Divorce Lawyers Serving Maryland
Divorce can be a stressful and life-altering event for all family members, including children. When a family divides, the legal, financial, and emotional complexities that arise can feel overwhelming. The Bishop Law Group knows the strain and hardships that family law cases present. We are here to guide you through these troubling times with expertise and compassion.
At The Bishop Law Group, our seasoned Baltimore family law attorneys will listen to your side of the story, answer your questions, and address your concerns. We know what a difficult time this is for you and your family, and we strive to find the most effective and cost-efficient solution to your problems. Above all, this is your life and your case; we will not make any decisions without your involvement and approval.
If you are seeking an experienced and compassionate family law attorney you can trust, call The Bishop Law Group today at (410) 390-3101 to discuss the details of your case. Our firm proudly serves clients throughout Maryland, including Baltimore, Ocean City, and other nearby areas.
Divorce is almost always unpleasant, even when it is uncontested. The simple truth is that emotions run high when discussing the end of a relationship that may go back years and/or involve children. Our firm recognizes the difficult emotions that accompany divorce. As compassionate divorce attorneys, our mission is not to eliminate the emotions of divorce, but to assist our clients in achieving a fair, equitable agreement that serves spouses and their children.
Maryland law recognizes two types of divorce: limited divorce and absolute divorce. Limited divorce refers to what many people think of as legal separation. In a limited divorce, both spouses are physically separated but are still legally married under Maryland law. During this time of separation, both spouses continue to make temporary decisions about property possession, alimony, and child custody.
A limited divorce may be a suitable option for couples who need more time to sort out a permanent divorce or are not yet ready to end their marriage.
Because limited divorce does not mean that a marriage has legally ended, adultery can still occur (and impact divorce proceedings) if one spouse has relations with another person.
In Maryland, an absolute divorce is the total termination of a marriage. Once an absolute divorce has been finalized, spouses are free to remarry. Grounds for absolute divorce may include behavior such as adultery, abandonment, abuse, and more.
To obtain an absolute divorce, one spouse must file for divorce through Maryland’s circuit court system. When this happens, spouses have the choice of agreeing to divorce without attorneys or having a court preside over the divorce and decide the conditions of its outcomes.
For spouses who can agree on all of the terms of the divorce, an uncontested divorce may be an ideal option. Uncontested divorces can be quicker and cheaper than contested divorces and can be completed out of court. Even in these situations, it is still important to obtain an experienced divorce attorney to ensure your divorce agreement is valid and enforceable, and that all documents are filed correctly. This will help to avoid surprises down the road and save you money in the long run.
This type of divorce occurs when couples cannot agree on all of the terms of the divorce. Contested divorces are more complicated than non-contested divorces, and typically require the filing of a divorce complaint, an exchange of financial information, and some involvement of a judge. The level of complexity in these divorces depends greatly on the intricacies of financial and property issues and the opinions of both spouses.
Maryland is one of several states that allows “no-fault” divorces. In this type of divorce, spouses do not have to offer specific grounds or wrongdoings in order to file for divorce; the only requirement is that they must be able to prove that they have been voluntarily separated for at least 12 months or involuntarily separated for at least two years.
This type of divorce occurs when one spouse accuses the other of bad conduct such as adultery, desertion, cruelty, or conviction of a felony as potential grounds for a divorce.
While a divorce constitutes the end of a valid marriage, an annulment invalidates a marriage and signifies that it never existed legally from the beginning. In order to qualify for an annulment, specific conditions must be met, which may include:
- Fraud: This means that your spouse, whom you trusted fully, intentionally misled you and caused you subsequent damage.
- Withheld information: This includes crucial information that was intentionally withheld from you, such as impotency, pregnancies outside of the marriage, or a felony conviction.
- A defect in the marriage: Marriage defects refer to serious errors in the marriage process, which can include a legally unqualified person officiating the ceremony, an invalid marriage license, a spouse who was also married to someone else at the time, or one or both parties being underage or mentally handicapped at the time.
Legal annulments differ from religious annulments. Religious annulments may be pursued after a secular divorce is completed. When considering the dissolution of your marriage, it is best to consult with a Baltimore family law attorney who can thoroughly explain all of your legal options and recommend the best course of action for you and your family.
The division of property and debts is one of the most complex aspects of divorce. Equitable distribution does not mean splitting a couple’s property right down the middle, rather, it is intended to divide property as fairly as possible. To do this, the court classifies the properties of the spouses as:
- Separate property: This describes property brought into the marriage, acquired after the marriage, or received as a gift.
- Marital property: This refers to property acquired with joint marital funds during the course of a marriage and before separation. This includes income earned and is subject to division upon divorce.
Estimating the value of separate and marital properties can be difficult, particularly when working to determine the equitable division of complicated business interests and retirement assets. Our experienced divorce attorneys are exceptionally skilled at handling even the most complex property divisions for clients with diverse backgrounds and concerns. We understand the intricacies of equitable distribution and can advise you on a variety of property and asset matters related to:
- Investment portfolios
- Military benefits
- Pension plans
- Retirement accounts, including traditional IRAs, Roth IRAs and 401(k)s
- Compensation packages
- Business interests
When you work with The Bishop Law Group, you gain access to a wealth of resources. Our accomplished divorce lawyers have earned a reputation for excellence for their professionalism and diligent advocacy in both litigation and negotiation sessions. If you are facing the division and distribution of your property, you mustn’t leave anything to chance. Contact our attorneys today to protect your fair share and rightful property.
Spousal support, also referred to as alimony or maintenance, is money paid from one spouse to the other to provide financial support after the divorce. The primary types of spousal support in Maryland include:
- Alimony during the wait for the divorce: This is also called “alimony pedente lite”. Courts may award this type of alimony between the time spouses file for divorce (and request alimony) and the time the divorce is final. This type of alimony is awarded in an effort to maintain the status quo in a marriage during the divorce. It does not necessarily mean that alimony will be awarded after the divorce.
- Alimony after the divorce: This type of alimony is paid after the divorce. Alimony in Maryland is either indefinite or rehabilitative. Permanent or indefinite alimony continues for a long period of time, possibly until the death of a spouse. Rehabilitative alimony is meant to be a short-term measure that enables a spouse to get back on his or her feet, such as going to school to learn a new job skill.
When determining the terms of alimony, namely who pays, how much, and for how long, the basic consideration revolves around one spouse’s financial need compared to the other’s ability to pay. Some of the factors that are considered when determining spousal support include:
- The needs of each party (including minor children)
- The financial assets of each spouse
- The respective contributions of each spouse to the marriage
- The supporting spouse’s ability to pay
- The established standard of living during the marriage
- The present and future earning capacity of each spouse
- The duration of the marriage
- The age of the spouses
Child Custody, Visitation, and Support
The prospect of divorce can unleash a flood of emotions and uncertainty. Even if you and your spouse are parting on good terms, divorce can be complicated and frightening. When children are involved, emotions run even higher. In some fortunate situations, couples are able to easily reach an agreement and keep their children out of the battle, even when there is considerable animosity in other areas. But for many couples, child custody, visitation, and support are points of contention.
There are a number of factors to consider when determining the terms of custody, visitation, and support. Ultimately, the goal is always to do what is in the best interests of the child or children.
Child custody describes the care, control, and maintenance of a child. While both parents are presumed to be the natural and proper custodians of a child, the court may be asked to determine custody in some circumstances. The best interest of the child guides the court’s decision. Different types of custody include:
- Sole custody: One parent is given the primary responsibility for the care of the child, including all of the daily decisions about the child’s life.
- Joint physical custody: Both parents share physical and custodial care of the child.
- Joint legal custody: Both parents share custodial care of the child, although the child’s primary residence may be with only one parent.
Even if a parent doesn’t have primary physical custody of a child, he or she is entitled to visitation with that child. Exceptions are made when visitation is not in the child’s best interest. If parents are unable to come to an agreement on a visitation schedule, a judge will order a schedule. These schedules often account for a number of special occasions such as holidays, vacations, school breaks, and other events specified by either parent.
Parents have a duty to financially support their children. The amount of child support that is contributed by each parent after a divorce is determined by a number of factors, including the amount of money each parent contributes to the couples combined gross income, which parent is paying for health care costs, and the child’s specific financial needs, which can include extraordinary medical needs, child care and more.
Our seasoned family law attorneys have extensive experience in these matters and are committed to reaching a fair and equitable outcome that serves the best interest of the child.
Custody and support terms are binding, but they aren’t set in stone. As time passes parents remarry, get new jobs with new schedules and new locations. The needs and activities of children change, as well. It’s not uncommon for spouses to want to change the terms of a prior decree respecting the issues of support and custody.
If you are seeking a modification in the terms of your divorce, you must show a substantial and ongoing change of circumstances. Some examples of changing circumstances that may justify a modification include:
- Dramatic change in income
- Relocation of a parent
- One parent’s lifestyle is a potential hazard to the child
- Child’s needs and relationships have materially changed
- A remarriage has caused significant changes to the custody schedule
Our divorce lawyers are adept at handling these changes and more. If you would like to modify the terms of your custody or support agreements, call our office today.
Protective Orders Against Domestic Violence
Protective orders, also known as restraining orders, prevent violent individuals from contacting or sharing households with those under protection. If your safety or the safety of your children is threatened by a violent spouse or domestic partner, The Bishop Law Group can help you seek a protective order from the court.
A protective order can prohibit an abuser or someone who is threatening abuse from:
- Making threats or following you during your daily activities
- Entering your workplace or school
- Entering or waiting outside your residence (even if the abuser also lives there)
- Contacting you by telephone, email, text, or other means
Protecting your right to live safely, free from emotional or physical abuse, is our top priority. While no restraining order can guarantee the safety of an abuse victim, it does create an important legal obstacle for abusers, and there are legal consequences if the orders are disobeyed.
Why Choose The Bishop Law Group?
If you are facing a divorce, child custody dispute, or other family law issue, selecting the right family law attorney is the single most important decision you can make. When you choose The Bishop Law Group to handle your legal matter, you can rest assured that your case will be given the individualized attention, care, and effort it deserves.
Our experienced attorneys are often able to settle difficult cases and avoid the need for lengthy, and expensive litigation. However, if a settlement is not in your best interests, we will not hesitate to fight aggressively on your behalf in court. We always strive to resolve disputes as amicably as possible, but we understand there are many cases in which this is not possible.
In many cases, once the opposing side realizes that you are not afraid to take your case to trial and will not accept a less than fair resolution, the other side’s settlement offer improves substantially as the trial date approaches. Through meticulous preparation, assertive negotiations, and aggressive litigation, The Bishop Law Group has helped many clients achieve fair and equitable outcomes in their divorces.
Our experienced family law attorney will:
- Support you from the beginning of your divorce process through its completion
- Communicate on your behalf with your spouse’s counsel if the divorce is contested
- Fight on your behalf to ensure you receive your fair share of assets and property
- Serve as your advocate in child custody disputes
- Ensure that all required paperwork is submitted promptly and properly
- Help you arrive at a fair agreement with your spouse as quickly as possible
The attorneys at The Bishop Law Group share more than 75 years of combined experience. We have helped families across Maryland in a range of family law matters. We know the emotional challenges these cases present and we understand the complexities of Maryland law. We can provide the trusted legal counsel you need at a negotiating table or in a courtroom.
- Real Client Testimonials
“Attorney Brian Bishop was GREAT!!!!!I was referred to him by a friend who spoke highly of him and he definitely met my expectations by immediately getting rid of what could have been a very unfavorable legal situation. He’s sharp, knowledgeable and has the resources to get done whatever tasks he takes. Definitely a thumbs up in my book!!”
- Walt Vegas
“Brian helped me out of a bind and if I ever need a lawyer again Brian would be the first person that I call. Hands down the best of the best!”
- Brian Schott
“I had a case with The Bishop Law firm. The law firm help me settle my case fast, and I am able to get my kids Christmas stuff this year. I appreciated the way they went beyond to help me. Thanks a million!”
- Cynthia Bevans
“I owe Brian Bishop my freedom. I was wrongly accused of a shooting and he fought my case so hard that the prosecutors ended up dismissing my case after Mr. Bishop reviewed my discovery and found evidence that showed I was innocent. Thank you Mr. Bishop.”
- Justin Prestia
“Excellent law firm!! Everyone is very nice a professional yet down to earth. I highly recommend them!!”
- Michelle Stahl
“Brian Bishop, Esq. is honest, highly motivated and gets exceptional results for his clients in the areas of criminal defense and personal injury law. Highly recommended!”
- John Fisher
Contact a Baltimore Family Law Attorney Today
Family law matters represent some of the most difficult times in our clients’ lives. We are committed to helping you and your family resolve your legal issues fairly and move forward with confidence.
If you are facing a divorce, custody dispute, or other family law issue, please contact the family law attorneys at The Bishop Law Group today online or at (410) 390-3101 to discuss your case. We serve families in Baltimore, Ocean City, and other areas in Maryland.
Does It Matter Who Files for Divorce First in Maryland?
If you and your spouse are divorcing under 12-month separation terms or mutual consent, it may not matter which party is the first to file for divorce.
However, If you file for absolute divorce on contested grounds, the spouse who files first (the plaintiff) tells his or her story first, which can set the tone for the rest of the divorce proceedings. When child support, child custody, financial spousal support, and possession of the family home are contested, filing first and setting the tone can be very important.
If you depend on your spouse to cover daily living expenses, or if children are involved, it may be in your best interest to file for divorce as soon as you are eligible.
Alimony awards, child support calculations, and the determination of child custody can take time. Several months may pass between the time you file for divorce and the time that the court makes a decision in your case. The sooner you file for divorce, support, or custody, the sooner you can get relief. Fortunately, your attorney can help you request that child support or alimony decisions are awarded retroactively from the time when you initially filed.
Do I Have To Be a Maryland Resident To File for a Divorce?
To file for a divorce in Maryland, you must be a Maryland resident for at least one year. There is an exception if the grounds for divorce arose after you moved to the state.
Will My Divorce Case Be Heard by a Judge?
If you have a family law case in Maryland that involves alimony, child custody, or visitation, you will likely appear before what is known as a “family magistrate.” Magistrates are attorneys who work for the county (or contract with the county) to make recommendations in cases of divorce. Family magistrates are familiar with the Divorce Code and have experience practicing family law in Maryland. Magistrates listen to the facts presented by both parties and determine the outcome of cases.
A court order will be issued if both parties agree to the magistrate’s findings. However, if either party objects to the magistrate’s findings, they can request the case be heard by a judge.
What Is Mediation?
Mediation is a process in which spouses work with a neutral third party to attempt to reach a settlement. The intention of mediation is to bring together two parties to reach a resolution. During mediation, both sides present their views and a mediator works with them to try to work out a settlement.
How Long Does Mediation Take?
While not always the case, mediation often requires five sessions or less to conclude. A number of factors play a role in determining how many mediation sessions are required to reach a resolution. Each mediation session generally lasts about two hours. The first session usually focuses on gathering information, setting ground rules, and explaining the process.
Do I Still Need a Lawyer If We Are Going to Divorce Mediation?
Even if you are going through mediation in your divorce, a lawyer can still offer many benefits. An attorney can help you understand your legal exposure (i.e. your best and worst-case scenarios for financial support, child custody, reimbursements, property debt, etc.).
Divorce lawyers are sometimes retained to join a spouse in mediation sessions, or to strategize, support, and coach spouses throughout the mediation process and review and/or revise final divorce forms. In some cases, spouses only need one to three hours with an experienced lawyer to devise a strategy.
How Long Does It Take To Get a Divorce in Maryland?
The length of time it takes to get a divorce in Maryland depends on the grounds for divorce, the length of the separation, and numerous other factors related to the size of the marital estate and the length of the marriage.
The divorce process in Maryland is a lengthy one. If you do not have grounds to file for an immediate absolute divorce, you must wait one year and one day before you can file a complaint for a divorce. After that, it may take several more months before the parties appear in court.
What Is Marital Property?
Marital property comprises all of the assets acquired by either one or both spouses throughout the marriage. This is true regardless of how assets are titled (unless they were received as an inheritance or a gift, or if they are excluded by agreement).
How Is Property Divided in a Divorce?
Maryland is an “equitable property” state, meaning that all marital property acquired during the marriage is to be divided equally. Marital property comprises any property acquired by either spouse during the marriage. This property should be divided equally unless the court determines that equal division would be unjust.
Divorcing couples often determine how to divide their property and debts themselves, rather than leave it to a judge. However, if spouses cannot agree, their dispute can be submitted to the court, and state law will be used to divide the property.
Can Divorce and Separation Affect Your Credit?
It can be difficult for people going through a divorce or separation to change from a two-income household to a single-income household. Many find that their monthly expenses double when they now have separate household and living costs. This situation can place an incredible burden on both parties to cover all of their expenses in a timely manner. When billing deadlines are missed, credit scores can be affected.
What Happens to My Personal Information When I File for Divorce?
It is now more difficult for sensitive personal information to make its way into court documents and onto the Internet (see Md. Gen. Provi. 1-322.1). This helps to protect Maryland residents – and those filing for divorce – from being subjected to the possibility of identity theft or an invasion of privacy.