that the separation was the final and deliberate act to terminate the marriage, and there is no hope or expectation of being divorced. There also has to be corroborating testimony from another witness, entitling you to the divorce.
Fault divorces are similar. If you are seeking a divorce based on adultery, you have to prove the adultery, that you have not forgiven it, and that there is no expectation of reconciliation. There is a loophole in the Maryland Statute, not making it clear whether you have to even be separated to obtain a divorce based on adultery. You also need to provide corroboration of the adultery and other elements of obtaining the divorce based on adultery.
Now, every single thing I have said so far has to do with getting a divorce–and nothing else.
If you are seeking alimony or a monetary award (for the Court to determine who gets what assets), then the issues of fault might come up again. However, this time, when looking at these issues, the legal test is whether some aspect of fault led to the demise of the marriage.
For example, if your marriage was heading towards its demise for the past five years, you and your spouse have been sleeping in separate rooms and living as roommates, and then one of you has an affair, how much do you think a judge is going to weigh that affair as a fault issue?
On the other hand, if your marriage was stable–even wonderful–and your spouse has an affair out of the blue, which is the sole reason why the two of you are getting divorced, now that is something a judge might be highly interested in.
One final word on this topic. You really have to know the judge you are in front of. This is the reason why you should always hire an attorney who has a wealth of experience in divorce trials and has much knowledge of the tendencies of each of the judges your case might be heard by.
Time and time again, I have heard people say that they know someone who got a certain result because the judge found fault to be a major issue in the case, so why can’t we make the same argument. Sometimes, the answer will lie in who the judge is.
In Howard County specifically, one judge might look at an issue of domestic violence as giving you a major advantage in the case, and another judge in this same county might rule against you because that judge simply does not want to hear about domestic violence.
I hear what you are saying–that is not right. Okay, so it is not right. But it happens. And if you want to minimize your chances of being a victim of this kind of a problem at trial, you should seek a consult with an experienced Howard County divorce attorney. At SIEGELLAW, we offer a consultation where we will listen to you. That is always the first step. Then we will provide you with a thorough education and options, so that you can then determine how best to proceed with your divorce.