Protect Your Interests in Your Divorce with the Help of an Experienced Bethesda Divorce Attorney
Getting divorced is a process that requires you to make several informed decisions with your long-term best interests (and your children’s long-term best interests) in mind. To ensure that you make the right decisions—and to ensure you don’t overlook any issues that could lead to problems after your divorce—it is important to have an experienced Bethesda divorce attorney on your side.
Brandon Bernstein is a Bethesda divorce attorney who has more than a decade of experience representing individuals in divorces and other family law matters. From parenting time issues to issues that are unique to high-net-worth couples, he helps his clients navigate all aspects of the divorce process—amicably whenever possible and in the Maryland courts when necessary.
Issues That Need to Be Resolved During the Divorce Process
While everyone’s circumstances are unique, there are several overarching issues that spouses will typically need to resolve during the divorce process. Bethesda divorce attorney Brandon Bernstein can help you thoughtfully, comprehensively and strategically address issues such as:
- Separation Agreements – In general terms, if you are planning to seek a “no-fault” divorce, you and your spouse will need to live separately for 12 months before you can finalize the process. Putting a separation agreement in place will allow you and your spouse to manage all property, financial and child-related issues during this time as effectively and non-confrontationally as possible. In Maryland, however, divorcing parties who do not have minor children are permitted to proceed with the divorce without waiting the typical 12 months. This is known as a mutual consent divorce.
- Property Distribution – In the absence of a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, divorcing spouses in Bethesda must divide their marital property according to the principles of equitable distribution. However, your “separate” assets are not subject to distribution, and identifying your marital and separate assets is a key early step in the divorce process.
- Debt Distribution – In addition to dividing their marital assets, divorcing spouses in Maryland must also divide their marital debts. While property and debt distribution often go hand-in-hand, dividing debts presents some unique considerations, particularly when a debt is in one spouse’s name.
- Alimony – Maryland law establishes a long list of factors divorcing spouses must consider when negotiating alimony, or when seeking (or seeking to avoid) alimony in court. While not all divorces involve alimony, it is also possible for alimony to play a central role in the divorce process.
- Child Support – For spouses with minor children, calculating child support is a necessary part of the divorce process. Most couples will need to calculate child support in accordance with Maryland’s Child Support Guidelines; however, high-income spouses may need to consider other factors.
- College Tuition and Expenses – Generally speaking, child support does not cover college tuition and expenses in Maryland. However, saving for their children’s college can be among parents’ largest monthly expenses, and many parents will want to make sure their former spouses continue to make college savings contributions after their divorce.
- Child Custody (Parenting Time) – Spouses with minor children must also address child custody as part of the divorce process. Divorcing parents must develop a parenting time schedule that reflects their children’s best interests, as determined by Maryland law.
Within each of these broad categories, there are numerous specific and nuanced issues that can play greater or lesser roles in a divorce depending on a couple’s unique circumstances. From dividing cryptocurrency wallets to deciding what to do with family photo albums and keepsakes, all of these issues require careful consideration, and divorcing spouses need to make sure that they are considering all relevant factors.
5 Important Considerations When Preparing for a Divorce in Maryland
To ensure that they are considering all relevant factors, there are several steps spouses should take in preparation for the divorce process. This includes beginning to consider questions such as:
1. Should You File for a “No-Fault” Divorce or File on Fault-Based Grounds?
While many states now exclusively have “no-fault” divorce laws, Maryland is not one of these states. As a result, when considering a divorce, spouses in Bethesda still have the option to file either on “no-fault” or fault-based grounds.
Examples of marital “fault” are fairly limited, with the most common example being adultery. But, even if your spouse cheated on you, filing for a fault-based divorce might not be your best option. If you think you might have grounds to file for a fault-based divorce, you will want to consult with a Bethesda divorce attorney before deciding how to move forward.
2. Should You Pursue a Contested or Uncontested Divorce?
In an uncontested divorce, the spouses are in agreement on all of the issues listed above, and neither spouse intends to file on fault-based grounds. All other divorces are considered contested divorces. In many cases, it will be in both spouses’ interests to pursue an uncontested divorce, as this approach saves both time and money. But, if your spouse is unwilling to come to the table on one or more key issues, then pursuing a contested divorce may be your only practical option.
3. Do You Have Everything You Need to Begin the Divorce Process?
To ensure that your divorce goes as smoothly as possible and that you will be prepared to make the decisions you need to make when the time comes, it is a good idea to take several preparatory steps. As we discuss in greater detail below, these steps include (but are not limited to) collecting relevant records, taking notes and getting ready to meet with your Bethesda divorce attorney.
4. Are You Concerned about What Your Spouse Might Do During Your Divorce?
If you are concerned that your spouse might attempt to hide assets, hide income sources, keep your children away from you, or do anything else improper during your divorce, this is a concern you will want to address proactively with your divorce attorney. There are options available for preventing (or remedying) these issues, and you will want to be prepared to take legal action immediately if necessary.
5. How Should You Approach Your Divorce?
Divorcing spouses in Maryland have a handful of different options when it comes to how they want to approach the divorce process. While many couples are able to resolve their differences through attorney-guided divorce settlement negotiations, divorce mediation and collaborative law are both highly-effective tools, and divorce litigation remains an option when needed as well.
5 Tips for Preparing for Your Divorce in Maryland
Along with considering the questions discussed above, there are several more discrete steps spouses in Maryland can take to prepare for their divorces as well. Some general tips include:
1. Make Copies of All Relevant Records
For purposes of your divorce, you will need documentation of your household income, your bank accounts, your investment and retirement accounts, your titled and deeded assets, your debts, and various other items. As you prepare for your divorce, it is a good idea to make copies of these records and create a file that you will be able to share with your Bethesda divorce attorney.
2. Take Notes
In addition to making copies of all relevant records, you should also take notes. Which of your assets do you believe are your (or your spouse’s) separate property? Which of your marital assets are most important to you? What is your ideal post-divorce child custody arrangement? Is there anything you are concerned your spouse might try to use against you? These are all important questions that you will want to answer before meeting with your attorney.
3. Learn about the Divorce Process and Your Divorce Options in Maryland
When preparing to go through a divorce, learning more about the process can help you feel more comfortable. It can also help with formulating your thoughts about specific issues or concerns. Our Divorce FAQs are a good place to start.
4. Prepare a List of Questions for Your Divorce Attorney
If you are ready to meet with a divorce attorney, we recommend that you prepare a list of questions you want to ask during your free initial consultation. This includes any questions you want to ask about the attorney’s background and experience, as well as any questions you want to ask about the divorce process or any specific divorce-related issues.
5. Prepare to Be Open and Honest with Your Divorce Attorney
Finally, you should prepare to be open and honest with your divorce attorney. Discussing the details of your family and financial circumstances can be difficult. It can be especially difficult with someone you’ve just met. But, once you choose an attorney to represent you, you will need to provide your attorney with all of the information he or she needs to advise and represent you effectively. Based on your free initial consultation, you should feel comfortable speaking with your attorney in confidence. If you don’t, you should schedule another consultation at another law firm.
Schedule a Free Initial Consultation with Bethesda Divorce Attorney Brandon Bernstein
If you are ready to speak with an attorney about getting divorced, we invite you to schedule a free initial consultation. To speak with Bethesda divorce attorney Brandon Bernstein in confidence, please call 240-395-1418 or tell us how we can reach you online today.