#FamilyFriday – Mediating Family Disputes

Sometimes costly litigation can be avoided with mediation.  Especially in family law related matters, mediation could be key to ensure that the issues involving your family are decided by your family. 

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Sometimes costly litigation can be avoided with mediation.  Especially in family law related matters, mediation could be key to ensure that the issues involving your family are decided by your family.  On this week’s #FamilyFriday article, ERA Law Group, LLC wants to explain the pros and cons of mediation.

Mediation is a process of resolving disputes outside of the Courtroom.  A third-party neutral, often a lawyer or retired judge, will attempt to facilitate fruitful conversations between the parties to find common ground, highlight that ground, and hopefully create an environment which will lend itself to a settlement.  An important factor of mediation is that it is not the mediator’s job to create the settlement.  Whether a settlement occurs is always left to the parties.  The mediator is there to facilitate the conversations so that the parties can discuss their positions, opinions, wants, etc. in the best manner possible.

In cases involving family matters such as divorce, child custody, child support, and/or marital property settlement, having a third-party neutral is imperative.  When feelings are at an all-time high, it is difficult to set aside those feelings.  Mediation can offer the environment necessary to have those feelings heard while simultaneously engaging in a meaningful conversation about the issues at hand.  In situations where there is abuse or an uncooperative party, mediation may not be the best method.

To help identify whether mediation is the right process for you, below is a list of its pros and cons:

PROS

  • Save money and avoid costly litigation.
  • The parties decide what is best for them and their family rather than a Judge not familiar with the family or dynamic.
  • The parties have an opportunity to use their voice in ways that a courtroom would not permit.
  • The parties control and orchestrate the settlement, not their attorneys or a judge.
  • Parties may settle more issues that may not be appropriate for a courtroom.
  • Perhaps a total settlement isn’t possible but could limit the issues for court.

CONS

  • History of fear or abuse would render mediation impossible and, if forced, only perpetuate those fears and the abuse.
  • In highly contentious relationships, some parties may only “listen” if a Judge is issuing an Order.
  • There’s a sense of finality in a courtroom that may not be present in mediation.
  • If one party is not willing to engage in any conversation it may be impossible to have a meaningful mediation.
  • One party may not make a good faith effort to disclose vital information.

If you are looking to hire a third-party neutral to mediate disputes in your family or want to know if mediation is right for you, call the attorneys at ERA Law Group, LLC today at (410) 919-1790!

#FamilyFriday – Pendente Lite (“PL”) Hearings

You’ve filed an action in Court for child custody, child support, and/or visitation.  Meanwhile it’s been months since you’ve gotten financial support, visitation is inconsistent, and you’re concerned with the current living arrangements.  Your hearing date is months away or worse, not even scheduled.  What do you while you wait for your hearing? 

You’ve filed an action in Court for child custody, child support, and/or visitation.  Meanwhile it’s been months since you’ve gotten financial support, visitation is inconsistent, and you’re concerned with the current living arrangements.  Your hearing date is months away or worse, not even scheduled.  What do you while you wait for your hearing?  On this week’s #FamilyFriday article, the attorney’s at ERA Law Group, LLC want to help families understand how to obtain temporary relief by way of a Pendente Lite hearing.

When couples divorce, separate, or parent in different households many find it difficult to decide how much child support, who should pay it, when they should pay it, and what visitation schedule is fair.  In the event an agreement cannot be reached or an informal arrangement is not working, one parent is often forced take action and ask the Court to enter an Order setting child support, custody, and visitation.  Unfortunately, in many counties it could take 6 or more months until a hearing date is set to settle the issues between the parties.  In that interim period parties are often at a loss as to how to deal with support or visitation.

Pendente Lite is a Latin term that translates to “awaiting/pending the litigation.”  Maryland Courts use a Pendente Lite hearing as an opportunity to create a temporary order related to child support, custody, visitation, and/or use and possession of the marital home while the parties await the final hearing on the merits.  In highly litigious cases, this also provides a good opportunity to get a glance at the other parties’ argument in support of their case for custody, support, and/or visitation and prepare accordingly for the final trial.  In some cases, the Pendente Lite hearing also encourages the parties’ to settle their dispute prior to the scheduled trial.

In most counties the Court will ask whether a Pendente Lite hearing is necessary during one of your first appearances at Court.  If you and the other party do have an agreement or arrangement, you may not find it necessary.  If you don’t have an arrangement, aren’t seeing your child, aren’t receiving child support, etc., you will want to be sure a Pendente Lite hearing is scheduled as soon as possible.

Call ERA Law Group, LLC today at (410) 919-1790 and ask how we can help you get the relief you need as soon as possible!

#FamilyFriday – Contempt

The very purpose of receiving a Court Order is to once and – hopefully – for all settle a dispute between the parties.  Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen. 

On this week’s #FamilyFriday article, the attorneys at ERA Law Group, LLC are addressing individuals who have fallen victim to an ex-spouse or parent who refuses to abide by the Court’s Order.  You’ve gotten divorced or filed suit for custody and support, the Judge made their determination and you received a Court Order outlining that decision.  What happens when one person decides not to listen?

Contempt is when one party decides to act in contradiction of the Court or Court Order.  The very purpose of receiving a Court Order is to once and – hopefully – for all settle a dispute between the parties.  Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen.  That intentional decision to ignore or act inconsistently with a Court Order is important because it qualifies the contempt as willful.  Being in willful contempt of a Court Order can have serious ramifications.  The contempt-ing party may be subject to a fine, attorney fees, and in serious cases, jail.

The contempt-ing party also creates various consequences for the other party.  For example, say a provision of the Order requires Parent A to pay one half of private school tuition to the school directly and Parent A refuses to pay.  If Parent A refuses to pay their share of the child’s private tuition than Parent B may have to come out-of-pocket for the balance and, if they can’t, their child may not be able to return the following year.  These and similar situations wreak havoc – financially and emotionally – for the party who correctly abides by the Court Order.

If you are being forced to endure the consequences of someone who has decided not to adhere to your Court Order, call your advocates at ERA Law Group, LLC today at (443) 906-3566!

#FamilyFriday – Modifications

Often, we meet with clients that don’t know they can request a change to their previous custody or support order. There are many changes that may occur that make it necessary for you to modify your Court order.

On this week’s #FamilyFriday article, the attorneys at ERA Law Group, LLC are here to talk with you about modifications.  Often, we meet with clients that don’t know they can request a change to their previous custody or support order.  For example, a child support order from 10 years ago is likely very different than a child support order today.  What if one parent has a new job?  What if the child has new needs?  What if one parent lost their job?  There are many changes that may occur that make it necessary for you to modify your Court order.

The most important element of a modification is that there must be a material change in circumstance.  A parent getting a new job but maintaining a similar salary or moving to another home in the same neighborhood are generally not considered a material change in circumstance.  However, in many cases situations do arise which require one parent to seek a modification.  Parents come to our office because one parent has received a significant raise, has moved far away, or has started a relationship with a questionable person.  When these material changes occur, the Court can then evaluate whether the original order is still in the best interests of your child.

The attorneys at ERA Law Group, LLC are compassionate and understanding of each family’s unique circumstances.  Call us at (443) 906-3566 to discuss your specific case and let the attorneys at ERA Law Group, LLC help you and your family!

Getting divorced?

If it’s time for you to begin the divorce process and end this chapter of your life, get organized and be prepared.

No one enters a marriage thinking or wishing for it to end.  But, it happens.  If you find this is happening to you and your marriage, know that you are not alone.  Marriages end, homes are split, and the once unified family is now divided.  Whether you’re the person seeking the divorce, the couple who mutually agree to divorce, or the person who has just been shockingly served, here’s what you need to know in Maryland.
Each family situation is different.  There tends to be two roads to divorce: by agreement between the parties or by a Judge.   If you have agreed how to handle any joint property and you don’t have minor children, you can get a divorce in Maryland without having to wait for any specific time period.  This type of divorce is by Mutual Consent.  If you do have minor children and/or maybe you haven’t settled all your property issues, you still don’t have to engage in war.  Maryland provides a voluntary divorce option for couples to divorce after a 12-month separation.
Unfortunately, divorce does tend to bring out the worst in couples.  In a situation where there has been a loss of trust, loss of a partnership, and, critically, a loss of communication, you need to be prepared to take action.  First, know what assets exist and the approximate value.  This may include property, retirement, personal property, vehicles, etc.  Second, know what type of debt exists and how much.   This can be in the form of a mortgage, outstanding credit card, a car loan, etc.  Be aware that, for purposes of the divorce in nearly all circumstances, any asset or debt is joint – regardless of how either is titled – if it was accrued during your marriage.  Lastly, and most importantly, prepare.  Prepare for your monthly expenses, prepare for your children, prepare for you.  Create a budget and adjust accordingly.  You cannot be certain how the Court is going to rule regarding alimony or a monetary award.  You may be confident that you will be able to remain in your home but what if that’s not the case?  Your spouse may have once promised to financially support you but now things have changed.
You may require the assistance of an experienced family law attorney and this preparation will only make for a more successful case.  Just remember, this too shall pass and you are not alone.  Call me today at (443) 906-3566!