FAQ – Family Law

FAQ – Family Law

Question: What issues are involved in a Family Law case?

Family law includes a number of legal topics concerning marriage and children. Such topics include divorce or annulment, child custody and visitation rights, child support payments, and spousal support / alimony. Family law specifically deals with children in regards to adoption, guardianship, and state child protection, and domestic violence and restraining orders for adults.

Question: How long does it take to get a divorce?

Once you have an attorney and file for a petition to divorce, the procedure can be as short as one to three months. This is best-case scenario. However, if the parties are unable to agree on settlement issues regarding child custody, support, alimony, distribution of property and other matters relevant to the divorce, the proceedings can take considerably longer.

Question: How long does a domestic violence case take?

Domestic violence cases usually move through the court quickly due to the nature of the offense. Your attorney will file for a temporary restraining order with the court, which is almost always granted. A hearing will be set within 21 days to determine whether the temporary restraining order should become permanent.

Question: How long does a paternity case take?

Paternity cases usually move quicker than divorce cases do. This is because paternity litigants simply adopt “temporary” child custody, and support orders as a judgment in order to finish their case. However, each party is entitled to a trial on all issues in a paternity case, so there is a chance it could be delayed if an agreement is not reached.

Question: How do I file for child custody?

Child custody orders are usually part of the general divorce procedure. This necessitates filing an underlying action to establish parentage before the court will make custody orders. Once the underlying case is filed, either party may file a motion for child custody and visitation orders. These motions are called "Request for Orders".

Question: What is a contested divorce?

A "contested" divorce is the most complicated of divorces, because it involves spouses that can’t come to an agreement on one or more issues pertaining to their divorce and settlement. Contested topics may include the division of marital property and debts, child custody, child support, and spousal support ("alimony").

Question: What is an uncontested divorce?

An uncontested divorce means that the spouses are able to agree on the major issues involved in getting divorced. This could include parenting responsibilities, child support, and division of property and debt.

Question: What is the difference between a Divorce and a Paternity Case?

The two most common types of cases that divorce and custody attorneys handle are divorces and paternity cases. While both follow the same litigation path, they are total opposites in family law. Divorces are the procedural mechanism for married parents to seek relief while paternity establishment cases are how unmarried parents seek custody and child support.

Question: My case involves complicated issues. How can my attorney help?

Many family law matters involve complex litigation, which could include real estate issues, taxation issues, if assets are being concealed, and many others. Our attorneys have specific experience in all these areas and will work for a favorable outcome.

Question: What is the difference between “Legal” and “Physical” Child Custody?

Legal custody is the right to make decisions on the behalf of a minor child in areas such as health, safety, education, religion, welfare, and more. Physical custody is the actual time a parent spends in exercising custody and control over a minor child.

Question: Why do I need a Family Law Attorney?

The law can be complex, and it takes a trained attorney, who specializes in Family Law, to make sure your rights are protected. You need an experienced advocate on your side, someone who will listen to your concerns, and answer the many questions which will arise.

Question: How will I be involved in my case?

Totally! We'll explain your options, take you step by step through the process, and answer any and all questions you might have. We understand this is a difficult time in your life, and we’re very sensitive to that. Our sole aim is to make sure your rights are protected to the fullest, and that the outcome is the best possible.

Question: How is alimony, spousal support, or maintenance determined?

The divorce laws of all the states determine if, and the length of time, one spouse will have to pay spousal support to the other after the termination of the marriage. This is a contentious issue in divorce, but many couples are able to take a decision on it by themselves, and if they are unable to reach a decision, they contact professionals to help them out.
In some cases, where equitable division of property is a concern, one of the factors taken into consideration is if a spouse is ready to pay support to the other. When the decision for maintenance or spousal support is to be taken, the court takes into consideration the division of property amongst the spouses. In community property states, this is usually not a concern. Factors like prior standard of living and economic status of both the parties are given more weightage. However, in the equitable property states, along with division of property, certain other factors are considered too, such as:

  • Length of the marriage
  • The presence of young children at home
  • Employment opportunities that are available to the spouse who is requesting for spousal support
  • The extent to which the dependent spouse contributed to the attainment of a professional license or education of the other spouse
Question: What determines if spousal support will be granted?

It is the decision of the court if spousal support would be granted. You will be able to receive spousal support if you are dependent spouse. The court takes into account several factors to come to a decision about spousal support.

These are:

  • The length of the marriage
  • The age of both parties
  • The earning capacities of both parties
  • The standard of living in the marriage
  • The ability to gain employment of both parties

Apart from these, there are several other factors that the court looks at before coming to a decision on granting spousal support.

Question: What are the advantages of a prenuptial agreement?

A prenuptial agreement has several advantages and it is strongly recommended that before you get married, you and your spouse create a prenuptial/pre-marriage agreement. This agreement would lay down the terms that would be followed in the event of your getting a divorce or the passing away of a spouse. This helps to keep your property separate and even provide for child/children outside of the marriage. A big advantage of a prenuptial agreement is protection from any debts that the spouse had.

With an agreement in place, there is a lot of peace of mind since in case anything goes wrong, most provisions would be in place. In fact, without an agreement, most property is considered as communal property and division of assets becomes quite difficult, making the divorce process that much tougher to undergo.

Question: Can grandparents be awarded visitation or custody of a child?

The court determines what would be in the best interest of the child as regarding grandparental visitation or custody of a child. Traditionally, the common law denied visitation with a child to grandparents if a parent objected. But post 1965, all 50 states have enacted legislation that enables grandparents to approach the courts for seeking visitation with grandchildren. That doesn’t mean the automatic granting of visitation to grandparents; it simply means they have the right to petition the court for a visitation order. In all cases, the rights of the parent surpass a grandparent’s request for visitation or custody, and so grandparents must have serious reasons for pursuing legal avenues when seeking access to a grandchild.
Some states even allow the right to petition for visitation to other relatives like aunts, uncles, stepparents, etc. and even non-relatives with whom the child has a close relationship. In Maryland, the law doesn’t provide a list of factors that the court must consider to award custody or visitation. Judges are free to consider the facts and circumstances pertaining to each case before granting visitation or custody.