What if My Soon-To-Be-Ex Spouse and I Agree On Nearly All of the Details of Our Divorce?
Family law encourages divorce resolution by agreement of the parties. Unless the agreement is illegal or otherwise against public policy, courts generally honor an agreement reached by the parties to a divorce. However, this does not mean that consulting with a qualified family law attorney is not necessary.
Divorce Resolution and Children
Two general areas of a divorce can be resolved by agreement of the parties. The first relates to minor children of the marriage. If the parties can reach an agreement on custody of the children and a division of parenting time, courts will typically abide by the agreement. The exception is in the rare case that a court finds that the agreement is not in the best interests of the children. A family law attorney can help draft the agreement of the parties and will consider potential issues a layperson may not even be aware of.
An experienced family law attorney can also help the parties resolve the appropriate amount of child support. In the state of Maryland, a specific formula and set of rules determines the appropriate amount of child support and an attorney can help work through that formula.
Divorce Resolution and Property
The other area that can be resolved by agreement of the parties is division of property. Maryland law requires an equitabledivision of marital property, not an equal division of marital property. Even in cases where the parties agree on a property split, an attorney can help a party determine what is marital property and what is nonmarital property.
An attorney can also be helpful in determining the division of retirement assets including retirement accounts and pension plans. This becomes particularly complicated in situations where the retirement assets began to accrue for one or both of the parties prior to the marriage.
A qualified, experienced family law attorney is not going to force a party to fight over divorce issues already resolved. However, it is important for the parties to know what they are legally entitled to before finalizing an agreement. Further, an attorney will be able to draft an appropriate and legally sufficient agreement between the parties for the court.
How Long Will My Divorce Take?
Many factors go into determining how long a divorce takes to finally resolve. The most significant factor, typically, is the level of agreement between the parties. Any issue resolved by agreement of the parties reduces the amount of time it takes to reach final resolution. Achieving agreement occurs in a number of ways.
Sometimes, the parties agree to resolve some or all issues before they contact attorneys. The parties may agree on the division of property. Personal property can often be most easily divided, particularly in the case of short term marriages. Parties may also be able to agree on an equitable division of more significant property.
Parties may also be able to agree on the division of child custody and parenting time. Parents are usually best positioned to determine what arrangements are in the best interests of the children. Child support amounts are frequently more complicated. Child support may require the assistance of an attorney even if other child related issues resolve.
Parties can also resolve their divorce case after hiring attorneys if the lawyers can reach a resolution between them. Experienced attorneys will usually have a good idea what a court would do to resolve a case and can steer the parties to a reasonable resolution.
Divorce Resolution Alternatives
If the attorneys cannot reach a resolution on their own, it may be useful to consult and retain a mediator. The mediator will listen to the arguments of both parties through their attorneys and help the parties reach a resolution of some or all of the issues in dispute. It is important to note that the recommendations of a mediator are not binding on the parties.
The parties may also consider collaborative divorce. A collaborative divorce seeks to resolve a case peacefully, without litigation. Collaborative divorce views the matter as a problem to solve, not a “win” or “lose” contest. Consultation with professionals beyond the law assist with the resolution of any unresolved issues. This can include financial advisors, mental health counselors and child development experts.
Another factor that will determine the length of a case is the complexity of the case. Cases that include unresolved child custody issues will take more time than cases that do not involve children. For example, requiring a parenting study before determining appropriate child custody and visitation arrangements takes considerable time.
The complexity of property issues can also add to the time a resolution will require. For example, where the ownership of a small business becomes an issue, multiple valuations may occur. Other property may also require valuations, again adding to the time required for resolution.
Any disagreement of the marital / nonmarital status of property will require investigation and add time to a case.
Divorce Resolution Generally
Courts consider the equitable division of assets and do not simply divide property evenly. Again, this can add to the time for resolution of a divorce. This is particularly true in cases where one spouse may be hiding assets from the other party. In that case, forensic accountants, and other professionals as appropriate, consult with your lawyer, after examining various records to make determinations about net worth.
If You Have Divorce Questions
Getting a divorce – or even considering a divorce, is often overwhelming. It’s important to have experienced attorneys on your side. At Fait & DiLima, our attorneys have the experience and dedication to meet all your family law needs. Our Rockville and Frederick divorce attorneys will meet with you and answer all your questions.