You Need a Compassionate and Effective Rockville, Maryland Divorce Attorney With Over 35 Years of Family Law Experience in Montgomery County
In a Maryland divorce case, you have opportunities to make calculated and educated decisions to address the pressing concerns in your life, making wise adjustments in pursuit of your goals. Divorce is a path towards the resolution of the marital problems you have been experiencing, and it is an important segment of your journey towards the future you will choose. After over 35 years helping clients in the midst of their Maryland divorce cases and then seeing them on the other side, we can attest that diligently pursuing a tailored and carefully-informed legal strategy with the help of a knowledgeable and experienced divorce attorney can often set you up for a happy and successful future. At the Law Offices of Ellen L. Lee, LLC, we pursue these goals for our clients every day.
Without a clear understanding of your options, the future consequences of decisions about your divorce can become emotionally and mentally overwhelming. Proven and effective planning can put you at ease. You need to discuss the unique circumstances of your case in-depth with an experienced professional familiar with the legal system. This person should have handled numerous similar cases and be capable of guiding you and your family through this transitional phase, ensuring a positive future direction for all involved. Effective guidance can provide peace of mind allowing you to confidently seek a solution that fits your specific situation and aligns with your aspirations for a positive future.
At the Law Offices of Ellen L. Lee, we combine our extensive experience with a genuine empathy in our interactions with clients, always serving with unwavering determination. As an extension of our personal relationship, we will fight with poise and determination to help you pursue your own interests — as well as those of your children.
Lean On The Experience and Tenacity of Ellen L. Lee to Pursue Your Next Life Chapter With Peace of Mind
When going through a divorce, positive guidance and the support of a dependable lawyer who has addressed these issues many times before and understands your perspective can make the difference in your outlook and your experience. With the benefit of in-depth legal analysis, you can gain confidence with the right attorney pursuing your interests every step of the way.
Shifting your focus from past disappointments to renewed hope and clarity for the future can be a catalyst for the bright future you aspire to achieve. At our firm, we collaborate with you to help realize that vision.
Our founding divorce attorney is compassionate, tough, composed, and extremely well-versed in every aspect of the Maryland divorce process. You can count on our firm to guide you throughout the entire process, from preparing and submitting legal documents to representing you in mediation, negotiation, and even courtroom advocacy if needed. Trust us to be there for you every step of the way.
Contact us today at the Law Offices of Ellen L. Lee at (301) 279-0692(301) 279-0692 to schedule a confidential consultation and initial information-gathering session with our founding family lawyer at our established and well-respected boutique law firm in Rockville, MD.
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The Three Grounds For Divorce in Maryland
Maryland’s divorce laws underwent a significant change on October 1, 2023, with the implementation of Senate Bill 36. These legal modifications are outlined in Md. Code, Fam. Law § 7-103.
Divorce in Maryland now follows three grounds — all non-fault-based. Eligibility for divorce in the state hinges on meeting any of these three grounds:
- Living separately and apart, without any disturbances, for a continuous period of 6 months — This criterion can be fulfilled whether you maintain separate residences or continue living within the same residence, as long as your lives remain separate for the specified duration.
- Demonstrating irreconcilable differences with your spouse — This signifies a broken marital relationship beyond repair.
- Reaching mutual consent — This entails drafting a written settlement agreement in which both parties agree on the terms and issues of the marital estate.
The significance of these alterations to the divorce regulations in Maryland reinforces the necessity for close collaboration with a skilled lawyer like Ellen L. Lee. With decades of experience advising and assisting individuals and couples in similar circumstances, she can assist you in selecting the right course of action tailored to your specific situation. Our firm is dedicated to supporting you as you navigate these life changes.
Reach out to us today at the Law Offices of Ellen L. Lee, to arrange a consultation with an experienced Maryland divorce lawyer. During this meeting, we will address your unique concerns and objectives as you contemplate a divorce in Maryland.
Filing For Divorce in Maryland After Only 6 Months Living Separately and Apart — Within The Same Residence
The recent amendments to divorce regulations in Maryland offer hope for couples seeking a quicker and more affordable separation. Instead of having to live separately for a year, spouses now only need to spend six months apart. Additionally, the definition of “living separately” has been expanded to include couples who reside in the same house or apartment but lead separate lives.
This change in language, specifically removing the requirement of “without cohabitation,” aims to provide a more financially feasible and accessible path to divorce. Couples will no longer be burdened with the costs of maintaining separate residences in the months leading up to filing for divorce. At the Law Offices of Ellen L. Lee, we can guide you as you pursue this updated and more financially accessible ground for divorce.
Pursuing Irreconcilable Differences in a Maryland Divorce
Senate Bill 36 does not explicitly define the precise meaning of irreconcilable differences, yet it is not an unfamiliar concept. Generally, this phrase is understood as indicative of a broken marital relationship that cannot be repaired.
There are various common scenarios that can fall under this umbrella, such as disputes or conflicts related to:
- Religious beliefs
- Financial matters
- Decisions regarding having or raising children
- Overall disharmony in the marital relationship
Since each spousal relationship and divorce case is unique, it is advisable to consult with a knowledgeable Maryland divorce lawyer. They can assess whether the challenges you are facing with marital discord align with the updated grounds for divorce in Maryland. It is possible that a different approach might be more suitable for your situation. If you find yourself on the path of marital conflict leading to divorce, an experienced divorce lawyer at our Maryland family law firm can help you explore options that may lead to a less adversarial divorce experience and set the stage for better terms with your ex-spouse in the future.
Pursuing a Written Settlement Agreement To Satisfy Mutual Consent Grounds in a Maryland Divorce
For couples in Maryland, achieving an uncontested divorce can be possible through collaborative efforts to settle the terms. This alternative approach minimizes conflict, promoting a smoother and less adversarial experience. By opting for divorce mediation, spouses can often also reduce post-divorce tensions. This process will involve separate attorneys for each spouse to prevent conflicts of interest.
To meet the mutual consent requirement for a divorce in Maryland, both parties must work together to create a written settlement agreement that addresses various marital estate issues. These issues may include:
You will need the court to approve this agreement, as it sets the foundation for the next phase of your life.
Contact us today to schedule a confidential consultation with the Law Offices of Ellen L. Lee to discuss which divorce grounds, approaches, and strategies are applicable to your detailed circumstances and your unique goals for the future. We will work closely with you to build a strategy, and we will guide you through your next steps.
The Process to File for Divorce in Maryland
As of October 2023, Maryland has made significant changes to its divorce laws. The process of filing for divorce and proceeding through a divorce case in Maryland has been streamlined, with the aim of making it easier for individuals to navigate.
Filing for Divorce in Maryland
- Complete a Complaint Form: As per the new legislation, there are two different divorce complaint forms: Complaint for Absolute Divorce and Complaint for Divorce (Restricted Information). The appropriate form needs to be filled out accurately and in full detail.
- File the Complaint: After completing the complaint form, it should be filed with the appropriate Maryland circuit court. An original and two copies of the complaint, along with the civil-domestic case information report, should be submitted.
- Serve Your Spouse: Once you file the complaint, your spouse must be officially served with the divorce papers. This can be done by a sheriff, private process server, or by certified mail. Proof of service must then be filed with the court.
- Wait for a Response: Your spouse has a specific amount of time (usually 30 days) to respond to the complaint. If they fail to respond in time, you may request a default judgment from the court.
- Attend Court Hearings: Depending on the complexity of your case and whether it’s contested or uncontested, you may need to attend various court hearings.
- Finalize the Divorce: The court will issue a Judgment of Divorce once all issues have been resolved. This document officially ends the marriage.
Understanding Contested Divorce, Uncontested Divorce, and Collaborative Divorce in Maryland
In Maryland, the divorce process can be classified into two primary categories that will have implications for your steps moving forward: contested divorce and uncontested divorce. The primary difference between the two lies in the level of agreement between the spouses regarding the terms of the divorce. The route to finalizing a divorce can vary significantly depending on whether or not spouses agree on all divorce terms.
Contested Divorces Still Involve Disagreement on Some Issue(s)
A contested divorce is any divorce where the defendant (the spouse served with the divorce request) does not agree to the terms of the complaint from the plaintiff (the spouse requesting the divorce). This disagreement can pertain to various aspects of the divorce, including child custody, alimony, division of property, and more. Contested divorces tend to be more complex and time-consuming, as they often require court intervention to resolve disputes.
Implications of a contested divorce under Maryland law include:
- Longer duration due to the need for court hearings and potential trials
- Higher costs due to legal fees, court costs, and potentially expert witness fees
- Greater emotional stress due to the adversarial nature of the proceedings
In some contested divorce cases, a judge will make the final decision on disputed matters.
Uncontested Divorces Have Already Achieved Agreement on All Major Issues
An uncontested divorce occurs when both parties agree on all major issues related to the dissolution of the marriage. These issues include but are not limited to property division, alimony, child support, and child custody. Uncontested divorces are typically quicker and less expensive than contested ones, as they do not require lengthy court proceedings.
Implications of an uncontested divorce under Maryland law include:
- Quicker resolution, usually finalized two to three months after being filed
- Lower costs due to fewer court appearances and less need for extensive legal representation
- Reduced emotional stress as the process is less adversarial
After filing for an uncontested divorce, if the other spouse does not disagree with anything and signs the papers, the court can then proceed with finalizing the divorce.
Collaborative Divorce Involves Negotiation Without Going To Court
Collaborative divorce is another option available in Maryland that can be used to resolve disputed issues. In a collaborative divorce, both parties and their attorneys agree to work together to negotiate the terms of the divorce without going to court. Note that both parties will have their own family law attorneys to avoid conflicts of interest during a collaborative divorce process.
This process often involves neutral third-party professionals, such as financial advisors or mental health professionals, who can assist in resolving issues. The collaborative process can be less stressful and more efficient than traditional divorce proceedings.
Is Annulment an Appropriate Option?
An annulment in Maryland is a legal procedure that declares a marriage null and void. Unlike a divorce, which ends a valid marriage, an annulment treats the marriage as if it never existed. However, seeking an annulment can be quite challenging because the burden of proof is higher than in a divorce case. When you call, we will help you assess the appropriate options for your situation.
Under Maryland law, grounds for annulment fall into two categories: void marriages and voidable marriages.
Void Marriages Are Already Invalid
A void marriage is one that is automatically invalid due to the nature of the marriage itself. Examples of void marriages include:
- Bigamy: One of the spouses was already married to someone else at the time of the marriage.
- Incest: The spouses are closely related by blood.
In cases involving void marriages, an annulment would be appropriate because the marriage is illegal and therefore automatically invalid.
Voidable Marriages Are Tentatively Presumed Valid
A voidable marriage is one that is presumed to be valid until a court declares it invalid. This is distinct from a void marriage. Grounds for a voidable marriage in Maryland include:
- Fraud: One spouse tricked the other into the marriage.
- Duress: One spouse coerced the other into the marriage.
- Mental Incapacity: One spouse was mentally incapacitated and incapable of understanding the implications of marriage at the time of the wedding.
In these cases, an annulment may be appropriate if the aggrieved spouse can prove the existence of these conditions.
Sometimes Annulment Is Not An Option
Circumstances can sometimes be such that annulment would not be a legal option. If the spouses have lived together after the condition causing the marriage to be voidable ceased to exist, the marriage cannot be annulled. For instance, if a spouse who was coerced into the marriage continued to live with their partner willingly after the coercion ended, they would not be able to seek an annulment. Speak with your divorce lawyer if you are interested in annulment.
Should You Seek Mediation for Your Divorce?
In Maryland, divorce mediation is an alternative to traditional divorce litigation. It involves a neutral third party, a mediator, who helps the divorcing couple reach a mutually agreeable settlement. Mediation can be particularly beneficial for couples who have children or substantial assets and who wish to maintain amicable relations post-divorce.
When to Consider Divorce Mediation in a Maryland Divorce Case
Divorce mediation in Maryland should be considered when:
- Both parties are willing to negotiate and compromise.
- There is a desire to maintain a cordial relationship for the sake of children or mutual social circles.
- The couple wishes to keep their divorce proceedings private.
- There is a need to save on the costs associated with a traditional court divorce.
The Benefits of Divorce Mediation in Maryland
Some relative benefits of divorce mediation in Maryland include:
- Control Over the Legal Decision: In mediation, the couple retains control over the decisions that will affect their lives, rather than leaving them to a judge.
- Cost-Efficient: Mediation is generally less expensive than traditional divorce litigation.
- Confidentiality: Unlike court hearings, mediations are private and confidential.
- Improves Communication: Mediation encourages open communication and cooperation, which can be beneficial for future interactions, especially when children are involved.
- Less Stressful: Mediation is typically less adversarial and stressful than court proceedings.
- Faster Resolution: Mediation can often lead to a quicker resolution than a court trial.
While every divorce situation is unique, many couples can benefit from the flexibility, privacy, and cooperative nature of divorce mediation. Note that both spouses will have their own family law attorneys during mediation to avoid conflicts of interest.
Divorce Mediation Can Be Immensely Valuable by Preparing You and Your Spouse for a Less Contentious Maryland Divorce Case — Even If You Don’t Qualify for Mutual Consent or an Uncontested Divorce
Having extensive experience with similar cases, we recognize the significance of addressing and clarifying concerns while answering your questions. Our aim is to support you and help you understand how this approach can be beneficial, even if you don’t achieve a complete agreement to satisfy the mutual consent filing requirement. Working closely with our law firm in the mediation process can help you resolve several family law issues, from child custody and child support to division of assets and alimony.
At the Law Offices of Ellen L. Lee, we understand the importance of your unique circumstances, goals, and concerns. We take the time to thoroughly comprehend your case and work towards a brighter future beyond your divorce. By reaching even partial agreement with your spouse on these matters, you can significantly minimize stress and focus on resolving the remaining issues without unnecessary complexity or distractions. This approach provides peace of mind and confidence as you navigate through the divorce process.
Will Your Spouse Remain in Your House During The Divorce Process?
The significant changes made to Maryland’s divorce laws in October 2023 have altered the dynamics of how spouses can manage their living arrangements during the divorce process.
Under the new laws, spouses can live in the same home for the 6-month “separation time” period and still be eligible for a divorce. This means that a spouse does not necessarily need to leave the shared residence during the divorce process. While this may be more financially feasible for many couples, proximity to the other spouse could present other difficulties.
You Probably Won’t Be Able To Kick Your Spouse Out of Your Shared Dwelling in Maryland Without a Legitimate Safety Risk
Determining whether you can force a spouse out of your shared residence can be quite complex, and it depends on various factors. Generally, one spouse cannot simply kick the other out of a shared residence without sufficient reason. If both of your names are on the lease or deed, both parties have the right to remain in the home. If there are safety concerns about danger due to violence or threats, the court may issue a court order requiring the offending spouse to leave the residence. This may affect later decisions if the residence in question is a shared family home.
Your Spouse Might Be Able To Kick You Out of Your Shared Dwelling
In some cases, the spouse seeking to live apart might have to vacate the shared residence themselves. This could be the case if the other spouse has sole ownership of the property or if the court orders the leaving spouse to vacate due to safety concerns.
These situations involving shared residences can be highly variable and depend on the specific circumstances of each case. Discuss your details with your divorce lawyer.
Maryland Divorces Involving High Net Worth
High-net-worth divorces in Maryland are typically defined as those involving $1 million or more in assets. These divorce cases present several unique complexities and concerns, as they often involve diverse assets that fall under multiple sections of the divorce code.
Some common factors that often make high asset divorce cases complicated include:
- Asset Valuation and Division: High-net-worth divorces often involve complex assets like businesses, real estate, investments, and retirement accounts. These require accurate valuation and division, which can be a complicated process.
- Hidden Assets: There may be an increased risk of hidden assets in high-net-worth divorce cases. One spouse may attempt to hide assets to prevent them from being considered in the division of property.
- Tax Implications: The division of substantial assets can have significant tax implications. Understanding these implications is crucial to ensure a fair settlement.
- Alimony and Child Support: In high-net-worth divorces, the standard of living established during the marriage is a key factor when determining alimony and child support.
Calculating Income and Assets in High-Net-Worth Divorces in Maryland
Calculating income and assets in high-net-worth divorces can be more complex due to the diversity of income sources and the types of assets involved. Income can come from wages, but also from dividends, interest, rental income, and business profits.
Assets in high-net-worth divorces often extend beyond the typical marital home and personal belongings to include stocks, bonds, business interests, offshore accounts, real estate investments, and retirement accounts. These assets may require professional appraisers, forensic accountants, and financial experts to accurately value them.
At the Law Offices of Ellen L. Lee, our founding Maryland divorce attorney is experienced in high-net-worth cases, and she can navigate these challenges on your behalf to work towards accurate calculations and a fair and appropriate divorce settlement.
Divorces Involving Business Ownership in Maryland
Divorces involving business ownership in Maryland present unique challenges due to the complexities of valuing and dividing business assets. Maryland is an equitable distribution state, which means that marital property — including businesses — are divided in a manner that the court determines to be fair, but not necessarily equal.
Challenges in Maryland Divorces Involving Business Ownership
- Business Valuation: Determining the value of a business can be complex, often requiring the use of business appraisers or forensic accountants.
- Division of Business Assets: Once the business’s value has been determined, the next challenge is deciding how to divide it. This could involve one spouse buying out the other’s share, selling the business and dividing the proceeds, or continuing to run the business together post-divorce.
- Hidden Assets and Income: In some cases, a spouse may attempt to hide assets or underreport income to influence the business’s valuation.
- Future Earnings: The potential future earnings of a business can add another layer of complexity to a divorce case. These earnings may be considered in the division of assets, particularly if one spouse is expected to significantly benefit from the business post-divorce.
Calculating Business Ownership, Assets, Debts, and Risks Among Divorcing Spouses in Maryland
Ownership of the business is typically determined by whose name is on the legal documents — such as the articles of incorporation or partnership agreement. However, even if the business is in one spouse’s name, it may still be considered marital property if it was established or grew during the marriage.
Assets, debts, and risks associated with the business are calculated as part of the business valuation process. This includes tangible assets like property and equipment, intangible assets like goodwill and intellectual property, liabilities, and the risk associated with future earnings and market conditions.
There are many complexities involved in divorces involving business ownership. Our founding Maryland divorce attorney can guide you and assess these factors to further inform your goals and strategies in your Maryland divorce case.
Limited Divorce Is No Longer an Option in Maryland
Limited divorce (sometimes called “separation”) is no longer granted in Maryland for cases filed after October 1, 2023. Moving forward, all divorces in Maryland will be absolute divorces.
Due to the repeal of limited divorce, spouses who are contemplating divorce but are uncertain about the decision and wish to proceed carefully no longer have an official process or a “trial basis” option before pursuing a complete divorce. It is important to note that some spouses have been known to reconcile under these circumstances.
The abolition of limited divorce and the reduced waiting time to file for divorce in Maryland may hinder reconciliation if couples opt for absolute divorce — or it may encourage couples to be more thoughtful before making a permanent decision. You are at a crossroads in your life and want to make the right choice. We are here to help you navigate this situation in light of legal implications and the dynamics of your spousal relationship. Contact us to assess your options, given the recent changes in the law.
Fault-Based Grounds for Divorce Are No Longer In Effect in Maryland
Several fault-based factors were formerly grounds for divorce in Maryland, but these grounds were repealed when Senate Bill 36 went into effect on October 1, 2023. Nevertheless, the following factors remain relevant for various aspects of your divorce and related concerns if they apply to your circumstances:
- Cruelty or vicious physical, verbal or emotional conduct
- Constructive desertion
- Conviction of a crime and sentenced to at least three years in prison.
Any of these issues above remains very important to your divorce case. At the Law Offices of Ellen L. Lee, we will assess how each of these factors in your story should affect the strategy for your divorce case, and we will guide you every step of the way. Be sure to discuss all such relevant concerns related to your case with your divorce attorney to understand their impact on matters such as alimony, child support, child custody, and property division.
Pursuing Agreement With Your Spouse On Various Issues in Your Maryland Divorce Case
If you agree upon all relevant related and tangential issues implicated by your divorce through negotiation or mediation, your divorce will be considered an uncontested divorce. If you and your spouse cannot agree, your contested divorce will need to be resolved at trial.
Through the course of your divorce case, you and your spouse will need to reach agreement on the following issues — or they will be decided for you according to legal guidelines and the judgment of the Maryland divorce court system:
Each of these divorce issues involves various complex factors. For example, child custody may include physical custody and/or legal custody, and there are a variety of custody arrangement possibilities. Your child custody arrangement — especially whether you will have physical custody — will influence child support and visitation decisions. Any prenuptial agreements or postnuptial agreements you and your spouse have will also need to be addressed. Different types of alimony or spousal support — such as pendente lite alimony, rehabilitative alimony, or indefinite alimony — may apply to your case, and various factors will also affect property division and other common implications of a Maryland divorce case.
Our law firm draws upon extensive experience and ingenuity to provide legal services for a variety of types of divorce cases, including those involving same-sex couples, LGBT couples, and military couples. Our founding divorce attorney, Ellen L. Lee, draws upon a range of skills from a background in counseling and psychology in addition to her decades-long family law career to carefully learn your goals.
When you work with our firm, she will meet you where you are emotionally and devise a tailored strategy to pursue your interests and well-being in your Maryland divorce case with persistence and commitment.
Schedule a Confidential Consultation with Ellen L. Lee, a Divorce Attorney with Over 35 Years of Experience Practicing Family Law in Montgomery County, Maryland
For over three decades, Ellen L. Lee has been dedicated to providing personal guidance to individuals and families during the challenging times surrounding divorce and related matters. Few divorce lawyers in our area have a comparable mix of experience and skills to apply in Montgomery County, Maryland divorce cases. By fostering a warm and approachable environment, she ensures clear communication and a shared vision for a fresh start in the face of family law conflicts.
You need answers to your Maryland divorce questions. We know each client’s case is unique, and work closely with you on a personal level to assess your unique case details and gain deep familiarity with your concerns and hopes so we can fight for your interests in every facet of your divorce case and related family law matters and legal issues. When you choose our Maryland law firm to handle your legal matters, you gain an honest and determined emotionally-supportive confidante who is committed to fighting for your goals and interests.
Call us at the Law Offices of Ellen L. Lee, LLC today at (301) 279-0692(301) 279-0692 to schedule a confidential consultation with our founding Maryland family law attorney, Ellen L. Lee, or fill out our online form. We are prepared to conduct our initial information-gathering session with you in person at our boutique law office in Rockville, by Zoom video conference, or by phone for your convenience. We can also schedule evening or weekend appointments to meet your needs.
Why Choose the Law Offices of Ellen L. Lee
Ellen L. Lee has devoted over 35 years of unwavering commitment to aiding individuals and families in Montgomery County, Maryland with their family law needs. Grounded in counseling and psychology, she provides personalized guidance and assistance to her clients in an inviting atmosphere — prioritizing effective communication while forging new beginnings amidst family law disputes.
- Tenacious & Compassionate Legal Support
- Trusted Guidance that Exceeds Expectations
- Full Range of Family Law Services
- Flexible Consultation Times: Nights and Weekends are Available
- Over 35 Years of Experience Practicing Family Law in Montgomery County, Maryland
Our Founding Attorney conveniently meets with clients via phone, video conference, or in person at our office in Rockville, Maryland.