5 Tips for Making a Good Impression in Maryland Divorce Court

5 Tips for Making a Good Impression in Maryland Divorce Court

At some point, you may have to make a court appearance during your divorce case. Depending on the circumstances of your case, you may have to sit in the witness chair and give testimony. Here are 5 tips for making a good impression in Maryland divorce court.

Clients are often nervous about this part of the divorce process, especially if it is the first time they have gone before a judge. If you want to make a positive impression on the judge, being prepared, dressing appropriately, and managing your emotions will go a long way towards helping you to have a successful divorce court appearance. Follow these five tips, along with the guidance and advice from your Annapolis divorce attorney, and you should feel confident and prepared to appear in court.

1. Consult with your Annapolis divorce attorney

When you must appear in court, your divorce lawyer will take the time to explain what is going to happen at the hearing, what is required of you, and what you can expect to happen. If you will be testifying, your attorney can help you prepare for the types of questions you might be asked.

One important note: if anything changes in the days before your appearance, make sure to update your attorney. This could mean bringing updated paperwork or documentation to your consultation, or simply calling the office. It is important that you and your divorce lawyer are on the same page at all times, so make sure to keep everyone abreast of any changes.

2. Prepare your talking points

Know what you are going to say and practice answering questions from your lawyer before you go to court. Be sure to review any paperwork you have, especially if there is a police report, so that your answers remain factually accurate.

3. Dress appropriately

An important part of making a good impression is being appropriately dressed, and a judge will take notice of how you present yourself. You want to come across as confident and dignified. A suit and tie for men, and business attire for women, will show that you understand the seriousness of what is happening.

4. Be respectful, but say as little as possible

Speak in a civil, respectful way to the judge and everyone else in the courtroom. Divorce is emotional, and we understand how easy it is to become overwhelmed. However, if you lose your temper, or begin behaving inappropriately, it will not help your case.

When asked a question, always respond with the truth. Listen carefully and answer the question that is being asked. Clients often have the urge to explain themselves further, but the best thing you can do is speak clearly and concisely. If you do not understand a question, or if you need time to compose yourself, ask for the question to be repeated.

5. Be aware of your reactions and body language

Even while you are sitting in court listening and observing, your body language and your reactions are being observed. Avoid looking cross, rolling your eyes or shaking your head in disgust or disagreement. You want the judge to see you remaining calm and poised, being respectful and speaking with confidence, despite how nervous or angry you might be feeling. When the hearing is over, you can go and vent your frustrations with your friends. For the moment, being prepared, having a plan for how you will respond to questions, and projecting a strong, confident demeanor will ensure that you make an excellent impression in a Maryland divorce hearing.

Feeling nervous or a bit overwhelmed about appearing in court is natural. Working with the right attorney can help assuage those fears, and prepare you for what is to come. The experienced Annapolis divorce lawyers at Cynthia H. Clark & Associates, LLC are here to be your advocate and work toward the best possible outcome for you. To schedule an initial consultation at our office in Annapolis, please call 410.921.2422 or fill out our contact form.

How Mental Health Can Affect a Divorce

How Mental Health Can Affect a Divorce

Mental illness can affect all aspects of a divorce. For some couples, a spouse’s condition can be the grounds for the divorce; for others, mental illness could lead one spouse to fear for his or her safety, or the safety of the children. The topic itself is difficult to discuss, but it is necessary to do so. According to Resources to Recover, approximately 3.3% of all adults in Maryland are diagnosed with some kind of severe mental illness or disorder, yet only about 56.8% receive some form of treatment.

For people whose spouses suffer from conditions like schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder, paranoia, or anxiety, the fear that filing for divorce could trigger their spouses is very real. For people who have these conditions, the fear that their spouses will try to use their health against them in order to gain custody of the children or the family home is also very real.

This is why, if you choose to file for divorce, you need experienced representation. You will also need a strong support system – not only from your friends and loved ones, but also from your divorce attorney. Our clients reap the benefits of our services not only in regard to the process, but also in the resources and tools we can provide. Whether you are living with a mental illness, or living with someone who has mental illness, Cynthia H. Clark & Associates, LLC can help.

What happens if it is the child who suffers?

This is one of the more difficult, and delicate, situations that parents face. If you and your spouse are planning to divorce, and you have a child who suffers from mental illness, it can affect how you inform your child, how you choose to handle custody, and how you decide to seek medical care. Children are often ill-equipped to deal with the effects of their own illnesses, and we know that this can add an extra burden.

Remember that in the end, the judge will do what is best for your child. If you and your spouse cannot make those determinations on your own, the judge will do it for you. In some cases, it may be necessary to arrange for the appointment of a guardian, or a Best Interest Attorney, to protect your child’s rights and future.

Should you seek an annulment?

If you wish to separate from a spouse with mental illness, divorce is not your only option. An annulment means that a marriage was never valid. Where divorce ends a marriage, an annulment makes it as though the marriage never happened in the first place.

Annulments are sometimes sought on religious grounds, but they are not the only grounds. Marriages in Maryland can be considered void if the other party was legally insane or was mentally incompetent at the time of the marriage.

Seeking divorce when your spouse has a mental illness

In Maryland, you can seek a divorce on the grounds of insanity. A party claiming a spouse is “insane” must show, according to the Maryland Code, all three of the following:

  • Confinement “in a mental institution, hospital, or other similar institution for at least 3 years before the filing of the application for divorce.”
  • A court can “determine from the testimony of at least 2 physicians who are competent in psychiatry that the insanity is incurable and there is no hope of recovery.”
  • That one of the parties has been a resident of Maryland for at least two years before the filing of the application for divorce.

How mental health affects issues of custody

Family courts in Maryland consider many different factors when deciding which parent should have legal or physical custody. The legal standard is “the best interests of the child.” Some of the mental health factors courts consider include:

  • The mental, emotional, and physical health of the parents.
  • The ability of each parent to provide a home and financial stability of the child.
  • Any history of abuse, prior arrest or violence.

Generally, courts will tolerate moderate use of alcohol. If the usage shows signs of addiction, then a parent may lose his or her custodial rights, especially if such addiction is impairing the parent’s ability to care for the child. Mental health issues could also affect the rights of a parent who wishes to relocate to another state, if the parent has been court-ordered to receive treatment.

Will mental illness affect spousal support?

Alimony is designed to help one spouse maintain a certain quality of life. If you or your spouse is unable to work because of mental illness, a judge may award spousal support to help you (or your spouse). In some cases, it may be transitional – but this is one of those rare times when a judge may award indefinite alimony to one party.

At Cynthia H. Clark & Associates, LLC, we understand that mental illness can affect every part of the divorce process. Our Annapolis divorce attorneys have the experience, resources, and compassion to help you through this difficult time. To reserve a consultation, please call 410.921.2422 or fill out our contact form.

Could Your Career Raise Your Risk of Divorce?

Could Your Career Raise Your Risk of Divorce?

It is no secret that stress on the job can bring stress into your marriage. Job-related stressors can include issues around pay (not enough, or a financial imbalance between spouses), working too many hours, or bringing one’s dissatisfaction at work back home to the family. The work-life balance is a real challenge, and if things go off-balance, a marriage can suffer.

Every couple divorces for different reasons – irreconcilable differences, infidelity, or other issues. Age, economic status, or education level can sometimes forecast whether or not a marriage will ultimately succeed. However, a recent study using U.S. population data hints that perhaps our choice of careers could be another predictor of whether or not our marriages will last.

The study, by statistician Nathan Yau, calculated which professions have the highest and lowest divorce rates. Actuaries tend to have the lowest rate of divorce, with a 17% divorce rate. The occupations with the highest rate of divorce? Bartenders and gaming managers, at nearly 53%. On the surface, perhaps this makes sense: actuarial jobs are low-stress and quiet, while bar and casino jobs are hectic and alcohol-related.

It may not be that simple, however. After looking more closely at the study’s numbers, the career-divorce connection likely has more to do with economics. The Institute for Family Studies (IFS) took a deep dive into the study and came up with their own findings. After looking at the 10 jobs that are most and least likely to lead to divorce, they found the following:

  • Of the professions most likely to divorce (casino workers, bartenders, etc.), none required more than a high school diploma;
  • Additionally, all had a median income of less than $35,000;
  • Of the professions least likely to divorce (actuaries, scientists, doctors), all required a bachelor’s degree or higher; and,
  • All had incomes of at least $75,000.

Of course, you can’t just switch jobs and save your marriage. There are always deeper issues at play. Explains Yau, “If someone who is already a physician, quits and takes a job as a bartender or telemarketer, it doesn’t mean their chances of divorce changes. It probably says more about the person than anything else. Similarly, those with certain occupations tend to be from similar demographics, which then factors into how the individuals live their lives.”

Income instability may be the critical factor

It’s also worth noting that the job market for professions more likely to divorce is declining, while the job market for least-likely-to-divorce careers is thriving. It is possible that income instability might have more to do with marital breakups than low income.

The authors of the IFS article, Naomi Cahn and June Carbone, wrote, “Commitment to a partner with an unstable income—someone who runs up the credit card bills, incurs large health care expenses, or needs to be bailed out of jail—can diminish family savings. The commitment marriage entails requires a willingness—legally, financially, and emotionally—to share the couple’s joint resources. For couples with unstable finances, this commitment may be a source of peril.”

The Annapolis divorce attorneys of Cynthia H. Clark & Associates, LLC handle complex, high-asset divorce matters for clients throughout Maryland. We protect your best interests, while supporting you through this difficult process. For a consultation at our office, please call 410.921.2422 or fill out our contact form.

Lessons in High-Asset Divorce, Starring Jeff and Mackenzie Bezos

	Lessons in High-Asset Divorce, Starring Jeff and Mackenzie Bezos

In January, Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos and his wife Mackenzie announced they were planning to divorce. This set off dozens and dozens of articles and think pieces speculating about how the couple’s billion-dollar fortune might be divided.

Jeff and Mackenzie Bezos have been married for 25 years; in fact, Mackenzie was one of Amazon’s first employees. Their divorce could be one of the costliest in history, with Jeff Bezos’ current worth estimated at $137 billion. With no reports that the couple had a prenuptial agreement in place, any wealth accumulated during their marriage could be split evenly. Washington, where the couple resides, is a community property state, meaning property and assets acquired during the marriage is generally divided equally between the couple.

High-asset divorce can be a long and complex process. It requires planning and wise decision-making. Ultimately, the goal for your divorce should be that the division of assets is equitable, as per the law. Sometimes, however, this can be difficult, especially with so many assets at play.

Understanding what’s at stake in your divorce can help you prioritize and safeguard what’s most important to you. Maryland is an equitable distribution state, which means that marital assets are distributed equitably and fairly, but not necessarily 50/50 down the middle. Keep the following items in mind when discussing your divorce with your family attorney:

  • Marital assets – retirement and pensions, 401Ks, savings and checking accounts, cars, boats, furniture, jewelry, art
  • Real estate – primary residence, vacation home, income properties, timeshares, maintenance costs
  • Investments – stocks and bonds, family business, company shares, offshore investments, business valuations
  • Payments and debts – credit cards, personal loans, business losses

In the case of a couple like Jeff and Mackenzie Bezos, marital assets might also include intellectual property, patents, and royalties. However, it’s important to remember that division of property in high-asset divorce can be challenging.

For example, Jeff Bezos owns the Washington Post, 16% of Amazon, and a space exploration company called Blue Origin. These are all considered community property, so Mackenzie will have a financial interest in all three of these. There is more complexity in dividing privately held companies, like the Washington Post, than publicly traded companies.

You can see how high-asset divorce isn’t as simple as just deciding who gets the house and who gets the furniture. Protecting your assets and wealth for the sake of your family and future is our goal. The attorneys at Cynthia H. Clark & Associates, LLC are experienced with complex divorce. For a consultation at our Annapolis office, please call 410.921.2422 or fill out our contact form.

Common Financial Issues in Maryland Divorce

Common Financial Issues in Maryland Divorce

The pain of divorce is emotional and financial. Not only is the significant relationship in your life at an end, but your financial future is beginning to look murky. While every divorce is as unique as the two people who are separating, there are common financial issues that most couples will have to face. The following are a few of those financial issues that can arise and must be resolved during the divorce process, according to an article in The Balance.

Asset division

The division of assets is one of the most challenging aspects of divorce. People develop attachments to their material possessions, and figuring out how to divide up the belongings you have accumulated can be difficult. In Maryland, asset division follows the equitable division model of distributing marital assets if the courts must oversee property division. The parties can develop their own agreement for how the property will be divided, but if they are unable to come to an agreement, the judge will follow the equitable distribution model to divide the property, which does not always mean straight down the middle, but in as fair a manner as possible.

Division of debts

Any outstanding debts that the parties have incurred during the marriage must be resolved as part of the divorce agreement. Both parties should pull their credit reports to find out how much they owe, close any joint accounts, determine which debt is in which party’s name, and come to an agreement on how those debts will be paid and by whom. If they cannot, their individual lawyers, along with any financial experts they hire, can assist in this.

The article in The Balance offers these options for resolving joint marital debt during divorce:

  • Pay off the debts you can pay off now.
  • Agree to take responsibility for the debts in exchange for receiving more of the assets.
  • Agree to let the other party take responsibility for the debts in exchange for receiving more of the assets.
  • Agree to share the debt equally, keeping in mind that you may still be held liable if the other party does not keep their agreement.

If the two parties cannot reach an agreement (with or without lawyers), then a judge will divide the marital debts as he or she divided the assets. It is important to note that not all debt incurred during the marriage is marital debt, and a skilled Annapolis family lawyer attorney can assist you with determining which debt is marital debt.

Tax issues related to divorce

Taxes can be a long-view problem: if you divorce in May, for example, you may not even think about your taxes until the following January. However, it is important to address tax issues during the divorce process, so that there is no confusion the following year. Some of the tax issues that may arise as you are moving through divorce might include:

  • Deciding who will take the tax deduction for the children (typically, the custodial parent takes the exemption)
  • Who will claim “Head of Household” on the final tax return?
  • Will alimony payments be tax-deductible? (The new tax law put into effect for 2019 changes how alimony is treated. Be sure to discuss this with your attorney).

Dividing retirement plans in divorce

You may be entitled to receive half of your spouse’s retirement savings, but you will want to consult with your divorce attorney and your CPA to make sure you avoid the 10% IRS tax penalty for early withdrawal.

Finally, if you are planning to get a divorce, make sure to educate yourself about all aspects of your financial position. Working with an experienced Annapolis divorce attorney can save you money in the long run by saving you time, helping you to avoid needless litigation and vigilantly protecting your interests while you might be consumed by emotion and dealing with chaotic life changes.

At Cynthia H. Clark & Associates, LLC, our experienced Annapolis divorce attorneys are here to protect your interests during a challenging time when your world seems to be falling apart. You most likely have many questions about the financial aspects of divorce. Please call 410.921.2422 or fill out our contact form to reserve a consultation time with a member of our team.

Does Divorce Court Do Right by Dads?

Does Divorce Court Do Right by Dads?

Jake is a divorced dad who was prohibited from seeing his children by a civil protection order that his ex-wife was able to obtain by telling the court that he had dangerous mood swings, blocked her Internet access, and tried to obstruct her from driving away with the kids. Even though Jake denies these allegations, he was still prohibited from seeing his children.

Reporter Lisa Ling spoke to fathers about how they are treated by the court system in a CNN original series, “This Is Life.” Jake’s story is featured, as are the stories of other fathers who feel they have been denied access to their children, or have been treated unfairly.

How this issue is affecting Maryland parents

A Washington Post article reports on a Maryland special Commission on Child Custody Decision Making, which met for over 18 months and heard from more than 200 stakeholders  including judges, family law attorneys, and mental health professionals,  and studied how child custody decisions are made in family courts. Although the final report was issued in 2014, the reforms recommended have yet to be put in place. The current standard in Maryland is the “best interest of the child”; however, many activists, including fathers’ rights advocates, are pushing for the presumption of joint custody standard.

The 330-page report recommends that Maryland adopt a custody statute, which guides both litigants and judges about the considerations made in custody decisions, that parties in custody disputes submit parenting plans, and the terms “custody” and “visitation” are replaced with “parenting time” and “decision-making responsibility.” It also examined whether gender discrimination exists in custody decisions, and if so, how to address it. The Commission recommended that judges be educated to identify and eliminate explicit and implicit bias in decision-making.

As the Post story reported, the Maryland Commission opted against changing the standard to shared parenting because they believe that judges still need to have the discretion to determine what is in “the best interest of the child,” as not every co-parent is equipped to share custody.

Options for fathers

The CNN story included some questions and answers for fathers who have encountered challenges with child custody issues. If a father is having trouble paying child support, he is advised to make a good-faith effort to keep up with payments and to hire a lawyer. If he can’t hire a lawyer, he can still seek legal advice and support from nonprofit organizations, like the Anne Arundel Bar Association, who may be able to direct him to an attorney offering pro bono services.

When it comes to rights for unmarried fathers, fathers were advised to step up and voice their intention to establish a relationship with their children.

As for the fate of dads like Jake, who feel that protection orders are unfair, the CNN story reports that they probably protect more people than they hurt. Civil protection orders are protective in nature, and most judges – if they believe that the spouse who filed for the order and/or the children are in danger – will issue a temporary protective order (or peace order, depending on the circumstances), erring on the side of safety.

If a father believes the accusations of bad behavior or abuse are groundless, he can have a witness with him on visits with his child, or in-person interactions with his co-parent. He can also work with an attorney to have the order dismissed, if the final hearing has yet to take place

Facing a child custody dispute can be challenging for fathers and mothers. Having the support of an experienced Annapolis child custody attorney on your side will help ensure that the child’s best interests are always protected.

At Cynthia H. Clark & Associates, LLC, we fight for the best interests of your child. Our divorce attorneys are here to represent you in all matters of family law. You can schedule a consultation at our office in Annapolis by calling 410.921.2422 or filling out our contact form now.

3 Potential Challenges for Same-Sex Couples Who Divorce in Maryland

3 Potential Challenges for Same-Sex Couples Who Divorce in Maryland

While the landmark 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision of Obergefell v. Hodges made same-sex marriage legal throughout the country, the state of Maryland is proud to be the first state to legalize same-sex marriage, back in 2013. Along with the right for same-sex couples to marry came the right to get a divorce.

As all couples are now equal under the law, you might assume that LGBTQ couples don’t face additional challenges – but that is not the case. We wanted to discuss those potentially problematic areas here.

Division of assets

Many same-sex couples have had long-term committed relationships for years, even decades prior to the law’s recognition of their unions. In Maryland, however, only marital property is subject to division under the equitable distribution model of asset division. Therefore, the division of assets will only consider the property that the couple has acquired or comingled since the marriage took place, which also applies to divorcing heterosexual couples.

For example, if one spouse purchased a home several years prior to the legalization of the marriage, and never added the name of his or her partner to the deed and/or mortgage, only the equity which has accrued since the marriage is considered marital property.

This issue could also arise in regard to pensions. If, for example, you are an employee of the State, then the Court may consider the length of the marriage before deciding how much of your soon-to-be-ex-spouse’s pension you are entitled to receive. If you have been together for 20 years, but only legally married for seven years, then you may only be awarded seven years’ worth of that pension.

Alimony and spousal support

The length of the marriage is just one of the factors that the court uses in determining whether alimony would be appropriate in a divorce agreement. Other factors include the couple’s standard of living while they were married, both spouses’ financial resources and needs, each spouse’s contribution to the marriage, and so forth. Alimony, remember, is never guaranteed to either spouse.

In situations where one spouse works outside of the home, and the other takes care of the home and the children, it is possible that the Court may not consider the years the couple was together before they were legally married. Therefore, if the relationship and their agreement (about who will stay at home and who will work outside the home) pre-dates their official marriage date, the final alimony award may only be based on up to seven years of marriage. This scenario also applies to heterosexual couples.

Child custody and support

Custody and support are often challenging issues in divorce, regardless of the sexual orientation of the parents. If a same-sex couple has given birth to the child after their legal marriage, then both spouses are legal parents of the child, and custody and support can be decided as it would be for a heterosexual couple. If the child was born to one of the spouses before the marriage, or if one of the spouses adopted the child prior to the marriage and the second spouse did not legally adopt the child, Maryland courts will apply a four-part test to determine if the second parent is a de facto parent, and therefore eligible for custody. De facto parents will also be responsible for paying child support.

The issues raised here can affect gay and lesbian couples, but they can also affect unmarried, heterosexual couples. Your best chances for a successful outcome is to work with an experienced Annapolis divorce lawyer who has experience working with same-sex couples.

If you are part of a same-sex couple and you are considering divorce, the Annapolis divorce attorneys at Cynthia H. Clark & Associates, LLC are here to represent your interests. We fight for the best possible outcome in your case. You may request a consultation today by calling 410.921.2422 or completing our contact form.

Your Rights as an Active Duty Serviceperson Going Through a Divorce

military divorce attorney

Getting divorced can cause difficulties for all parties involved. If you are entering into a divorce as a member of the U.S. military (active or retired), you will likely face additional challenges and considerations. You may be stationed overseas when you are served with divorce papers, or may be in the process of moving to a different U.S. base. You may have gotten married after already accruing part of your pension. Your duty and obligations to your country during this time may prevent you from properly responding to whatever documentation you receive.

Military divorces present specific issues involving:

  • The timeframe of the divorce proceedings
  • The jurisdiction over the divorce
  • How military pensions and other service related benefits are divided between the spouses
  • Special considerations in regard to child support and to the Parenting Plan

Today, we want to look specifically at the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) and how that Act may impact your divorce proceedings when you are on active duty.

Rights under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act

In normal civil divorce proceedings in Maryland, when one spouse serves divorce papers to the other spouse, the spouse receiving the divorce papers must return a formal answer within a prescribed number of days. Once this is done, the court proceeds with the next stages. However, if one of the spouses is on active duty, the SCRA can affect those timelines.

Under the SCRA, a servicemember who has been called to active-duty service for at least 30 days can issue a written request to put divorce proceedings on hold if his or her duties prevent a proper response to court orders, or conflict with his or her timely participation in court proceedings. This hold, called a “stay,” is 90 days. Courts may grant extensions of 60 additional days under some circumstances.

Why on-base attorneys cannot help you

Every branch of the military has lawyers, who are usually located on the majority of military bases. These attorneys cannot help you with your divorce proceedings: divorce is a personal matter, and their main concern is with legal issues affecting you as a servicemember. This is why it is critical that you work with a lawyer who has experience representing clients who have served in some branch of the military, and clients whose partners have served. Furthermore, you want an attorney who focuses her practice on divorce and other family law matters. The lawyers you meet on-base are not divorce attorneys, may not be licensed to practice in your state, and may not be able to offer you the best advice for your needs.

At Cynthia H. Clark & Associates, LLC, we are proud to represent clients who are serving in all branches of the military. We make sure your questions are answered and your rights are protected. To arrange a free consultation, call our law office today in Annapolis at 410.921.2422 or complete our contact form.

Can My Spouse and I Use the Same Attorney to Save Time and Money?

uncontested divorce lawyer in maryland

The divorce process can be expensive. Many couples may be searching for ways to save money, especially if they generally agree on the terms of the split. If you and your spouse are one of those couples, you might be wondering if it is a practical idea to use the same divorce attorney.

The short answer is “No.”

If you hire a lawyer to represent you in your divorce, rules of ethics and professional conduct prohibit him or her from representing your spouse as well – as your spouse’s interests are legally in direct conflict with yours. Even if it were allowed, it is a bad idea. Your attorney should be looking out for your best interests, and your best interests alone.

Five ways to expedite your divorce planning

If you are genuinely concerned about the costs associated with your case, there are some steps you can take to make the process move more efficiently.

  1. Sit down with your spouse before seeking legal counsel. If you and your spouse are on amicable enough terms to consider using the same attorney, the chances are good that you can sit for a few hours and talk about which items you want to keep, which you will sell, and how you would like to proceed with your Parenting Plan, if you have minor children. The more information you bring to the table, the less time your lawyers will need to spend negotiating on your behalf.
  2. Consider working with a mediator. If you and your spouse cannot agree to all of the terms of your divorce, consider working with a third-party mediator to help you work through the more difficult negotiations. While we would not recommend doing this without having first retained counsel, should you go this route, make sure it is part of the plan to present the findings to your individual attorneys once mediation is complete.
  3. Work with outside experts if you need help. It may seem counterintuitive, but working with financial experts to get an accurate assessment of your assets, holdings and debts can actually save you time and money. Our firm regularly employs these professionals to assist our clients, but you can work with your financial adviser on your own.
  4. Be honest during every part of the divorce planning process. If you exchange information freely and willingly, you can save both time and money by avoiding a lengthy discovery process.
  5. File under grounds of mutual consent. Once you are ready to move forward, you can file for mutual consent, which eliminates the 12-month waiting period. This option is only available to you if you and your spouse work out every detail of your divorce, including alimony, asset division and the Parenting Plan, if you have minor children.

If you are going through a divorce, talk to the attorneys at Cynthia H. Clark & Associates, LLC. We can answer your questions about mediation and divorce agreements, and any other family law concerns you may have. To reserve a consultation at our office in Annapolis, please call 410.921.2422 or fill out our contact form.

Co-Parenting and Parental Relocation

annapolis maryland divorce attorney

After a divorce when children are involved, the issue of parental relocation can be quite complex. Sometimes it may seem like a difficult puzzle to solve, but, there is good news: it is possible to put together a parenting plan, or modify an existing one, that can allow one parent to relocate but still meet their parental responsibilities.

Shared parenting is workable even when parents live far apart—although it does work best with older children. However, parental relocation is not something anyone should go into without a lot of thought about how it could affect your children and the effect it could have on their relationship with you and their other parent.

Co-parenting over distance

Psychology Today discusses the impact of co-parenting on children when one parent relocates more than an hour away. It’s probably not surprising that research shows that children tend to do better if their parents stay in the same general area (less than an hour away). However, the article also offers some great tips on how to better co-parent over a distance.

In a study entitled “Relocation of children after divorce and children’s best interests: new evidence and legal considerations,” Braver et al studied 500 college students who grew up with divorced parents. The researchers divided the students into two groups—one where neither parent moved more than one hour away from the family home, and one where one parent did. They measured the children’s emotional and psychological adjustment, health, and other factors.

The results? Children with a parent who moved more than an hour away were found to be “disadvantaged,” with poor scores on measures like hostility, feelings about their parents’ divorce, life satisfaction, and physical health.

Psychology Today also points to another study, “Developmental issues in relocation cases involving young children: when, whether, and how?” that hypothesizes that the stress of relocation disrupts psychologically important aspects of the parent-child relationship, which can adversely affect children. And, young children are particularly susceptible to these disruptions and may suffer the most, with long-term effects.

How Annapolis parents can ease the transition

The authors of the latter study, Kelly and Lamb, offer some advice and guidelines for relocation that can help your child maintain stable relationships with both parents:

  • Consider waiting to relocate until your child is around or older than three years old. At that age, his or her cognitive and verbal skills are more developed to better maintain long-distance relationships.
  • As your children get older, their developmental needs will change, and those should always be your and your ex-spouse’s priority, even if that means changing schedules or modifying custody agreements.
  • Include consistent and regular use of phone calls, email, and video chat during the times when the child is separated from the other parent. However, remember that these types of communication should never take the place of in-person contact.
  • Co-parenting over distance requires much thought, creativity, and flexibility. If you find yourself in these circumstances, it may be wise to enter into mediation or modify your formal parenting plan with your child custody attorney.

A note about military families

If you are being relocated due to military service, and it affects your current custody arrangement, you may need an attorney to speak to a judge on your behalf. You may need this especially if you haven’t been given the required 90 days’ notice family court requires prior to your relocation orders. A judge can waive that requirement for you if needed.

The main priority in any discussion about relocating should be your child. Even though an hour or two may seem manageable to you, to your child it could seem insurmountable. However, with flexibility and prioritization, your child can emerge emotionally intact and confident.

At Cynthia H. Clark & Associates, LLC we believe in the best interests of your child. Our family law attorneys advocate for you and for them in all matters of family law. To reserve a consultation at our office in Annapolis, please call 410.921.2422 or fill out our contact form.