A Quicker Way to Divorce During the Pandemic
In the family law world, January historically is known as “Divorce Month.” The holidays are over and family obligations are less frequent. Children were able to maintain holiday traditions and not have memories tainted by the splitting of their parents. Then, January arrives and spouses often decide they do not want to maintain the current status quo. That, doubled with New Year’s resolutions, means a lot of new divorce filings.
Despite the uptick in divorce filings this month, the COVID-19 pandemic has made scheduling Court hearings a bit more complicated. The Courts in the state of Maryland have returned to Phase II of their reopening plan, meaning that the Courts are limited in scheduling certain hearings. For many contested divorces (i.e. spouses that cannot agree on how to resolve their marital issues), this means spouses may need to explore alternative dispute resolutions if they want to divorce quickly.
If you are considering a divorce, we encourage you to consider alternative dispute resolutions. We have no way of knowing when the courts open full operations and when they do, there will be a backlog for trials. Therefore, alternative dispute resolutions will be a quicker way to divorce.
Marital Settlement Agreements
Marital Settlement Agreements are a quicker way to divorce during this pandemic. A Marital Settlement Agreement is also known as a Separation Agreement. It is when a married couple wants to divorce and comes to shared decisions on each one of their marital issues. Marital issues include everything from custody schedules, child support, alimony, division of property, and other financial issues.
Hire Legal Representation. First, each spouse hires his or her own attorney to represent them and their best interests.
Negotiate & Draft. Next, the spouses and their attorneys work together to negotiate an agreement that resolves all marital issues (e.g. custody, child support, division of property, etc). Once all issues are agreed upon, the attorneys will draft a legal document, the Marital Settlement Agreement, outlining all the resolutions for the marital issues. Some parents also choose to work with a mediator (described below) to help them come to an agreement, while their respective lawyers advise them throughout the process.
File & Uncontested Divorce Hearing. Then, one attorney will file a Complaint for Absolute Divorce along with the Marital Settlement Agreement. The other attorney will reply with an Answer. Once this is completed, the court will hold an Uncontested Divorce Hearing to make the Marital Settlement Agreement part of the divorce decree. It becomes enforceable as a Court Order, and also serves as a separate contact. If the Marital Settlement Agreement is accepted by the Court, the divorce will be finalized and the spouses will need to abide by the terms in the agreement.
You and your spouse can make shared decisions to resolve all your marital issues with the help of your attorneys, as opposed to a judge if you were to end up in court.
You can save time AND money by avoiding a lengthy court battle.
You can bypass the sometimes legally required one-year of physical separation.
You can settle issues privately and without having to involve friends and family.
If you and your spouse are motivated to resolve the issues of your marriage together and are willing to make compromises, you should consider a Marital Settlement Agreement.
Mediation is a great option to reaching a Marital Settlement Agreement. In mediation, the mediator is a neutral third party who helps facilitate a discussion to reach a solution that meets their needs. If an agreement is reached, the mediator will draft the agreement for the lawyers and parties to review. If no agreement is reached, then the mediator and the parties cannot testify as to what was said during mediation.
If alternative dispute resolution could work for you and your family, contact us to find out more about the process and the best way to get started.
If you have questions about alternative dispute resolutions, contact Laurie Wasserman at firstname.lastname@example.org or call our main number 410-842-1070. Laurie can act as a mediator for both parties, or represent one party in the negotiations of a Marital Settlement Agreement. For the foreseeable future, we will be available by telephone and virtually to serve our clients.