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Frequently Asked Questions

Howanski, Meadows & Erdman, LLC is available to answer your questions on family law matters. However, we understand that you would like to research your particular concerns first, so we have provided you a list of common questions and prepared answers that we hear on divorce, property division, child support, and child custody. For the best understanding of Maryland family law and how it relates to your case, we advise meeting us for a consultation rather than just relying on what the internet has to offer.

Divorce and Property Division

Q. I have been divorced for a while and would like to change some of the provisions in the divorce decree. If my ex and I agree, would the changes be valid?
Q. What factors does the court consider to divide marital property?
Q. Am I entitled to part of my husband's business?
Q. If my husband and I cannot agree on the division of certain household items, will we have to litigate the division?
Q. Can I appeal a property division court ruling?

Child support, custody, and visitation

Q. My ex is behind on child support. What recourse do I have?
Q. I am the custodial parent. Can I deny visitation?
Q. Since our divorce, my ex-husband has been promoted several times in his job. His income has increased dramatically. Can I ask for an increase in his support payments?

Divorce and property division

Q. I have been divorced for a while and would like to change some of the provisions in the divorce decree. If my ex and I agree, would the changes be valid?

A. After your divorce, you might find it necessary or desirable to modify one or more of the stipulations in your divorce decree, property settlement, or custody and support arrangements. You must follow proper procedure if you want that modification or set of modifications to be valid. An experienced family law attorney can work with you to ensure your desired changes are valid.

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Q. What factors does the court consider to divide marital property?

A. Maryland courts consider the following criteria in property division:

  • Length of the marriage
  • Either person's prior marriages
  • Each person's age, health, station, income, vocational skills, employability, estates, liabilities, and needs
  • Contribution by one spouse to the education, training, or increased earning power of the other spouse
  • Opportunity to acquire future income and assets
  • Sources of income, including medical, retirement, insurance, and other benefits
  • Services rendered as a parent, wage earner, or homemaker
  • Value of each person's property
  • Standard of living established during the marriage
  • Tax consequences of the distribution
  • Custodial parent designation

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Q. Am I entitled to part of my husband's business?

A. Generally, an asset such as a business that a spouse owns prior to marriage is considered separate property and would be owned by the spouse who started the business. But if the business has appreciated during the marriage, the appreciation value may be considered marital property.

Some states will require more than just appreciation during the marriage. Some will require that either or both of the spouses have contributed to the business, through labor, money or other contribution.

The presence of a business can really complicate property division. If you are involved in such a divorce, it might be best to consult an attorney.

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Q. If my husband and I cannot agree on the division of certain household items, will we have to litigate the division?

A. Most divorce court judges and lawyers try to prevent people from litigating the division of household items, because it often will cost more money in legal fees to fight over those items than it would to buy new ones. But if you and your ex-husband cannot agree, it is likely you will need to seek legal help, because your property settlement will not be complete until these items are divided. The judge will simply order that you sell all the property and divide the proceeds.

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Q. Can I appeal a property division court ruling?

A. All states have a statute of limitations, a period of time after the finalization of the divorce in which a party may file a notice of appeal. The time limit can often be fairly short, perhaps even a month. After that, any chance of opening the judgment depends on the facts of the judgment and state law. Some states have an open-ended rule that allows a party to seek relief from an unjust order for many years. However, "unjust" is very different than simply not liking the judgment.

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Child Support, Custody and Visitation

Q. My ex is behind on alimony and child support. What recourse do I have?

A. You can go to the court clerk's office in the court that ordered child support and request the clerk issue a garnishment against the supporting parent’s wages. To do this, you need to know your ex's place of employment, address, and Social Security number. If your ex is at least one month behind, the court sends a garnishment to the employer and the support will be taken out of his or her paycheck. You could also go after your ex's property, but this is a longer process and might not be as satisfying, since cars and homes are often leased and mortgaged. Another option is to file a petition for contempt and get an order to show cause why the payments are not being made. This puts your ex back in court. A skilled family law attorney can review the options with you and guide you to the best solution for your needs.

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Q. I am the custodial parent. Can I deny visitation?

A. The purpose of visitation rights is for children of a divorced couple to understand they have two parents who are entitled to love their children and be loved in return. If the children come back from a weekend with their non-custodial parent and are upset or tell you they do not want to go anymore, that is not reason to deny visitation unless their health and welfare are endangered by the visitation. If you are having a disagreement with your ex or harbor ill feelings, that is not reason to deny visitation. However, the non-custodial parent is entitled to reasonable visitation. That means if he or she wants to see your child in the middle of the night or is drunk or seems to be under the influence of illegal drugs, you do not necessarily have to permit visitation.

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Q. Since our divorce, my ex-husband has been promoted several times in his job. His income has increased dramatically. Can I ask for an increase in his support payments?

A. You can ask for an increase in support or a decrease in paying support if there is a material change. It is best to consult with an attorney to calculate child support guidelines to determine if it is time to pursue a modification proceeding.
Keep in mind any increase in your income will be factored into the child support guidelines as well.

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