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Friday, August 18, 2017

First Comes Marriage Equality, Then Comes... Divorce Equality?

Written by  Atty. Valerie E. Anias

Everyone has the right to marry which means everyone also has the right to divorce. The divorce process for same-sex couples is identical to that of a heterosexual couple. And for each family there are different circumstances, causes, and results that lead them to divorce. A divorcing couple falls into to broad categories: divorcing with an agreement or divorcing with a judge order.

In the case of an agreement, when you have settled any property issues and don’t have any minor children you can get a divorce in Maryland without having to wait for any specific time period.  This type of divorce is by mutual consent.  If you do have minor children but settled all your property issues, Maryland provides a voluntary divorce option for couples to divorce after a 12-month separation. Some couples are amicable despite not having all their marital property issues resolved and can seek alternative means to assist them in coming to an agreement. Mediation is often a perfect and far less costly solution to reaching agreements dealing with property and/or children.

Unfortunately, divorce does tend to bring out the worst in couples.  In a situation where there has been a loss of trust, loss of a partnership, and, critically, a loss of communication, you need to be prepared to take action.  First, know what assets exist and the approximate value.  This may include property, retirement, personal property, vehicles, etc.  Second, know what type of debt exists and how much.   This can be in the form of a mortgage, outstanding credit card, a car loan, etc.  Be aware that, for purposes of the divorce in nearly all circumstances, any asset or debt is joint – regardless of how either is titled – if it was accrued during your marriage.  Lastly, and most importantly, prepare.  Prepare for your monthly expenses, prepare for your children, prepare for you.  Create a budget and adjust accordingly.  You cannot be certain how the court is going to rule regarding alimony or a monetary award.  You may be confident that you will be able to remain in your home but what if that’s not the case?  Your spouse may have once promised to financially support you but now things have changed.

Once you’ve prepared yourself for divorce, talk to your spouse and see what sort of items you both can resolve amicably and which matters you think are going to be at issue. This may help limit the issues when you file for divorce. When one party files the complaint for divorce he or she needs to be sure to raise the appropriate actions which are the cause of the divorce. For example, desertion or abuse. Once filed, the court will issue a summons to be served on your spouse. Then your spouse will have to file an answer. From that point forward the court will set in various dates and you’ll want to be sure you attend all hearings and follow the court’s instructions. In the event the divorce becomes litigious and especially so if you have children, you may want to speak with an attorney to ensure your rights, property, and children will be protected.

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