Maryland Divorce & Family Law Attorneys
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111 Rockville Pike, Suite #740 - Rockville, MD 20850
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301-587-2099
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FAQ’s

Frequently Asked Questions

How Can a Family Law Attorney Help Me?

Family Law litigation is often emotional and the hardest point of your life. It is hard to see the big picture and make decisions during these times, but an experienced attorney can help. The attorneys at Hecht & Associates, LLC are trusted legal professionals who stand by your side and help ensure that you, your children, and your loved ones are properly represented and protected during any legal process.

Maryland Family Law Practice Areas
• Divorce Representation
• Custody Litigation
• Financial Support
• Protective Orders
• Appeals

How and where do I file a divorce in Maryland?

Your divorce attorney files a Maryland Complaint for Divorce with your county’s Circuit Court, depending on the county where you live. It is essential to have an experienced Maryland Family Law Attorney prepare your Complaint so that all relief to which you are entitled is requested from the Court and to ensure that your Complaint is filed with the proper forms. From there, the court generates documents called the summons. Once a process server or sheriff serves your spouse with the papers, he or she has:

• 30 days to respond if your spouse lives in Maryland
• 60 days to respond if your spouse lives out-of-state
• 90 days if your spouse lives in another county

To learn more about this process — or to discuss specific concerns about your case — contact one of our experienced attorneys today.

Can’t I Just File for Legal Separation?

It is a common misconception in Maryland that a party can file for Legal Separation. In Maryland, there is no statutory relief or procedure for Legal Separation. However, a Family Law Attorney can represent and prepare an enforceable Marital Settlement Agreement which can cover all division of marital assets (including retirement accounts and pensions), custody, child support, alimony, and real estate. Hecht & Associates understands that not all marriages end in contentious litigation, which is why our attorneys are well-versed and ready to help assist you in preparing a formal and enforceable Agreement without the need for court intervention.

What is the difference between a “typical” divorce and a military divorce?

While military divorces and typical divorces are more alike than they are different, there are some important differences between the two under Maryland law:

First, the law allows for the postponement of a divorce proceeding while an active military member is deployed, and for as long as two months after he or she returns home. If the divorce is uncontested, however, the law may allow the deployed partner to sign an affidavit instead of requiring in-person service of legal documents.

Second, the division of assets can sometimes be different in a military divorce. This is because federal law disallows division or distribution of military retirement unless the marriage lasted a decade or longer.

What factors affect asset distribution in a Maryland divorce?

Maryland law follows equitable distribution laws when it comes to dividing property. While equitable does not always mean equal, many divorcing partners usually end up with roughly half of the marital assets, including real property, pensions earned during the marriage, and other investments.

Factors the court considers when determining who receives which assets and how much include:
• Each partner’s role in the divorce
• Each person’s monetary and nonmonetary contributions to the family and home
• Each party’s health, age, and ability to earn a living
• Other resources available to each partner

What is a high-asset divorce?

When partners with a large net worth file for divorce, they become involved in a high-asset divorce. Separating assets with a high net worth is often more difficult, and often leads to additional conflict or disagreement than in your typical divorce.

This is especially true when one partner earned the majority of the income while the other stayed home to care for children or keep the house. These cases often require expert testimony from forensic accountants, appraisers, and other professionals.

How does the court value assets in a high-asset divorce?

Before the court can analyze assets and determine how to equitably distribute them, it is necessary to have an expert appraise them. First, the judge decides which assets qualify as marital property and which qualify as separate property. Then, appraisers and other valuation experts put a price on assets such as:

• The family home
• Vacation homes
• Real estate investments
• Retirement savings
• Stock market investments
• Pension plans
• Cars or other high-value vehicles
• Art collections
• Wine collections
• Other collectibles or investments

Are Physical and Legal Custody the Same Thing?

No. In fact, in Maryland Custody Cases, one parent can be granted sole legal custody of the minor children but both parents be awarded shared physical custody. Physical custody is the access or amount of time that the child/children spend with a parent. The court looks at a number of factors when determining physical custody but there can be various visitation schedules or dependent on what the court determines in best for the minor child(ren). Legal custody is the ability for one or both of the parents to make long range decisions for the minor child(ren). This includes education, religious training, discipline, medical care, and other matters of major significance.

What Is a Custody Evaluator and How Do I Get One?

A custody evaluator is a mental health professional, usually a psychologist, with special training and experience in reviewing family situations and making recommendations to judges about what custody arrangements and parenting plan or schedule would be in the best interests of the children involved. Sometimes the court appoints a Best Interest Attorney — a lawyer who represents the children’s interests— instead of a custody evaluator, but the process is very much the same either way.

The evaluator’s recommendation is not binding on the court, but as a rule, judges give it a lot of weight—it’s the only neutral information they have about your family situation and dynamics. An experienced Custody Litigator can help you file a Motion for Custody Evaluation with the Court and help facilitate a private or court-appointed evaluator based on your individual needs.

What Should I Do if My Ex Isn’t Following the Court Order?

Violating a custody order is actually a form of breaking the law. Since the custody order is a court order, both parents are bound by this order. When a parent violates the custody order, there are legal consequences. If your Ex is not complying with the Court Order, Hecht & Associates can help you get relief through filing a Petition for Contempt. A motion for contempt of court in a child custody context simply alleges that your ex violated the court’s custody order and requests Court intervention to help enforce the order. It is imperative that you have a Family Law Attorney help prepare your Petition for Contempt so that all required components are well-pled in your Petition and the Court can grant the relief you have requested.

Is The Court More Likely To Award Mom Custody?

No. In Maryland Custody Cases, the paramount concern in determining custody of a minor child, is what is in the minor child’s best interest. The court looks at a number of standards when determining what is in the child’s best interest, but the gender of the parent is not a deciding factor. It is a common misconception that Father’s are not entitled to custody of their children simply because they are a father. Hecht & Associates can help Fathers argue for custody of their minor children and break through the custodial parent stereotype.

What is Supervised Visitation?

Supervised visitation is when the noncustodial parent can visit with the child only when supervised by another adult. It is used to keep the child safe and support the parent/child relationship at the same time. The Court can order supervised visitation occur at a Supervised Visitation Center with professional supervisors overseeing the access, or can even order a family member to serve as a supervisor. Supervised visitation may be necessary when:

• There has been physical, sexual, or emotional abuse of the child by a parent
• There has been physical, sexual, or emotional abuse of one parent by the other parent
• A parent has a substance abuse problem
• A parent has an uncontrolled mental illness that poses harm to the child
• There is risk of kidnapping or abduction by one of the parents
• A parent has neglected the child
• A parent has been absent from the child’s life and wants to start a relationship with the child
• There have been any potentially dangerous family situations

Who is eligible for a civil protective order in Maryland?

In order to qualify to apply for a civil protective disorder, you must have a certain relationship with the abuser. If you meet any of the following criteria, you are eligible:

• Married to the abuser
• Related to the abuser
• Previously married to the abuser
• Have a child with the abuser
• Currently living with the abuser
• Living with the user for at least three months of the previous year
• Having a sexual relationship with the abuser
• Having a sexual relationship with the abuser within the last year
• The stepparent or stepchild of an abuser, with some limitations
• A vulnerable adult, such as those with disabilities
Even if you do not qualify for a civil protective order, Hecht & Associates may be able to help you file for a peace order, which offers many of the same protections. Call us today at 301-587-2099 to learn more about either of these options.

When do I need a protective order?

Any time you or your child is a victim of abuse — or you have reason to believe you may become a victim of abuse — a protective order may be necessary. Some of the most common reasons people seek this type of protection includes:

• Stalking
• Physical abuse, including choking, shoving, hitting, kicking, biting, etc.
• Assault
• Threats of assault or other harm
• Any act that makes you fear serious harm
• Rape or attempted rape
• Sexual assault or attempted sexual assault
• Holding you against your will
• Physical, mental, or emotional injury to a child

How can I get a restraining order?

Your county courthouse is open 24 hours a day for those who need to apply for civil protective orders. If you need one immediately, many courthouses offer assistance with the initial application, called a Petition for Protection.

If you can contact Hecht & Associates beforehand, we can walk you through this process. Hecht & Associates can also help you file for Emergency Family Maintenance when you file this petition. Even if you begin the process without legal representation, it is a good idea to talk to a lawyer as soon as possible after applying for the order of protection.

When you apply for a restraining order, it is paramount that you list every example of threats or abuse between the abuser and you or your children. We can help you compile this list, as well as the documentation needed to prove this history of abuse. Common evidence in these cases includes:

• Pictures of your injuries
• Medical records
• Witness statements
• Police reports
• Court documents

What can I expect in court?

In order to ensure you receive protection as soon as possible, you will see a judge within 24 hours of filing a Petition for Protection. As long as you provided reasonable grounds for a civil protective order on your application, the judge should issue a temporary restraining order.

Depending on your situation and you needs, this order may:

• Grant you temporary custody of a child or children
• Order the abuser to refrain from abusing you
• Order the abuser to stop harassment or stalking
• Order the abuser to stop all contact with you
• Force the abuser to leave your shared home
• Keep the abuser from your home, workplace, children’s school, and daycare

A police officer will serve the order upon the abuser, which becomes effective immediately upon receipt. This order usually lasts for seven days, and a hearing for a final civil protective order is necessary before this expires. The judge will notify you of this date.

What can a restraining order do?

Once the judge reviews the evidence against your abuser, the court will rule on whether or not there is enough evidence to show abuse occurred. If the evidence supports it, the final protective order could force the abuser to:

• Stop all threats and harassment
• Cease all contact
• Stay away from your home, workplace, and places where your children stay
• Move out of a shared home
• Pay monetary support, including spousal support and child support
• Turn over a shared automobile to you
• Surrender any firearms or other weapons
• Participate in a counseling, anger management or addiction recovery program

In addition, these orders can also offer protection to your children or pets by giving you temporary custody. While most civil protective orders last for one year, some circumstances allow for adding an additional six months to this period. Hecht & Associates can help you ensure you and your family receive the protection you need to the extent the legal system allows.

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