#FamilyFriday – Absolute Divorce v. Limited Divorce

Many families are confused about the difference between an absolute divorce and a limited divorce.  On this week’s #FamilyFriday article, the attorneys at ERA Law Group, LLC want to help explain the two types divorce.

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Many families are confused about the difference between an absolute divorce and a limited divorce.  On this week’s #FamilyFriday article, the attorneys at ERA Law Group, LLC want to help explain the two types divorce.

An absolute divorce is absolute and terminates the marriage.  Any award made by the Court under the limited divorce may be finalized and incorporated into the Judgment of Absolute Divorce.

A limited divorce is a legal separation.  When a party files for a limited divorce it usually means one of the following: (1) the grounds for an absolute divorce have not been met, (2) there is an immediate need for financial relief, and (3) the parties cannot work amicably to settle their differences.  During the limited divorce, the parties are still married, cannot enter into sexual relations with other persons, and must live separately.  The Court may determine which party is at fault, child custody, child support, health insurance coverage, and make additional awards.

Many couples file a Complaint for Limited Divorce or, in the alternative, an Absolute Divorce for tactical reasons.  For example, perhaps your spouse refuses to discuss some or all the issues such as establishing an access schedule, paying child support, contributing to household expenses, etc.  If your spouse won’t have these conversations you may want to immediately file in order to obtain said support.  Because it may take nearly a year, or more, for the Court to schedule your final hearing, you may end up meeting the requirements for an absolute divorce.  In the off chance you don’t, filing the limited divorce may get your spouse to work amicably with you or, at the very least, adhere to an Order of the Court.

If you are separated and need assistance, call the attorneys at ERA Law Group, LLC today at (410) 919-1790!

#TuesdayTips: The “Simple” Will

All too often will-seeking clients call the firm asking if we do “simple” wills, say they need a will, but don’t want one of those “long wills”, or claim to not have anything, so they just need a “basic” will.  On this week’s #TuesdayTips article, ERA Law Group, LLC discusses how having a properly drafted will can mitigate many of these foreseen and unforeseen problems.

All too often will-seeking clients call the firm asking if we do “simple” wills, say they need a will, but don’t want one of those “long wills”, or claim to not have anything, so they just need a “basic” will.   Most law firms will respond to the client, “Yes! We can do that!”  But there are pitfalls that can arise, some foreseen and some unforeseen, when a person only has a “simple” will, and the client does not even know these potential pitfalls exist.  On this week’s #TuesdayTips article, ERA Law Group, LLC discusses how having a properly drafted will can mitigate many of these foreseen and unforeseen problems.

Two common scenarios arise when people have a “simple” will that case issues: (1) Age issues, and (2) Disability issues.  The first scenario, age, has two parts: (a) what happens if someone who is under eighteen (18) years old is set to inherit money or property from the decedent; and (2) what if someone who is over eighteen (18) years old is set to inherit money or property, but is irresponsible to handle a substantial inheritance?

In Maryland, a person under eighteen cannot inherit money or property and hold legal title to that property in their own name.  Someone else over eighteen must hold title to that property, for the minor’s benefit, until the minor attains eighteen years old.  Often times, though, the Testator or Testatrix (man/woman who creates the will) might not think that a person at eighteen is mature enough to handle inheriting money or property; therefore, in a properly drafted under-stated age trust (a.k.a. a minor’s trust) set up in a will, he/she can set the minimum age to inherit to an age he/she feels is more appropriate.  Often, a Testator or Testatrix will choose somewhere between age 23 and 25 because the person inheriting has completed college, grad school, a trade school and/or has been working for a reasonable amount of time and a can hopefully manage an inheritance of money, property or both.  Therefore, it is advantageous for your will to contain an under-stated age subtrust that directs how a minor’s or individual’s inheritance who is under a stated age will be held and managed.  Last, this subtrust can avoid the requirement of court intervention if a minor is set to receive an inheritance and no provisions are made outlining how to handle a minor receiving an inheritance.

The next scenario is: what happens if a person who is incompetent or disabled is set to receive an inheritance?  It is possible that when a person dies, he or she has designated an individual who is incompetent or disabled to receive all or a portion of their estate.  If that happens, it can have dire consequences for the beneficiary.  For example, what happens if the child of a decedent has a severe cognitive disability (i.e., severe autism or severe Downs Syndrome) and is receiving SSI and Medicaid because he is unable to work. If the parent does not do proper planning, that disabled child may inherit a substantial sum of money causing that child to lose his SSI and Medicaid benefits.

Or this other scenario: a husband is in a nursing home on Medicaid because of severe dementia, but the wife still living in the community suffers a massive heart attack and dies.  Now the husband in the nursing home may be designated in the wife’s will to receive all of her estate.  Now the husband in the nursing facility might lose his Medicaid benefits because he now inherited a house that needs to be sold.  Remember, the husband has severe dementia, cannot sell the house himself, and does not have a power of attorney.  Now a guardianship issue has presented itself in addition to him losing his Medicaid benefits because he now has excess assets.

All of the problems caused in scenario two can be avoided if the decedent’s will has a properly drafted Incompetent or Disabled Beneficiary Trust.

At ERA Law Group, LLC, we advise our clients of these potential pitfalls, even when the client wants to do “basic” planning.  Unfortunately, if not properly counseled, “basic” planning can cause very complex issues later after someone dies.  At that point, it may be too late to cure the issues.  That is why ERA’s “basic” or “simple” will includes both of these subtrusts…we don’t want our clients to be left stranded if these difficult and “unforeseen” scenarios come up later.  Call us today at (410) 919-1790!

#FamilyFriday: Marital v. Non-Marital Property

When couples get divorced they are required to identify marital property and non-marital property.  Many individuals don’t know what makes property marital and therefore, how they may unintentionally make a non-marital asset marital. 

When couples get divorced they are required to identify marital property and non-marital property.  Many individuals don’t know what makes property marital and therefore, how they may unintentionally make a non-marital asset marital.  This week’s #FamilyFriday article defines marital and non-marital property and offers a few tips to protect your non-marital property.

Maryland defines marital property as any property – no matter how titled – acquired by 1 or both parties during the marriage.  Individuals mistakenly believe that if the property, personal or real estate, is in their sole name it means that it is not marital – not true.  By virtue of being married, what’s theirs is yours and what’s yours is theirs.

As logic flows, non-marital property is any property which was acquired prior to marriage.  There are also some ways to acquire non-marital property during your marriage.  These include an inheritance, a gift from a third person, an agreement between you and your spouse stating what is or is not marital, or any monies which were received through any of the above means.  For example, if your parent passes and leaves you $10,000.00.  You can put that $10,000.00 into a bank account in your sole name and still have that remain non-marital property.

How does non-marital property then become marital property?  When you comingle the property.  Take the example of receiving a $10,000 inheritance described above.  Say you decide to transfer your inheritance into the joint account.  Many would think that $10,000 of the balance of their joint account would remain non-marital since it was clearly from their inheritance.  Wrong.  The moment those monies were comingled, all of that money became marital property.

So, what do you do?  One of two things: (1) keep non-marital property separate or (2) enter into a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement and define what each of you will maintain as non-marital property.  You and your spouse can enter an agreement and list what property will be marital and what will not.  That may include real estate, jewelry, bank accounts, etc.  Or, you can keep it simple and keep your non-marital money separate.

Call ERA Law Group, LLC today at (410) 919-1790 to learn how to protect your non-marital property!

#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. 

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 – Fast Track to Divorce

Many people get married and mutually agree that a divorce is what’s right for them.  A divorce by mutual consent allows parties to file for divorce so long as there are no minor children and there is an agreement as to all property issues.

On this week’s #FamilyFriday article, the attorneys at ERA Law Group, LLC want to help you get divorced and quick.  Many people get married and mutually agree that a divorce is what’s right for them.  Prior to 2015, if you wanted a divorce you had to wait at least one year.  The theory behind the wait period was to encourage partners to reconcile and hopefully avoid divorce.  Fortunately the law has caught up with reality and in many cases, when you know you know.

A divorce by mutual consent allows parties to file for divorce so long as there are no minor children and there is an agreement as to all property issues.  Determining whether you have minor children is easy but settling property can sometimes be difficult depending on the duration of the marriage and the property accrued.  You and your spouse want to discuss and settle issues related to any joint bank accounts, cars, real property, debt, retirement, and alimony before filing for divorce.  Hiring an attorney to draft the settlement agreement to ensure it contains all necessary contract language and covers all potential property disputes is important to make sure you truly have settled all property issues.  Additionally, sometimes parties think they’re on the same page only to learn that they’re not.  Discussing these issues initially allows for a smooth settlement and a true divorce by mutual consent.

Once you have your agreement signed you can then file for the divorce.  Your spouse can come with you and immediately file their answer which avoids waiting for the summons and having to formally serve the Defendant.  When filing for the divorce you must include a copy of your agreement so the Court is satisfied that there are no unresolved property issues.  After you’ve filed, the Court will set an uncontested hearing for about ten (10) minutes.  Some counties take longer than others but a good estimation of the time it would take to get divorced is three (3) months.

The attorneys at ERA Law Group, LLC offer fixed fee services to draft and finalize your  agreement and handle your uncontested divorces.  Call us today!

#FamilyFriday – Prenuptial Agreements: Why You Should Get One!

There are two ways to dissolve a marriage: divorce and death. Prenuptial agreements help in making the dissolution as easy as possible.

There is a misconceived notion that asking for a prenuptial agreement or discussing it in some way implies distrust or concern over your relationship.  This isn’t true!  There are a significant number of benefits to obtaining a prenuptial agreement that the attorneys at ERA Law Group, LLC want to bring to your attention for this week’s #FamilyFriday article!

Marriage is both a romantic and business relationship.  With very few exceptions nearly everything is or becomes marital.  As such, nearly everything can become subject of costly litigation in the event of divorce or death.  A well drafted and all-inclusive premarital agreement will limit many of these issues.  For example, the agreement will identify what is and is not marital property, each parties’ rights in the event of death or divorce, predetermine rights and obligations for spousal support, inheritance, and more.  In addition, the agreement will have a complete financial disclosure including each spouses’ assets, liabilities, and income.

There are two ways to dissolve a marriage: divorce and death.  Prenuptial agreements help in making the dissolution as easy as possible.  Prospective spouses should consider whether they want to be on the hook for their partner’s debt in the event of divorce or marriage?  Whether they want their spouse from a second marriage to inherit more than their children from their first marriage?  Whether they want their private business to be impacted in the event of divorce or death?

Why wait?  Protect you, your spouse, and your family no matter what life throws at you.  Call ERA Law Group, LLC today at (443) 906-3566!

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!