Things to keep in mind when healing after a divorce

 When a marriage comes to an end, no matter how long it lasted, it can be a very difficult time for all involved. Often times the healing that occurs after a divorce can feel just as stressful as the divorce itself. One may wish for what used to be, one may choose to harbor resentment towards their ex-spouse or one may replay the failed relationship over and over again their minds to attempt to figure out why the marriage ended.

  Healing after a divorce is certainly a process that is different for each person. Jennifer Twardoski, a relationship coach and blogger for The Huffington Post, offers some things to keep in mind when healing after a divorce:

  • Healing takes time and patience. The length of time it takes one to heal can be days, months or years. For others, they may never truly fully heal. Be compassionate with yourself and give yourself the full amount of time you need to heal – do not base your period of healing off of what others have experienced.
  • Analyzing and replaying what happened over and over again is not going to change anything or make you feel better. This is not healthy as you are remaining attached to your suffering, which keeps you out of the present. You can get worn down physically as you put yourself through the grieving process over and over again.
  • Forgiveness is key.  Forgive not only your ex-spouse, but yourself. Even if you feel you are not able to do so, simply saying out loud “I forgive you”, despite whether or not you mean it, will aid in your healing process.
  • No relationship fully ends – it just changes form. Even though you are no longer married to your ex-spouse, the relationship doesn’t end. It has, at one time, existed and therefore continues to impact your life. If you have children with ex-spouse, you will continue to forever have a relationship with them. It will just be in a different form. When you come to accept the new state of the relationship, the healing can begin.

 Cynthia H. Clark & Associates, LLC is an Annapolis-based family law firm serving clients throughout the state of Maryland. If you and your spouse are considering a divorce, please contact our firm to reserve a consultation time at our office.

Emergence of Pet Custody Disputes

Often times, a client will be sitting in their attorney’s office discussing settlement terms of their divorce matter will bring up pet custody. They will say “she can have the timeshare … I don’t care about the Porsche … but under no circumstances can she have Fido!” Fido, or course, is not one of the parties’ children. He is the parties’ eight year old Beagle.

pet custody lawyer

This scenario is becoming more common as pets are not treated as items of property, but rather as members of one’s family and their companions. Elderly persons have a therapeutic, if not spiritual, attachment to their pets. Single persons rely on their pets for security. Grieving persons rely on their pets as a source of comfort. Young children experience pure joy and contentment at the companionship and friendship their pets provide. The Courts are beginning to change their outlook regarding pet custody disputes to adopt this point of view as well. More often than not, people are willing to expend copious amounts of legal fees to ensure that they receive ownership of their companion pets.

This scenario is becoming more common as pets are not treated as items of property, but rather as members of one’s family and their companions. Elderly persons have a therapeutic, if not spiritual, attachment to their pets. Single persons rely on their pets for security. Grieving persons rely on their pets as a source of comfort. Young children experience pure joy and contentment at the companionship and friendship their pets provide. The Courts are beginning to change their outlook regarding pet custody disputes to adopt this point of view as well. More often than not, people are willing to expend copious amounts of legal fees to ensure that they receive ownership of their companion pets.

Animals are technically considered to be property, and in divorce matters, as with any other items of property, the presiding Judge or Magistrate will typically equitably divide up all items of property between the parties. Animals would be included in this mix, similar to items of furniture or kitchen appliances. However, an increasing trend that is now emerging is that the Court is beginning to reject the strict property analysis when determining custody of parties’ pets, and is now using the best interest standard applied to determining child custody disputes. Many Courts are finding that animals have feelings and are individuals, and their welfare and best interest need to be taken into consideration when an award of custody is made.

Among those factors to be considered are which party paid attention to the pet’s basic daily needs; who takes the pet to the veterinarian; who provides for the pet’s social interactions (in the case of dogs) with other dogs and/or people; which party maintains appropriate supervisions to ensure state and local regulations are complied with; and which party has the greatest financial capability of providing for the pet’s needs.

I consider my dog, William Wallace (named after the valiant tough-as-nails warrior in Braveheart, but he is really more of a soft teddy bear), to be my first born child. I treat him just as I treat my son – he gets a birthday party, birthday presents, Christmas presents, and presents for no reason at all. I take him on car rides, and have special “Mommy-Wallace” time with just us. These issues speak to my heart, and if you find yourself in a dispute regarding pet custody, please contact me at Cynthia H. Clark & Associates, LLC

Restoration of Former/Maiden Name

 When a party divorces, often times a spouse will desire returning to your maiden name afterwards.

returning to your maiden name

 Under current Maryland law, a spouse who took on the other party’s name during the marriage may be restored to any former name:

  1. if they no longer wish to use that name;
  2. the name change is requested in the divorce action;
  3. the request is not for any fraudulent, illegal or immoral purpose. The request to begin returning to your maiden name name needs to be made at the time of the divorce and entry of a Judgment of Divorce.

HB793 of the 2017 (PDF) legislative session revised some of these requirements. Effective October 1, 2017, the request to be restored to a former name may now be granted within eighteen (18) months of the date of the divorce upon motion of the party requesting the restoration. Additionally, the request must be made by the spouse seeking the restoration of their former name. A spouse may not request the name change for the other spouse.

Cynthia H. Clark & Associates, LLC is an Annapolis-based family law firm serving clients throughout the state of Maryland. If you and your spouse are considering a divorce, please contact our firm to reserve a consultation time at our office.

Financial Preparation for Divorce

Financial preparation for divorce

Financial preparation for divorce is a large part of discussion when filing for a divorce in Maryland. It is important to review your financial situation when considering a separation to make sure you have a handle on your current financial position.

Review your debt and expenses. What are your monthly household expenses? If you are moving out of the marital home, will any of these monthly expenses increase? For what debt are you going to be responsible for? What assets will you have to fund your expenses and pay for your debt?

Focus on your personal financial preparation for divorce. Look into getting your own credit card if you have a joint card with your spouse or if you need an additional source of funds. Open your own bank account and have your salary directly deposited into this account. Set yourself up for financial success and to be independent.

Consider child support and alimony. If you have children, determine whether you will be responsible for payment of child support to your spouse or if you will be receiving support. Calculate the monthly expenses of your children – activities, clothes, food, etc. If you are the primary monetary contributor to your marriage,

Cynthia H. Clark & Associates, LLC. is an Annapolis-based family law firm serving clients throughout the state of Maryland. If you and your spouse are considering a divorce, please contact our firm to reserve a consultation time at our office.

Co-Parenting: The Transition from Spouses to Former Spouses

co-parenting

Co-Parenting is one of the biggest concerns parents have when going through a divorce and/or separation is how the transition will affect their children. Adjusting to a new schedule and routine is hard on children, and parents should strive to ease as much stress on their children as they can.

A key way of achieving this is to develop a strong and supportive co-parenting relationship with your former spouse. This may not always be easy at first; however, accomplishing same will greatly ease the transition to your new relationship for your children.

It is important to separate the emotions that led to your divorce from the new co-parenting relationship you are forming with your former spouse. Harboring resentments and dredging up past events/feelings will only serve to negatively effect your communication with your former spouse. Your children should be your top priority and holding onto the past does not help to foster a positive environment for them.

No relationship is perfect and certainly disagreements will develop between you and your former spouse despite your best efforts to avoid them. It is helpful to take a step back before engaging in the disagreement to determine if there is a way it can be resolved without further conflict. If the disagreement cannot be resolved, seek outside support to help aid in resolving the conflict. A helpful resource could be co-parenting classes.

Cynthia H. Clark & Associates, LLC. is an Annapolis-based family law firm serving clients throughout the state of Maryland. If you and your spouse are considering a divorce, please contact our firm to reserve a consultation time at our office.

Pets now subject to custody determination in Alaskan divorce matters

pets in divorce cases

Everyone understands that divorces can be messy, tension-filled and highly confrontational. Amongst other disagreements, most soon to be former spouses argue over the division of personal property items – who is going to get the antique vase? The collection of artwork and paintings? The flat screen televisions? The expensive jewelry? and even the pets in divorce cases.

Up until a few weeks ago in Alaska, pets were included in this discussion regarding the division of personal property items because that is how they were viewed by the courts – as items of property to be divided between divorcing spouses. Pets were included in the same analysis as to how a car or collection of home furnishings was to be divided in divorce matters. As a relationship one has with a pet is more important than how much material value they possess, and as people cannot be “bought out” of their share of their pet, the analysis used for dividing property is not a good fit for resolving pet custody disputes.

Due to a recent amendment of Alaska’s divorce statutes, pets are no longer subject to the classification of “property” in terms of how they are viewed in divorce matters. Alaska is the first state in the country to take into consideration the well-being of the animal and to enable judges to assign divorcing couples joint custody of pets. Pets are given the distinction, for the first time, beyond that as items of property, and the court may award custody based upon what is best for the pet, not it’s human owner. Further, the Alaskan amendment also allows courts to include pets in domestic violence protective orders and requires the owners of pets seized due to cruelty or neglect cases to provide payment for the cost of their shelter.

This amendment embodies the sentiment most of us who are pet-owners feels about our pets – they are members of our family whom we love as much as our own human friends and family. Decisions made as to who retains custody of the pets should take into consideration the best interest of the pet, and not solely the desires of the pet-owners. Hopefully this recent amendment will spark a trend that will begin to sweep across the nation and over into Maryland.

Peters & Clark, P.A. is an Annapolis-based family law firm serving clients throughout the state of Maryland. If you and your spouse are considering a divorce, please contact our firm to reserve a consultation time at our office.

Valuation of Marital Assets

One question we are often posed with when negotiating marital settlement agreements when there is a division of assets to be determined is what date is to be used to value those assets – date of separation or date of divorce. The question is not a simple one to answer.

Md. Family Law Code Ann. §8-203 supports the idea of assets being designated as marital property up to the date the judgment of absolute divorce is executed. Additionally, a formula established by case law, the Bangs formula, uses a numerator that includes time that runs up until the date of divorce.

However, an equitable argument can be made, and usually is made, that after a parties’ separation, neither party is contributing to the assets of the other party and is therefore not adding any value to those assets, which supports the date of separation as the date used to value marital assets. Parties can be separated for several years prior to filing a divorce petition or their divorce litigation can continue for a protracted period of time. Many assets, including retirement and investment accounts, will continue to accrue value during the time period between a parties’ separation and judgment of absolute divorce, and a fair and equitable argument can be made that the valuation date for these assets should be the date of the parties’ separation.

Cynthia H. Clark and Associates LLC is an Annapolis-based family law firm serving clients throughout the state of Maryland. If you and your spouse are considering a divorce, please contact our firm to reserve a consultation time at our office.

Helping a Friend or Loved One through Divorce

Divorce is an already paralyzing event for many men and women, and it comes with a flurry of emotions. Guilt, anger, jealousy, fear, and betrayal can be just the tip of the iceberg, depending on the circumstances under which the parties are splitting up.

Friends and loved ones may have a similar feeling of betrayal, and prompting them to “take sides” in the process. Many people believe this is what support looks like, but it can be more harmful than helpful in some situations. The key to being supportive is to help based on what the divorcing person actually needs, and not what you think he or she needs.                     

Avenues for emotional support

Divorce is often painful, and it helps to remember that people react differently to pain. This includes you, even if you are not one of the people getting divorced. You are entitled to be angry, upset, or hurt for yourself and on behalf of your loved one. However, displacing your feelings onto your friend – assuming that he or she feels the way you do – may not be what is best.

Instead, listen to your friend’s concerns, but do not reciprocate with negative discussion about his or her soon to be ex-spouse. This only helps to fuel negative feelings, and if children are in the house, it can cause damage to their relationship with the other parent.

Stay neutral and non-judgmental about anything your friend discloses to you about herself or himself, or his or her damaged relationship. Most people become self-critical or irrational in times of crisis, and may confide in you details that otherwise never would have come to light. It is best to remember that he or she is vulnerable right now, and that his or her feelings or responses can (and probably will) change in time.

Keep your friend on good social footing by getting him or her out of the house. At some point during separation, it is common for parties to go through some form of depression; isolating himself or herself is a sign that this is happening. It’s a normal emotion, but to prevent your friend from becoming more withdrawn, make sure to keep him or her active. If you live far away, keep in touch via email, text, or phone calls, so that he or she knows you are still present in his or her life.

If your friend has children, you can offer to be there physically for the exchange, if warranted. The presence of a third party can make an enormous difference in behavior during pickups and drop offs.

Taking the practical route

Part of separation and divorce means one of the parties will be moving out of the marital residence. The thought of packing all of your belongings, finding a moving company, and securing a new place to live can be overwhelming for anyone. This, along with everything else that comes with divorce, may cause your loved one to feel like he or she is drowning. Help your friend locate resources to make this transition easier. Try making a list of apartments that fit the criteria your friend would prefer, or help with a yard sale if the couple needs to sell the home and belongings. You could offer to babysit or pet sit on a weekend, so your friend can take care of errands or appointments.

If you see that your friend is struggling, suggest that he or she seek out a therapist who specializes in divorce. Talking through certain issues with friends is an immense help, but unless you are a licensed professional, you have a limited amount of assistance to offer. You could also be putting your own mental health at risk by trying to take on every problem that your friend is going through.

Domestic violence can change everything

If an abusive situation is at the root of the marriage breaking up, your friend might need to take safety measures such as filing a police report, or applying for a protective order. Your friend might need help planning to leave safely before doing either of these things.

Your first urge might be to offer your loved one a place to stay with you. The intention is based in love, but this may not be the best option: the other spouse may know where to find your friend, placing both of you in danger. Many victims become nervous and have a change of heart because they fear retaliation. Offer to go with your friend to the police department or the court, so he or she doesn’t feel alone. You could also research domestic violence shelter options that fit your friend’s needs, but let him or her choose where to go.

Finally, urge your friend to seek the advice of an experienced family law attorney, rather than trying to take on the legal system on his or her own. Parties certainly have a right to represent themselves in court, but the value of having a professional who not only understands the nuances of the law, but knows how to maneuver through the procedural quagmires is invaluable to saving your friend’s sanity. Even minor mistakes being made can stall your friend’s case, or cost an equitable share of his or her marital estate. In the end, hiring a family law attorney is the most sensible choice to make.

When a marriage is no longer working, emotions run high and it becomes difficult to keep your best interests in mind. If you believe you are ready to seek the advice you need, let the seasoned professionals with Cynthia H. Clark & Associates, LLC guide you through the difficulties of ending a marriage. Schedule a consultation with a divorce lawyer in our Annapolis office through our contact page, or call us at 410-990-0090.

Are Final Judgments Always Final in Maryland Divorces?

At the end of your divorce proceedings, the court will issue a divorce decree. It is the formal order (sometimes called the final judgments) that says your marriage is over. A divorce decree is issued in limited divorce cases and in absolute divorce cases.

However, just because the divorce decree is a legally binding document, that does not mean the decree cannot be altered later down the line should the need arise. Maryland allows for the modification of divorce decrees if there has been:

  1. A material change in circumstances. As an example, if you or your ex-spouse are subjected to a significant increase or decrease in salary, or if you or your ex-spouse becomes very ill, you can petition the court to modify your divorce decree.
  2. Verifiable fraud. An example would be if your spouse willfully and knowingly commits an act of fraud – such as lying about assets, or withholding key information that is important to the divorce proceedings – you can petition the court to modify your decree in light of the new information. Understand that this works both ways, so it is critically important that you be honest with your divorce lawyer and with the court when you file for divorce.
  3. Threats of violence and/or acts of violence. If your ex-spouse threatened you with some form of harm or retribution, you can petition for a modification. Acting under duress can invalidate a divorce decree.

Is modifying a divorce decree different from modifying a custody agreement?

Your child custody agreement is a part of your divorce decree, and is therefore always subject to modification when the need arises. Custody is always modifiable so long as the children are minors, and the modifiability is not dependent on the Judgment of Divorce being subject to modification.

Generally speaking, in an uncontested divorce, a couple will create a marital settlement agreement (also called a separation agreement, or a property settlement agreement). This document outlines how the couple wishes to proceed in matters of custody, support, alimony, and/or property division. If the couple can agree on some issues but not others, they can create a partial agreement; the court will render decisions on the rest.

When can’t a divorce decree be modified?

Child support and custody can always be subject to modification because the best interests of the child are the primary concern of the court. However, other aspects of your decree – such as alimony – may be protected from modification if there is a provision in the settlement that says it is not subject to modification, or if there is an express waiver included in the settlement.

Modifying any part of your divorce decree can be challenging, especially if your ex-spouse does not want to cooperate, or opposes the modification. Working with an experienced divorce attorney is in your best interest. At Cynthia H. Clark & Associates, LLC, we assist clients in need of post-divorce modifications to custody and support agreements, and alimony agreements.

Things change. When they do, you can rely on our Annapolis divorce attorneys to help you through the Final Judgments process. To schedule a consultation, please call Cynthia H. Clark & Associates, LLC at 410.921.2422 or fill out our contact form.

5 Interesting Divorce Facts and Trends

Humans are complicated creatures. Two people can fall passionately in love and move heaven and earth to be together – yet when things go south, they become filled with a vengeful rage and will stop at nothing to get out of the marriage. Given the fascinating nature of the dynamics of human relationships, a lot of time and effort is spent studying marriage and divorce. The following are five interesting divorce facts and trends about divorce in America.

1. The divorce rate is falling

The belief that says 50% or more marriages end in divorce is not accurate. The overall divorce rate in the United States has been in steady decline. The average divorce rate for first marriages is between 42-45%. Maryland’s divorce rate is 10%, though USA TODAY describes Edgewater as our “divorce capital,” with an average divorce rate of 16.2%.

2. The bigger the wedding, the bigger the divorce.

A research study titled “A Diamond is Forever and Other Fairy Tales” analyzed the relationship between the cost of the wedding celebration and the length of the marriage in the United States. The researchers found an inverse relationship between spending on the engagement ring and wedding ceremony and how long the couple remained married, possibly because the financial stress of paying for elaborate ceremonies increases the odds of marital dissolution. If you want to give your marriage its best chance, perhaps a smaller wedding is the better idea.

3. Long commutes can increase the risk of divorce

If one spouse commutes more than 45 minutes each way to work, it can increase the likelihood of divorce, according to a research study “Til Work Do Us Part: The Social Fallacy of Long-distance Commuting.” Researchers found that rates of separation are higher among couples who have a long-distance commute.

4. “Gray divorce” rates are increasing

Gray divorce is the name given to the trend of people aged 54-64 getting divorced at increasing rates. The Wall Street Journal reports that “For 55- to 64-year-olds, [the divorce rate] climbed from 5 divorces per 1,000 marriages to 15 divorces per 1,000 marriages, and for those 65 and older, it rose from 1.8 to 5.”

These increased rates could be caused by how young the “Baby Boomers” were when they married. Another factor is that many people in this age group are on their second marriage, and second marriages have a greater risk for divorce. Ideas about the moral acceptability of divorce are changing also, which could play a role in the increase.

5. People cheat on their spouses

It turns out that adultery is still one of the most common factors in causing a divorce. Research done by the Institute for Family Studies states that 16% of all spouses (about 20% of all men, and 15% of all women) admitted to having sex with someone who was not their spouse. The averages increased as the populations got older: 16% of women aged 60-69, and 26% of men aged 70-79, admitted to cheating. Per their findings, “Among ever-married adults who have cheated on their spouses before, 40% are currently divorced or separated. By comparison, only 17% of adults who were faithful to their spouse are no longer married.”

If you have come to a place where you feel you have done all you can and it is time to end your marriage, you need an advocate who will represent you and your interests through the divorce process. At Cynthia H. Clark & Associates, LLC, we are here for you. Our Annapolis divorce attorneys have the experience, resources, and compassion to help you through the challenges of divorce. You can reserve a consultation by calling 410.921.2422 or filling out our contact form.