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Hire an Experienced Bethesda Contested Divorce Attorney to Help Protect Your Legal Rights

uncontested divorce in Maryland

It is common for disputes to arise during the divorce process. There are lots of issues involved, emotions are often running high, and both spouses have a strong interest in ensuring that they achieve the best outcome possible. When divorcing spouses are not able to come to terms on their own, they will each need to hire an experienced Bethesda contested divorce attorney to help them move forward.

When preparing for a contested divorce, it is best to start working with an attorney as early in the process as possible. The more you can do to get ready, the better able you will be to evaluate your options and make informed decisions. Attorney Brandon Bernstein has significant experience helping spouses prepare for contested divorces. He can help you anticipate issues and explore possible solutions, and he can help you do everything necessary to ensure that you achieve a favorable outcome from your divorce.

The Contested Divorce Process in Maryland

A divorce is considered “contested” any time the spouses are unable to reach an agreement on all aspects of their divorce without third-party intervention. While this can involve asking a judge to render a binding decision, it can also involve working with a mediator to find an amicable path forward. With this in mind, the process of going through a contested divorce in Maryland typically involves:

  • Filing a Divorce Petition – To initiate the contested divorce process, one spouse will file a divorce petition in court. In contested divorce cases, there can be benefits to filing first; and, if you are anticipating issues during your divorce, this is definitely something you will want to discuss with your Bethesda contested divorce attorney.
  • Filing a Response – Once one spouse files a divorce petition, the clock starts ticking for the other spouse to file a response. In this filing, the responding spouse should dispute all relevant allegations in the petition and set the stage for any counterclaims or defenses.  
  • Conducting Discovery – Discovery is the formal legal process through which litigating parties obtain relevant information from one another. While the fundamental purpose of discovery is to gather the information you need to make informed decisions, there are strategic aspects to the discovery process as well.
  • Entering Into Settlement Negotiations – Spouses can enter into settlement negotiations at any time during a contested divorce. Many contested divorces get resolved through the settlement process, as mitigating the costs of litigation can be advantageous for both parties. Divorcing spouses also have the option to settle certain aspects of their divorce (i.e., child custody, child support, alimony or property division) while continuing to contest others.
  • Attending Mediation – Mediation is an intermediate step between divorce settlement negotiations and trial. In mediation, divorcing spouses attempt to resolve their remaining differences with the help of a neutral third party (the “mediator”). Unlike a judge, a mediator does not render a binding decision, but instead attempts to facilitate a settlement by offering suggestions and helping each spouse see the other’s point of view.
  • Going to Trial – In some cases, the only practical option for resolving a contested divorce will be to go to trial. When seeking a favorable decision in court, it is imperative to have an experienced Bethesda contested divorce attorney on your side.

These are the main overarching steps in the contested divorce process—keeping in mind that spouses can settle at any time. However, each case is different, and the specific steps spouses need to take in order to finalize the terms of their divorce can vary widely. When preparing for a contested divorce, the key is to work with an experienced attorney who will take the time to build and execute a custom-tailored strategy focused on your unique family and financial circumstances.

Common Issues Handled by a Bethesda Contested Divorce Attorney

While almost any issue can lead to a contested divorce, certain issues are more likely to lead to disputes than others. For example, we regularly represent spouses in contested divorces involving issues such as:

  • Identification of Separate and Marital Property – While spouses’ “marital” assets are subject to division in a divorce, their “separate” assets are not. Disputes frequently arise regarding the identification of separate and marital property, particularly when one spouse claims that the default rules do not apply.
  • Equitable Distribution of Marital Property – Even when spouses can agree about which assets are on the table in their divorce, they will often disagree as to what constitutes an “equitable” distribution. When both spouses want to keep the same assets after their divorce (i.e., the family home or pieces in an art collection), this can lead to contentious disputes as well.
  • Calculation of Alimony – Since Maryland law does not establish specific guidelines for calculating alimony, disagreements regarding what constitutes an appropriate alimony award are common. Each spouse will emphasize the importance of different alimony factors, and this will lead them to different conclusions regarding the amount of alimony that is warranted.
  • Differences of Opinion Regarding Legal and Physical Custody – For parents, disagreements regarding legal and physical custody can also lead to contested divorce proceedings. While Maryland law requires that all custody determinations reflect the best interests of the children involved, parents will often have very different opinions about what is best for their children.
  • Allegations of Hiding Assets or Income Sources – Disputes can also arise when one spouse accuses the other of hiding assets or income during their divorce. Both spouses have an obligation to make complete financial disclosures; and, if one spouse does not, this can lead to a dispute before the spouses get to the substantive issues involved in their divorce.

Divorce is commonly understood to be a messy affair where each party digs in their heels and cannot come to an agreement without court intervention. While most divorces are not that extreme, such cases do exist. And even if couples can agree on most issues in the divorce, there still may be one or two sticking points on which they cannot come to an agreement despite their best efforts. Still, other couples have no problems agreeing on every issue, whether with the help of a divorce mediator or by themselves. The extent to which you can agree with your spouse largely will determine whether your divorce will be contested or uncontested. If you find that there are issues that you simply cannot agree on, a Bethesda contested divorce attorney can assist you. 

How to Decide Between Contested and Uncontested Divorce 

There is no such thing as an ideal divorce, but an uncontested divorce comes close. Any couple can choose an uncontested divorce to the extent that they can agree on major issues on their own or at least get to an agreement through mediation. There are a number of factors that will influence your decision between a contested divorce and an uncontested divorce, including: 

  • Your ability to agree with your spouse on key issues 
  • Your willingness to engage in productive negotiations 
  • The extent to which you both agree on the reasons for the divorce 
  • The length of the marriage 
  • The value and complexity of your marital estate (more assets generally mean more opportunities to disagree) 
  • Whether you have minor children and/or pets 
  • The power dynamic between you and your spouse 
  • Each spouse’s contributions to the marriage 
  • Each spouse’s ability to support themselves following the divorce 
  • Whether there is a history of domestic violence 
  • Whether there is a prenuptial agreement in place 
  • Whether one or both spouses plan to relocate following the divorce 

Procedural Differences Between Contested and Uncontested Divorce

The main procedural differences between contested and uncontested divorce boil down to whether you and your spouse can come to an agreement before or after you file your petition to divorce

With an uncontested divorce, you work out all of the major issues — including alimony, property division, and child custody, and child support — outside of court before you file for divorce. When you file your petition, you attach a copy of your written and signed agreement (that ideally has been drafted and reviewed by a Bethesda contested divorce attorney). The court will then review the agreement and, if it is satisfied, will incorporate the agreement into the divorce decree. 

With a contested divorce, you ask the court to resolve any issues that you were not able to resolve before you filed for divorce. Depending upon the number of issues and their complexity, this typically involves multiple hearings and discovery requests, as well as significant involvement by both your attorney and your spouse’s attorney. As such, contested divorces generally take significantly longer to resolve and cost significantly more than uncontested divorces. 

Schedule an Appointment with Bethesda Contested Divorce Attorney Brandon Bernstein

If you would like to know more about how to prepare for a contested divorce or what to expect during the process, we invite you to schedule an appointment with Bethesda contested divorce attorney Brandon Bernstein. Please call 240-395-1418 or request a free initial consultation online today.