55 CHURCH STREET, PRINCE FREDERICK, MARYLAND 20678     PHONE: (410) 535-0585  FAX: (410) 535-0627
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Family Law Services

Family Law is Simple But Resolving Family Law Issues Are Complex

Child Custody

Child custody can be as stressful to any parent as bringing the child into this world. It is one of the many legal issues that must be decided upon when two people divorce or who are unmarried and have a child together.

Child custody is divided into two parts: physical and legal custody. Physical custody determines where the child resides day-to-day. If only one parent is awarded physical custody, then the other parent would be considered the non-custodial parent. Legal custody allows for a parent to make important decisions for the child such as education, medical care and religion.

When judges award custody, they will first look at what would be in the best interest of the child both emotionally and financially. Under Maryland law, there is no assumption that either parent is a better parent to raise the child.

If both parents are able to provide a safe and secure home then typically they will be awarded equal custody. This would mean that both parents are considered to be the custodial parent of the child by the family law courts. Equal legal custody can be joint legal custody. Equal physical custody can be called shared physical custody.

If a parent cannot financially or emotionally provide for a child then only one parent may be awarded physical and/or legal custody. This happens in instances where one parent is unfit and has mental problems, drug/alcohol dependency or any other serious issues that could be detrimental to the well-being of the child. The unfit parent may only be awarded supervised visitation and the fit parent would be awarded sole custody. If the unfit parent’s situation is too harmful for the well-being of the child then they can be stripped of their parental rights completely.

Child Support

Every parent has a moral and legal obligation to support their minor children. Child support can be requested by a parent who has residential custody of the child.

The Maryland legislature enacted a child support statute that encompasses child support guidelines. The guidelines are more complex than in many states that simply use a percentage. Maryland takes into account the child custody arrangement and each parent's actual gross income and then considers:

(a) preexisting child support actually paid;

(b) health insurance premiums;

(c) alimony (either paid in the current case or another case);

(d) work-related child care expenses (daycare, after school, etc.);

(e) extraordinary medical expenses;

(f) additional expenses (which may include special or private school or transportation between parents' homes).

We can help you to make sure that the child support calculation is fair under the Guidelines. In addition to initial child support determinations, we also assist clients in modifying existing child support and child custody orders. A judge can modify child support if the child's expenses have changed significantly or the income of one or both parents has changed.

Spousal Support/Alimony/Spousal Maintenance

In addition to child support, a parent may petition the court to enter a decree for spousal support. This is known commonly known as alimony. This decree helps a spouse maintain a certain standard of living following a divorce. Sometimes, if a parent has sole physical custody during the divorce proceeding, the court may grant an award of spousal maintenance. This allows the receiving spouse to meet expenses until the divorce is finalized.

The amount and duration of alimony depends on your specific situation and needs. We can help you evaluate your situation and guide you through the process of obtaining alimony.

Domestic Violence

If you or a loved one is a victim of domestic violence, contact your Sheriff's Office and seek immediate assistance.

We also have an in-depth background in family law, helping clients obtain restraining orders to protect their safety. Our lawyers can help victims of domestic violence and other harassment obtain a protective order that can provide legal protection from further assaults and abuse.

In Maryland, there are two types of orders:

Protective order — for persons seeking protection from their husband or wife, someone with whom they have a child in common, or someone with whom they have lived for at least the last 90 days.

Peace order — for persons seeking protection from a neighbor, acquaintance, or stranger

There are three levels of protective orders — interim, temporary, and final.

In a case of domestic violence that occurs when the courts are closed, the victim can go to the court commissioner in any county in Maryland to obtain an interim order, which can be obtained by the victim without the knowledge of the other party and without the help of a lawyer.

If an interim order is granted, a hearing for a temporary order is usually heard by the court within 48 hours.

If the court then grants a temporary order, a hearing for a final order is usually scheduled within 7 days. At this hearing, the alleged abuser can offer a defense, and it is advisable that either party be represented by a lawyer.

A final protective order is valid for up to a year, and can be renewed. A final protective order can also award temporary custody of a child for up to one year, and order the respondent or alleged abuser to make financial payments (emergency family maintenance). At that time, the person at whom the order is directed can ask the court for a modification in the terms of the order.

When it comes to domestic violence or abuse, you should not take risks with either your safety or the safety of your family. We can inform you how to obtain a temporary or interim protective or peace order, and can represent you at the hearing for the final order.

Please contact our office to schedule a consultation.

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LaFayette Law Firm
55 Church Street
Prince Frederick, MD 20678
Phone: 410.535.0627
Fax: 410.535.0627