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When the Going Gets Tough - Do Couples Go to Counseling?

When the going gets tough for couples, there are many counseling options to explore before choosing to divorce.

I discuss individual counseling in a previous post.   Individual counseling often compliments couples-based counseling.

Discernment counseling is used to determine whether to work on the marriage, pursue a divorce, or temporarily separate. This is ideal for couples ambivalent about their relationship or when one spouse wants to keep the marriage and the other does not.

When the Going Gets Tough, do the Tough go to Counseling?

The divorce process takes. It takes resources - money, time, emotion, and energy - that feel (and likely are) in very short supply. Taking while giving little, it often feels, in return. Divorce is tough.

So are we. Growing up being told, and so believing, that if we try hard enough, we can do anything. And, that if at first we don't succeed, try, try again. This builds confidence, resilience, and toughness.

However, these lessons overlook the importance of asking - and knowing when to ask - for help.

What Is Non-Marital Property and Why Should I Care?

Non-marital property consists of (a) the property you owned prior to your marriage; (b) the property you acquired during your marriage by inheritance or gift from third parties (not your spouse); and (c) any property directly traceable to any of the above sources. See Md. Code Ann. Family Law § 8-201(e)(3). In a divorce action, each party gets to keep their non-marital property, provided they are able to prove that such property was directly acquired via one of the three above-listed sources.  This is where the proverbial plot thickens, particularly in long-term marriages. 

How many people keep records verifying their acquisition of jewelry or a baseball card collection that they purchased 20 or more years ago?  How many people keep evidence confirming their receipt of funds from a deceased relative’s estate or life insurance policy?  How many people maintain statements dating back to the date of marriage for their existing 401(k) plans?  In my experience, most do not.  And most banks only keep records dating back seven years, further complicating the proof recovery problem. 

Whether and When to Involve an Attorney in Mediation

Many couples choose mediation to resolve their family matters.  Mediation gives you control over who facilitates the settlement discussion, over how to structure and pace the process, and – most importantly – over the outcome.  Mediation can be efficient and cost-effective.  Mediation is not, however, the same as representation by an attorney.  The mediator is a neutral, whose role is to facilitate communication between the participants, identify issues, and explore settlement options.  The goal is settlement, not the best deal for you or protecting your best interests.  This raises the question of…whether and when to involve an attorney in the mediation process?

In court-ordered mediation, your attorney may be required to participate from start to finish.  So, the decision may be made for you. 

In private, voluntary mediation, there are many options and no one-fits-all answer. 

The Unraveling of Divorce Need Not be Your Undoing

Divorce often feels like an unraveling.  Of a relationship.  Of the family.  Of the home.  And, more challengingly, of yourself. 

The one relationship becomes two people with separate, yet often still intertwined, lives.  Especially with children.

What was one family becomes two, with the balancing act of the “new” and the “old”.  The newness of a different schedule with separate parenting time, versus minimizing disruption to routine and consistency.  Both with a dash of reinvention of habits and traditions.

One home becomes two.  At the least with one moving out and dividing the contents and “stuff” of daily life.  More challenging, with both moving, establishing new homes, and perhaps selling another.

Request for Production of Documents

Jordan Rossi is a Paralegal at DHHW.  She has worked with Dragga, Hannon, Hessler & Wills since 2012.

During the course of your case, you will engage in discovery, which is exactly what it sounds like, the discovering and disclosing of information about the opposing party.  This includes the answering of questions and exchanging of information by way of a document production. 

The exchanging of documents starts when receiving a written Request for Production of Documents.  Each party is allowed to request documents from the other, and Maryland Rules have not imposed a limit on how many requests may be asked of a party, within reason.  Providing the documents to the opposing side is known as the Response to Request for Production of Documents, and contains a written portion as well as the documents themselves.  You have 30 days from service of the Request for Production of Documents to gather what is requested so it can be provided to the opposing side. 

Starting the Journey – Hiring an Attorney – What to consider?

Hiring an attorney means putting your trust in someone to advocate for you, your family, and your future on the unfamiliar path of divorce and custody.  It is a stressful journey, arising from a difficult and challenging family situation.  When you may feel like your future and your family are at risk.  Finding the right attorney is the first step on that journey.

There are lots of ways to find an attorney – asking those you know who have been through this, asking a trusted professional (accountant, therapist, doctor, etc.), online searches, advertisements, and more.  Followed by information gathering – usually by word of mouth and online – to narrow the options.  Then, contacting the offices of a select few to decide if you will make an appointment, probably depending on cost, availability, and your initial impressions from that contact.  Culminating with the initial consultation.  All with the goal of deciding whether to place your trust in this attorney with what’s most important – you, your family, and your future.

On the Journey – The Value of Settlement

There are many ways to resolve a family matter, with settlement being but one.  Statistically, most cases settle.  Some are settlement-headed from the start, while others settle during litigation.

What is a settlement?   A settlement is an agreement between two people that resolves disputed issues.  It may be a written agreement, a court order, or a transcription of a verbal recording.  Settlement can be of some issues (so, a partial agreement) or of all the issues (so, a global agreement).  Settlement can resolve short-term or temporary issues (so, an interim agreement) or be a final settlement.  It depends on you and your family’s needs.  Settlement can be accomplished through negotiation, mediation, or the collaborative process.  For more information about process options, please CLICK HERE

Lindsay Parvis Published in Maryland Family Law Advocate

The April 2017 edition of the Maryland Family Law Advocate, a publication of the MSBA Family & Juvenile Law Section, features an article authored by Geraldine Welikson Hess, Esquire, and updated by Lindsay Parvis.  The article, Montgomery County: Practice and Procedure, provides an overview of the Montgomery County Circuit Court Family law procedures.  The article is reprinted here with permission of the FJLS.

What is a Qualified Domestic Relations Order?

A Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO, pronounced “qua-dro”) is an order entered by a court to direct the division of the marital property portion of a retirement interest in a divorce.  A QDRO may also be used to collect payment of child support and/or alimony.  This article focuses on division of retirement in divorce.

Retirement plans, profit sharing, Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs), pensions, 401Ks, deferred compensation plans, and Keogh plans are just several examples of an exhaustive list of retirement assets that the court may consider marital property subject to division. If the plan is defined as a “tax qualified” plan by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), then the transfer of retirement assets is done through a QDRO.

A QDRO allows the spouse who is not a retirement plan participant to be recognized as an “alternate payee” and to collect all or part of the retirement benefits which belong to the plan participant. The alternate payee may be allowed to receive current or future benefits depending on the plan and/or agreement reached by the spouses.

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