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Family Law Specialist & Domestic Litigation

Harford County Divorce Lawyers

Family Law Specialist & Domestic Litigation

Today’s world is marked by a prevalence of divorce, children being born outside of wedlock, and other such cultural phenomena that has created a growing need for Family Law & Domestic Litigation.  The legal topics involved in this area of practice is far reaching and of primary concern to the men and women that seek counsel from our firm.  Issues such as divorce, child custody, child support, the division of marital assets – and a host of others – are matters that often seem impossible to navigate through, yet they must be navigated through.  Successfully.  It is never an easy road and there are many pitfalls along this emotionally draining path.  It is always a wise decision to find a legal representative who has significant experience in Family Law and who can advocate for you, defend your rights, and keep a watchful eye over your legal interests.

Attorney Gault offers a number of legal services, but focuses his practice of law to this specific area.  With decades of experience in Family Law & Domestic Litigation, and a compassionate understanding that is seldom found in the legal realm, Attorney Gault has successfully assisted folks who have found themselves travelling a difficult road.  Attorney Gault is a Family Law Specialist.

Our Family Law & Domestic Litigation services address the following:

Divorce

Divorce is the legal dissolution of a marriage by a court of law.  No matter the reason that has led to a decision for divorce, it is always a difficult, emotional time.  Attorney Gault has helped countless individuals facing divorce and has successfully seen to it that their legal interests were fought for and protected throughout the process.  Attorney Gault has the experience and knowledge of Maryland and Pennsylvania divorce laws that allows him to work hard – and work smart – for his divorce clients.   Recent changes to Maryland divorce law has eliminated the one-year waiting period for divorce, for those whose circumstances meet specific guidelines, and our firm can determine if your case qualifies under the new law.  To read more about the recent Maryland divorce law changes, click on this Baltimore Sun article.

In Maryland, there are two (2) types of divorce: Absolute or Limited.
    1. ABSOLUTE DIVORCES are permanent, allow either party to remarry, and allow the Circuit Court to address marital property and alimony issues.  With respect to real estate that is held by the parties as tenants by the entirety, an Absolute Divorce changes the real estate ownership to tenants in common.  These divorces are the most common in the modern era.  Click here to learn the Grounds for an Absolute Divorce.
    2. LIMITED DIVORCES provide for legal separation, i.e., judicial permission for the plaintiff to exervise the right to live separate and apart from the defendant.  Because marriage is not severed, Limited Divorces do not allow remarriage.  In addition, Limited Divorces do not terminate the parties’ property claims.  However, spousal support and alimony pendente lite may be sought (along with custody and child support if children are involved).  Complaints filed for a Limited Divorce are usually amended to seek an Absolute Divorce after a twelve (12) month separation.  Click here to learn the Grounds for a Limited Divorce.
In the State of Maryland, a divorce hearing is required in open court.

In order to obtain any divorce in Maryland, oral testimony in open court is required.

If the matter is scheduled by the Circuit Court as an ‘uncontested divorce hearing’, then only the moving party is actually required to appear and testify.  The corroboration witness must also testify at that time.

When corroboration is required, any adult may testify in open court in support of the divorce – including a family member, friend, or co-worker – provided that he or she is knowledgeable of the facts.

Maryland Residency Requirement

In October 2015, the twelve (12) month residency requirement was lowered to six (6) months in those cases where grounds for divorce occurred outside of the State of Maryland.

Marital Property & Marital Debt

For certain family law proceedings, legal representation may be necessary concerning marital property and marital debt.

Marital Property

“Marital Property” is defined as the property, however titled, acquired by one or both parties during the marriage.  It specifically includes any interest in real property held by the parties as tenants by the entirety unless the real property is excluded by valid agreement.

“Marital Property” does not include the following:

  • Property acquired before the marriage,
  • Property acquired by inheritance,
  • Property acquired by gift from a third party,
  • Property that has been excluded by valid agreement, or
  • Property that is directly traceable to any of these sources.

In Maryland, a gift made to only one spouse is not “marital property”, but a gift made to both spouses may constitute marital property depending on the nature and circumstances of the gift.

“Marital Property” includes the increased value of property acquired during the marriage, unless it can be directly traced to a non-marital source.

With respect to the parties’ “marital property”, the Circuit Court will determine the ownership of both personal property and real estate in its adjudication of the case.  To learn more about ownership of “marital property”, read our article: Maryland Marital Property

Dissipation of Marital Property

Dissipation of marital property occurs where one spouse uses marital property for his or her own benefit for a purpose unrelated to the marriage at a time when the marriage is undergoing an irreconcilable breakdown.  The doctrine of dissipation permits the Circuit Court to include, as extant marital property, marital property that was transferred, spent, or disposed of in some fashion by one of the spouses.  Marital property found to have been dissipated is valued as of the time of dissipation.

Marital Debt

Marital Debt does not mean what you probably think it means – it is a term of art in divorce law.  A debt is not necessarily a marital debt because it was incurred during the marriage.  Thus, it is mistakenly believed that a marital debt is a joint debt to be paid out of the proceeds of marital property.  Whether a debt is classified as a marital deb however, has nothing whatsoever to do with who owes it or how it is to be paid.  To the contrary, a marital debt is a debt that is directly traceable to the acquisition of marital property. Conversely, a non-marital debt is a debt which is not directly traceable to the acquisition of marital property.

The marital debt concept arises only as an incident of marriage and is significant only when there is a judicial dissolution of the marital relationship.  The sole purpose of applying the concept of marital debt is to diminish the value of the marital property.  This is so because the net value of marital property must be reduced by the amount of the marital debt.

If the marital debt exceeds the value of the marital property acquired as a result of incurring the debt, the result is a zero value for the marital property so acquired.  Marital property cannot have a negative value.

A marital debt cannot be transferred from one item of marital property to another.  Similarly, a marital debt used to acquire one marital asset cannot be used to offest the value of a separate marital asset.

A marital debt does not require a lien or encumbrance on the property.

Monetary Award & Equitable Distribution of Marital Property

In General, If a divorcing party seeks a monetary award, the Circuit Court must undertake a mandatory three-step process:

  1. For each disputed item of property, it must determine whether it is marital or non-marital.
  2. It must determine the value of all marital property.
  3. It must decide if the division of marital property according to title would be unfair.  If an unfairness exists, the court may make a monetary award to rectify any inequity created by the way in which property acquired during marriage was titled.  Failure to comply with this three-step process requires the monetary award to be vacated.

After the Circuit Court determines which property is marital property, and after is determines the value of the marital property, it may transfer ownership of certain specified interests in property, grant a monetary award, or both.  Said judicial determination serves as an adjustment of the equities and rights of the parties concerning their marital property.

The purpose of monetary award is to achieve equity between the spouses where one spouse has a significantly higher percentage of the marital assets titled in his or her name.  Hence, a monetary award is intended to counterbalance any unfairness that may result from the actual distribution of property acquired during the marriage strictly in accordance with its title.

There are certain statutory factors that the Circuit Court must consider in determining 1) the amount and method of payment of a monetary award, 2) the transfer of ownership of certain specified interests in property, or 3) both.  To learn more about these statutory factors, please read our article Maryland Monetary Award.

Property Settlement Agreements & Marital Settlement Agreements

“Property Settlement Agreement” or a “Marital Settlement Agreement” is a written civil contract signed by the divorcing parties prior to the issuance of the divorce decree.  It is a contract that is enforceable in and of itself, notwithstanding the procedural status of the divorce action.  In addition,when the Circuit Court does enter the divorce judgment, it can incorporate the parties’ property settlement agreement into its Order for enforcement purposes.

In Maryland, divorcing parties are expressly authorized by statute to make a valid and enforceable deed or agreement that relates to “alimony, support, property rights, or personal rights”.


Preparation of Pre-Nuptial and/or Post-Nuptial Agreements

Call Attorney Gault at (410) 638-2600

Additionally, the parties are at liberty to include many other subjects in such an Agreement including any or all of the following: alimony, spousal support, child custody, child support, tuition and school expenses, child care expenses, religion, education, health insurance coverage, income taxes, pensions, IRAs, stocks and bonds, motor vehicles, household goods and furnishings, bank accounts, jewelry, real estate interests, mortgages, refinancing, property allocation and distribution during both the separation and upon divorce, and many other items.

However, such an Agreement will not serve to terminate the marrage bond, nor does it permit remarriage.  Also, any provisions in such an Agreement which directly affect the best interest of minor children may be subject to modification via court adjudication.

Divorcing parties may prefer to enter into such an Agreement in order to avoid the vagaries attendant to the Circuit Court’s discretionary grant of a monetary award.

A party cannot unilaterally rescind or modify an Agreement merely because they think it was a bad deal.  It will be enforced unless there is fraud, duress, undue influence, or other such inequities.  Such an Agreement can be rescinded or revoked by the parties only if they each agree and consent to enter into a formal second agreement.

If the divorcing parties make a mutual mistake of law inthe drafting of their Agreement, there are no grounds for its reformation (only a mutual mistake of fact can be reformed).

If one party violates the Agreement, the other party may either file a lawsuit to enforce it, or he or she may file a contempt petition with the Circuit Court (provided the Agreement was incorporated into the divorce judgment).  Such proceedings usually involve a request for counsel fees (to be paid by the party who violated or breached the Agreement).

Use & Possession of Family Home & Personal Property

During divorce and custody proceedings in Maryland, a party may seek to obtain exclusive possession of the family home and other items of property that are typically used for family purposes.  Such an award is entered in favor of the custodial parent.

This type of Court Order seeks to enable any child of the family to continue to live in the environment and community that are familiar to the child, and to provide for the continued occupancy of the family home and the continued use of family personal property by a party with custody of a child who has a need to live in that home.

Therefore, the sole purpose of the “Use and Possession” statute is to benefit the child or children of the family.  Notably, these provisions are not available to a child of a party from a prior relationship.

In awarding the “Use and Possession” of the family home and family use personal property, the Circuit Court will consider (i) the best interests of any child, (ii) the interest of each party in continuing to use the family home or any part of it as a dwelling place, (iii) the interest of each party in using the property for the production of income, and (iv) any hardship imposed on the party whose interest in the family home or family use personal property will be infringed upon.

The Circuit Court’s Order for Use and Possession must terminate within three (3) years of the divorce decree.  It will also terminate by operation of law if the party with the use and possession of the property become remarried.

For more information about Use and Possession of the Family Home and Personal Property, such as household items and motor vehicles, please read our article Who Gets the Family Home in a Maryland Divorce?

Alimony, Alimony pendente lite, & Spousal Support

Divorce often has a negative economic effect on its parties.  In an effort to prevent a financial disadvantage to one of the parties, such as a homemaker who has devoted years to rearing children rather than being in the workforce, spousal support is often granted.  Spousal support, often known as alimony, is a payment for support of an ex-spouse, or a spouse when a divorce is pending, that is based either on an agreement between the parties or on a decision by the court itself.  Unlike child support, which utilizes strict monetary guidelines in its determination, spousal support is much to the discretion of the court.  Therefore, it is essential to have representation that is experienced in these matters, is competent to fight for your rights, and that can successfully achieve the highest, most fair spousal support for you as you begin a new chapter of life.

Alimony Defined

Alimony is a periodic allowance for spousal support payable under a judicial decree; it is distinguishable from Spousal Support payable under a property settlement agreement.  The terms Alimony and Spousal Support are often used interchangeably.

Alimony pendente lite is defined as an allowance made pending a lawsuit for divorce or separate maintenance.  It is a monetary payment pending the outcome of litigation which has been instituted but which has not been concluded.

Alimony is an economic concept.  An award of alimony is based primarily on the need of the recipient spouse and the ability to pay of the payor spouse.  There is no bright line for determining the propriety of an award of alimony.  No hard and fast rule can be laid down, each case depends upon its  own circumstances to ensure that equity is accomplished.

The Purpose of Alimony

The primary purpose of alimony is to be rehabilitative, instead of punitive or compensatory, i.e. to enable the dependent spouse to become financially independent after the divorce.  Alimony awards are intended to provide an opportunity for the recipient spouse to become self-supporting.

Life Long Support?

The concept of alimony as life long support enabling the dependent spouse to maintain an accustomed standard of living has been superseded by the view that the dependent spouse should be required to become self-supporting, even though that might result in a reduced standard of living.  However, the Circuit Court cannot require a spouse to take unreasonable steps in order to become self-supporting.

The Circuit Court has the discretion to award no alimony, rehabilitative alimony, or, upon a proper finding of unconscionable disparity, indefinite alimony.  However, in Maryland, the statutory scheme generally favors fixed-term or rehabilitative alimony, rather than indefinite alimony.

The Circuit Court may award alimony for an indefinite period only if it finds that:

  1. Due to age, illness, infirmity, or disability, the party seeking alimony cannot reasonably be expected to make substantial progress toward becoming self-supporting, or
  2. Even after the party seeking will have made as much progress toward becoming self-supporting as can reasonably be expected, the respective standards of living of the parties will be unconscionably disparate.

Indefinite does not mean permanent.  It means only that such an award is not fixed for a period of time.  On the other hand, an award of rehabilitative alimony is for a specified duration.

The Circuit Court may award alimony to either party.  However, if the parties have entered into a valid agreement as to alimony, the Circuit Court is bound by that agreement.

Pension & Retirement Benefits

Pension and Retirement Benefits are paid in the private sector by private employers, and in the public sector by government employers.  Those benefits payable in the private sector are governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (“ERISA”); this federal law established various requirements to better protect those covered by retirement plans in private workplaces.  Among other things, ERISA limits the ability of a Plan Participant to transfer or ‘alienate’ pension benefits.  ERISA’s requirements apply to most retirement plans and preempt contrary provisions of state law. However, not all retirement plans are regulated by ERISA: government-sponsored plans are specifically exempt from the federal statute.

In General

All retirement benefits accruing during the marriage constitute marital property (regardless of the type of any retirement plan or pension).  In Maryland, the Circuit Court is expressly authorized to transfer ownership of an interest in a pension, a retirement benefits plan, a profit sharing plan, or a deferred compensation from one party to either party or to both parties. Thus, a spouse’s interest in a retirement plan earned during the course of the marriage may be allocated in a divorce proceeding. Even non-vested pensions may be subject to division as marital property.

In lieu of such a judicial determination, a divorcing couple may enter into an agreement for the allocation of marital property, including retirement plan benefits.  Therefore, the Circuit Court may expressly order assignment of a pension or retirement plan benefit under a divorce decree or in accordance with a court-approved property settlement agreement.

Pension and Retirement Benefits are specifically considered by the Circuit Court in fashioning a monetary award.  It must consider how and when any pension, retirement benefits, profit sharing, or deferred compensation interests became acquired.  It must also consider the effort expended by each party in accumulating such interests.

Although similar to a pension, “Survivor Benefits” constitute marital property in their own right.  The Circuit Court can require one spouse to designate the other for survivor’s benefits under a survivor’s benefit plan.  The purpose of this authority is to continue the protection of the surviving spouse’s interest in the marital portion of the pension or retirement benefits plan.

In situations where a Plan Participant has died, and the pension or retirement benefits are obtained by a surviving spouse instead of a former spouse who was entitled to receive those benefits pursuant to marital settlement agreement or divorce decree, the Circuit Court has the authority to impose a ‘constructive trust’ upon those benefits in favor of the former spouse.

A former spouse may also reap the benefit of a post-divorce increase in the value of a pension.

Learn More

QDROs & other Acronyms

Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO)

Similar to the use of “Xerox” or “Google,” the label “QDRO” has achieved a broader meaning as a generic reference to encompass court orders that distribute retirement plan benefits.

In Maryland, the Circuit Court has the authority to transfer an ownership interest in a spouse’s pension, retirement plan, profit sharing plan, or deferred compensation plan to the other spouse as part of the disposition of marital property. A Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) is the vehicle by which these interests are transferred from one party to the other party.

Specifically, a QDRO is an Order of a domestic relations court that comes under an exception to those ERISA provisions that generally prevent the assignment or distribution of the proceeds of a retirement plan to a third party.  If such an Order meets certain statutory qualifications – i.e., if it is “Qualified” – for support or distribution of property, then it may also allocate all or part of a plan participant’s benefits to an alternate payee.  Consequently, a QDRO allows a state court to alter title to otherwise untouchable retirement plans without violating federal law.

A QDRO may, under certain circumstances, modify the parties’ prior marital separation agreement.

The Circuit Court has the authority to issue a posthumous QDRO directing the retirement plan to allocate a portion of the death benefit to the former spouse.

Eligible Domestic Relations Order (EDRO)

An Eligible Domestic Relations Order (EDRO) involves benefits from the Maryland State Retirement and Pension System.  It is governed by Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR).

Under COMAR, an EDRO must be titled specifically as an “Eligible Domestic Relations Order” and it cannot reference QDROs or ERISA.

EDROs must comply with federal law governing QDROs for tax purposes.

Court Order Acceptable for Processing (COAP)

Divorce actions involving federal government employees under the Civil Service Retirement System require a Court Order Acceptable for Processing (COAP).  These Orders must be accepted by the Office of Personnel Management in order to be effective.

Law Enforcement Officers Pension System (LEOPS) & Deferred Retirement Option Program (DROP)

Divorcing parties can allocate the marital share of a spouse’s pension benefits under the Law Enforcement Officers Pension System (LEOPS).  Any voluntary Deferred Retirement Option Program (DROP) benefits must be included as part of those pension benefits.

Uniform Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA)

This statute is the federal law governing military pensions and military retirement pay, namely the Uniform Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA).

Constituted Pension Order (CPO)

A Constituted Pension Order (CPO) is the functional equivalent of a QDRO for military retirement pay.  It may provide for a percentage award in favor of the other spouse even if expressed in terms of a specific dollar amount.

Military retired pay is a federal entitlement that, much like a pension, provides a monthly annuity for life upon retirement from the armed forces. Military retired pay while on active status is calculated based on the number of months of service.

The military will only authorize direct payment to a former spouse if the marriage lasted at least ten years (in addition to other requirements).

Health Insurance Coverage

The Circuit Court may allocate any additional costs of providing hospital, medical, or surgical benefits under a group contract between the divorcing parties.  Importantly, the Circuit Court can issue an Order that requires continuation or reinstatement of such benefits.

The Circuit Court may address health insurance coverage issues between the parties in both the final divorce decree and via a pendente lite Court Order.  Thus, the continuation or reinstatement of health insurance coverage may be sought while the divorce proceedings are pending before the court.

With respect to child support obligations, the Circuit Court may require either party to include a child in the parent’s health insurance coverage. The effect of such an Order is to require one party to pay the costs associated with maintaining a health insurance policy for the child.

Child Support

Parents have a legal obligation to support their children.  By Maryland statute, the parents of a minor child are jointly and severally responsible for the child’s support, care, nurture, welfare, and education. A parent’s obligation to support their minor children imposes a duty on the parent to provide support and confers a right on children to receive it.  A parent owes this obligation of support to the child, not to the other parent.

In Maryland, child support obligations are determined by a comprehensive legislative scheme known as the “guidelines” set forth in Title 12 of the Family Law Article. Created by the legislature in 1989, the “guidelines” were enacted:

  • To limit the role of the Circuit Court in deciding the specific amount to be awarded in different cases by limiting the necessity of fact finding;
  • To remedy the low levels of many child support awards when compared with the actual cost of raising children;
  • To improve the consistency and equity of child support awards; and
  • To increase the efficiency in adjudicating child support awards.

Maryland law clearly states that the amount of child support determined by the guidelines is presumed to be the correct amount of child support to be awarded.  Although a child support award that is determined under the guidelines will presumptively apply in most cases, it is important to note that child support Orders always remain within the sound discretion of the Circuit Court.

The calculation of a specific child support award is performed with the use of standardized worksheets that incorporate both parent’s financial information.  The actual dollar amount may be ascertained via modernized computer software; both the court personnel and the parties’ attorneys may utilize the same type of software.

The starting date for the period of time to be covered by a child support Order is the date of the first court filing to request payment of child support.  A parent may request credit for any voluntary payments made after the date of the initial court filing.

Considerations

In order to apply the guidelines appropriately in any given case, consideration must be given to the following:

Learn More about Child Support

Child Custody & Visitation

Child custody disputes in Harford County will usually travel down one of two paths: mediation or evaluation.  Mediation involves two sessions.  It is a confidential process that results in a parenting plan and a consent Order.

The evaluation process is not confidential.  With custody evaluations, the process is information-gathering; the evaluator attempts to assess the parties’ strengths as well as the limitations.  There are four sessions (including participation by the child).  A mental health professional may be involved.  Also, the parties must attend classes conducted by the Office of Family Court Services.


pdf-icon-copy 200x200pxFOR DOWNLOAD OR PRINT: PARAMETERS FOR PARENTS IN CUSTODY DISPUTES


 

If the parties can come to a mutual agreement as a result of this process, then a parenting plan will be drafted and signed.  The Circuit Court will then sign a Consent Order that incorporates the parenting plan.

If no agreement is reached at the conclusion of the custody evaluation process at the Office of Family Court Services, then the custody evaluator will present their findings and recommendations at a hearing held before a Family Law Magistrate.  If no Consent Order is submitted at that hearing to the Magistrate for approval, then a trial date is scheduled and the custody dispute will be resolved by a Circuit Court Judge.

To learn more about child custody and visitation, please view the following links:

Best Interest Attorney: Court Appointed Counsel for Children

Need a Best Interest Attorney for your Child(ren)?

Call Attorney Gault at (410) 638-2600 TODAY!
What is a Best Interest Attorney?

In any action involving custody, visitation rights, or child support, the Circuit Court may appoint a local attorney to serve as a “Best Interest Attorney” or a “Child Advocate Attorney” on behalf of a minor child, or children, in order to advocate and protect the child’s best interests.  The court-appointed attorney must make an independent assessment of the situation, must determine whether the child has ‘considered judgment’, and must advance a position that he or she believes is in the child’s best interest.

When is a Best Interest Attorney Needed?

An attorney may be appointed to represent a child or children in appropriate cases that involve the following factors, allegations, or concerns:

  1. At the request of one or both parties,
  2. If the case involves a high level of conflict,
  3. If there exists inappropriate adult influence or manipulation,
  4. If there is past or current child abuse or neglect,
  5. If there is past or current mental health problems of the child or party,
  6. If there are special physical, educational, or mental health needs of the child that require investigation or advocacy,
  7. If there exists actual or threatened family violence,
  8. If the case involves alcohol or other substance abuse,
  9. If there is consideration of terminating or suspending parenting time or awarding custody/visitation to a non-parent,
  10. If there is relocation involved that substantially reduces the child’s time with a parent, sibling, or both, and/or,
  11. If there exists any other factor that the Circuit Court considers relevant.
What Does a Best Interest Attorney Do?

Once appointed by the Circuit Court, the child’s attorney is not bound by the child’s directives or objectives.  However, the child’s position must be made known to the court whether or not it differs from the position being advocated by the attorney.

The court-appointed attorney may seek guidance from other professionals, family members, and/or school officials.  In discharging their duties, the attorney may do any of the following:

  • Meet with and interview the child, and advise him or her of the scope of the legal representation,
  • Investigate the relative abilities of the two parties in their roles as parents,
  • Visit the child in each parent’s home,
  • Conduct individual interviews with parents, other parties, and collateral witnesses,
  • Observe the child’s interactions with each parent individually,
  • Review educational, medical, dental, psychological, substance abuse, and criminal records,
  • Interview school personnel, child care providers, healthcare providers, and mental health professionals,
  • File and respond to pleadings and discovery, participate in settlement negotiations and trial proceedings (call witnesses, present evidence, make argument); and,
  • Inform the child in an age appropriate manner as to when the legal representation will end.
What are the Qualifications of a Best Interest Attorney?

In order to be appointed by the Circuit Court as a Best Interest Attorney, the attorney must meet certain state guidelines.  Aside from educational and training requirements, the attorney should be able to assess the developmental needs and abilities of children; communicate effectively with children; prepare and present a child’s viewpoint, including court testimony; recognize child abuse and neglect; understand family dynamics, dysfunction, domestic violence, and substance abuse; recognize the limits of legal expertise and obtain professional help for mental health, substance abuse, education, and special needs; and seek available resources for children and families embroiled in child disputes.

Attorney James G. Gault serves as a Best Interest Attorney in Harford County.  Please call 410-638-2600 if you require additional information.

Pre-Nuptial Agreements & Post-Nuptial Agreements

Pre-Nuptial Agreements

When two people fall in love and decide to get married, they rarely expect a divorce to occur at some point later in life.  Unfortunately, the statistics show otherwise, and the divorce rates speak for themselves.  Therefore, an appropriate pre-nuptial agreement may be in your best interest.

In the event of a divorce, a pre-nuptial agreement will protect your financial interests and individual assets. It will eliminate the expenditure of time, effort, and costs in the future, and as such, it will eventually protect your family. If there is a chance that you will remarry in the future, then a pre-nuptial agreement will protect your first family’s interests and assets. It can also protect assets in the event a party becomes incapacitated.

Technically, a pre-nuptial agreement must be made prior to the actual marriage ceremony, it must be made in direct anticipation of marriage, and it must be in writing signed by both parties.

The scope of a pre-nuptial agreement may include a wide array of topics. The parties may address property rights with respect to any property acquired before or during the marriage – in case of divorce or death.  The parties may address the allocation of marital property in the event of a divorce or separation; specific issues would include alimony, spousal support, monetary awards, life insurance, health insurance, college tuition, etc.  Furthermore, a pre-nuptial agreement could be used to address inheritance rights (such as specific provisions for children born before or during the marriage).

While not an absolute requirement, it is advisable to use a notarized signature when executing a pre-nuptial agreement.

Because it constitutes a written agreement between two adults, a pre-nuptial agreement is subject to general contract law in the event of a post-divorce dispute. Accordingly, a pre-nuptial agreement is fully enforceable via the judicial system.

There can be many concerns associated with pre-nuptial agreements such as: whether a confidential relationship existed; the timing of the signing of the pre-nuptial agreement; whether there was a full and complete disclosure of all assets; whether the agreement was unfairly disproportionate; whether there was an actual ‘give-and-take’ negotiation; whether there was overreaching; and other potential pitfalls.

Attorney James G. Gault can prepare an appropriate pre-nuptial agreement for your legal and factual situation.  Please call 410-638-2600 to schedule an office appointment.

Post-Nuptial Agreement

Some people who get married actually stay married to each other, and they never even consider divorce proceedings. Such people can sign a post-nuptial agreement to guide the future disposition of financial interests and assets, or to address other monetary issues in the event of certain circumstances.

While not an absolute requirement, it is advisable to use a notarized signature when executing a post-nuptial agreement.

Attorney James G. Gault can prepare an appropriate post-nuptial agreement for your legal and factual situation.  Please call 410-638-2600 to schedule an office appointment.

Don’t Navigate this Road Alone

If you find yourself facing unfortunate, difficult circumstances, do not walk this road alone.  Let our firm provide solid legal counsel to get you through this matter quickly and to situate you for the best position possible once your legal battle concludes.

Call (410) 638-2600 TODAY!