#FamilyFriday: Family Support Services

Families often wonder what resources are out there to help them in the midst of a family related litigation case.  There are numerous services available that can be requested by either party involved in the litigation and ordered by the Court.

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By: Valerie E. Anias, Esq.

Families often wonder what resources are out there to help them in the midst of a family related litigation case.  There are numerous services available that can be requested by either party involved in the litigation and ordered by the Court.  On this week’s #FamilyFriday article, ERA Law Group, LLC discusses some of those services.

  1. Mediation. The Court often orders the parties to complete mediation early on in litigation.  This tool is especially helpful in limiting the issues at hand and encouraging families to settle their disputes.  As discussed in earlier #FamilyFriday articles, it is often recommended that families seek mediation services before filing suit.
  2. Custody Investigations/Evaluations. Upon request from a party or by the Court’s own initiative, a custody evaluation can be ordered.  A trained third party professional, will be required to conduct an interview of each party, an interview of the child(ren) (if the child has the capacity to be interviewed), a review of relevant records pertaining to the child, and an observation of the child with each party.  At the conclusion of the review, the evaluator will be required to report their factual findings of the needs of the child, the capacity of each party to meet those needs, and the evaluator’s recommendation as to custody and visitation.
  3. Mental Health Evaluations: Upon request from a party or by the Court’s own initiative, a party may be ordered to receive an evaluation by a mental health professional and in some cases psychological testing.  If one or both parties allege that a party suffers from a mental health issue which may impact the children, custody, and/or visitation, the party should motion the Court for the evaluation.  The Court will weigh the party’s allegations and decide whether to grant the motion and make such Order
  4. Substance Abuse Assessments: Upon request from a party or by the Court’s own initiative, a party may be ordered to undergo drug testing and/or assessment.  Depending on the outcome or the basis for the screening, the Court may then require random screenings and/or treatment related to the abuse.  This will also play a role in the Court’s determination of custody and/or visitation.
  5. Specific Issue Evaluation: Again, upon request from a party or by the Court’s own initiative, the Court may Order an evaluation based upon a specific issue related to one or both parties that affects the safety, health and/or welfare of a child.  The Court will analyze the specific issue and Order the evaluation by a professional with expertise related to that specific issue.

To discuss your case and about services that may be available to you, call ERA Law Group, LLC today at (410) 919-1790 to schedule your FREE 30 minute consultation!

#FamilyFriday: De Facto Parent – Grandparents & Custody

A de facto parent is someone a court will treat as a parent based on the person’s relationship with a child. 

Before 2016, it was nearly impossible for a Grandparent to obtain custody of a grandchild.  This was because the burden to obtain custody was high and required the grandparent to establish that the biological parent was unfit or that exceptional circumstances existed.  Fortunately, after the case of Conover v. Conover, Maryland adopted the de facto parent status. In this week’s #FamilyFriday article, ERA Law Group, LLC defines the de facto parent status and how that enables grandparents to seek custody of their grandchildren.

In many families, grandparents are the primary caretakers and providers for a grandchild.  Not only do they provide food, shelter, clothing, but they also may provide emotional and financial support, tucking their grandchildren to bed, staying up with them while their sick, making sure they brush their teeth, etc.  Without custody, however, grandparents can’t enroll their grandkids in school, sign medical forms to consent to necessary surgeries, etc. without the consent of the parents.  In these cases, grandparents often seek to gain physical and legal custody of their grandchildren.  Now, because of de facto parent status in Maryland, grandparents can and do obtain custody!

A de facto parent is someone a court will treat as a parent based on the person’s relationship with a child.  The court uses four factors to make that determination:

  1. The legal parent consented to and fostered the relationship between the de facto parent and the child;
  2. The de facto parent has lived with the child;
  3. The de facto parent performs parental functions for the child to a significant degree; AND
  4. A parent-child bond has been forged.

If you or someone you know needs to obtain custody of their grandchildren, have them contact ERA Law Group, LLC at (410) 919-1790 to schedule their free 30 minute consultation!

#FamilyFriday – Filing Exceptions

What happens if you disagree with the Court’s order for Pendente Lite relief?  What if the Court denies any Pendente Lite relief?

As previously discussed in an earlier #FamilyFriday article, the Court, upon request, will schedule a Pendente Lite (PL) hearing while the parties wait for their final hearing.  What happens if you disagree with the Court’s order for Pendente Lite relief?  What if the Court denies any Pendente Lite relief?  On this week’s #FamilyFriday article, the attorneys of ERA Law Group, LLC discuss the process for filing Exceptions.

As a reminder, 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, spousal support, and/or use and possession of the marital home while the parties await the final hearing on the merits.  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.

In most counties this hearing takes place before a Magistrate.  A Magistrate takes the place of a Judge but don’t issue Orders.  They issue Proposed Orders.  At the PL hearing, the Magistrate will hear the case presented by both parties as to why there should or should not be temporary relief and, if so, how much is fair and reasonable.  The Magistrate then states their finding and submits a Proposed Order.  After 10 days, the Proposed Order is sent to a Circuit Court Judge for a signature effectively making the Proposed Order an Order.

Why the 10 days?  At the conclusion of the PL hearing, both parties have 10 days to file “Exceptions.”  Exceptions are written reason(s) why the Magistrate’s Proposed Order should not be signed by the Judge.  For example, perhaps the Magistrate decided to award more child support than the paying party believes is fair.  The paying party would have 10 days to file Exceptions detailing why the Magistrate’s ruling should not be adopted by the Judge.

The Exceptions process is very similar to an appeal and should not be taken lightly.  There are many requirements involving the timing of the filing, the contents of the Exceptions, the timing for requesting a Transcript, the hearing, etc.  By failing to file timely exceptions or abiding by the statute, you could lose your ability to challenge the Proposed Order.

If you disagree with the Proposed Order for Temporary Relief, call ERA Law Group, LLC ASAP at (410) 919-1790 and ask how we can help you get the relief you need!

#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.

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!

#FamilyFriday – How is Child Support Calculated?

Frequently parents are confused by the child support calculation when considering their other bills and obligations.  What many don’t realize is that in nearly all scenarios the amount of child support ordered is determined by a calculator and factors such as “I have student loans” or “I have rent to pay” don’t necessarily matter.

On this week’s #FamilyFriday article, the attorneys’ at ERA Law Group, LLC want to explain exactly how child support is calculated.  Frequently parents are confused by the child support calculation when considering their other bills and obligations.  What many don’t realize is that in nearly all scenarios the amount of child support ordered is determined by a calculator and factors such as “I have student loans” or “I have rent to pay” don’t necessarily matter.

Maryland uses a Child Support Guideline formula to calculate child support.  Both parents are required to complete a Financial Statement which outlines the various components of that formula.  First, the parents identify their actual monthly income.  This would include salary, Social Security benefits, alimony, etc.  Second, the parents then identify earlier child support or alimony obligations – per Court Order – which will reduce their actual monthly income.  This is called their adjusted monthly income.  Third, if there are any work related child care expenses, health insurance expenses, or extraordinary medical expenses such as braces, those will also be identified by both parents.

Once both parties’ have identified the above, the formula then predicts what percentage of the parents combined income would have been attributed to the child(ren) had they continued living together.  This number is then used to determine the “basic child support obligation.”  The additional factors such as work-related child care and health insurance are incorporated to determine the “total child support obligation” that the non-custodial parent would be responsible for paying to the custodial parent.  Some exceptions exist, such as, if a parent receives Social Security Income, food stamps, or transitional services which would not be considered actual monthly income.

If you or a loved one need help obtaining child support for your children, call ERA Law Group today at (410) 919-1790 or visit our website at www.eralawgroup.com!