January 8, 2016
Whether it’s your first divorce or you’ve been down this road before, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Dealing with the legal system on top of personal problems is hard without a doubt. However, it’s important to stay focused and know your rights in this situation. Some of your rights in a divorce may be universal, while others may be specific to the state where the divorce takes place. Allow our Maryland divorce attorneys to walk you through some of the rights you should be aware of if you filed for divorce in Maryland.
Right to Independent Counsel
When it comes to divorce, you will probably get loads of unsolicited advice from friends and family. But the most important advice you can get should come from your legal representative, i.e. your Maryland divorce attorney. Although you are not required to hire an attorney, we highly recommend that you do use this legal right. A good attorney can be the difference between winning full custody and only seeing your kids on weekends. Moreover, you are entitled to your own attorney, which means he or she will be representing your interests only. Using the same attorney as your spouse during a divorce is never a good idea and will not be allowed in most courts.
Right to Not Sign a Document
If you don’t fully understand a settlement agreement or another document you are asked to sign, don’t sign it. No one can force you to put your signature on something you don’t understand or don’t agree with. Sometimes, one spouse may pressure another to sign, or even blackmail or coerce into signing in extreme cases. Speak to your attorney right away if you feel like you are being pressured.
Right to Discovery
Discovery is a legal process that often takes place during a divorce. It can be used to document each spouse’s assets and determine which of the assets were marital or non-marital. Some people may be inclined to hide assets to avoid sharing them. Either spouse has the right to use such tools as court orders, document and inspection demands, as well as testimony under oath to collect all the necessary information.
Right to Receive Alimony
Alimony or spousal support may be awarded in specific circumstances where such an award is justified based on Maryland law and the facts of the case. Unlike some other states, alimony in Maryland is not meant to be a broad remedy. Instead, it has a specific purpose of helping one spouse to get back on their feet after the divorce. The spouse with the higher income may be required to provide financial support while the other spouse makes efforts to secure an independent source of income. It’s important to request alimony when filing your complaint or counter-complaint—otherwise you will miss out on this opportunity and won’t be able to bring up this issue again.
Right to Marital Property You Didn’t Contribute to
Just because you didn’t contribute financially to mortgage payments on your home or to your spouse’s retirement benefits, you may still have the right to receive your share. This will depend on many factors, and the amount of your share will be negotiated with the help of mediators, lawyers or settled in court. The important thing to understand is that, unless you have a prenuptial agreement that specifies otherwise, you may have the right to a portion of the assets and property that you and your spouse acquired during the marriage, even if your name is not on them.
Right to Child Custody
Unless there is a history of child abuse or violence, both parents typically have equal right to child custody. While courts used to be biased toward women in the early days, the modern society recognizes the role of fathers in children’s lives. Don’t assume that you will lose custody because your spouse is making more money or has a bigger home. Courts, above all, look at what’s best for the children. Talk to your family law attorney to build a strong case.
Right to Keep Your Name
If you changed your last name when you married your spouse, you have the right to keep that name or change back to your maiden or former name if you wish. No one can force you to either keep or change your name.
These are some of the basic rights you should be aware of if you are divorcing your spouse. If you need clarification or would like to get legal advice specific to your case, contact one of our Maryland divorce attorneys for a consultation.