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Please join our family law department chair and senior partner, Monica Scherer for a Zoom session on February 4, 2021 at 5:00 p.m.  She will discuss the basics of divorce and how to start getting prepared for what lies ahead.  Please feel free to submit general questions in advance which Monica will answer during the session.  Each session is approximately one hour.  The fee is $100.00 and can be paid through our website . Once payment and the completed intake form are received, you will receive a Zoom link for the session.

Intake and Payment Forms

Please be advised an attorney-client relationship is NOT created by participation in this informational session.

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What is a Peace Order?

By Maryland statute, a Peace Order is a court order that requires another person to stay away from you and to not contact you.  Do not confuse a Peace Order with a Protective Order. If you are related to the other person, have a sexual-type relationship with the other person, or are a victim of sexual assault, you should consider a Protective Order, not a Peace Order.  A Peace Order is for issues with a neighbor, co-worker, or stranger, etc. and is only applicable if you do not have a familial or intimate relationship with the other person.

Where do I file for a Peace Order in Maryland?

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What is a Protective Order?

By Maryland statute, a Protective Order is a court order that says one person must refrain from doing certain acts against another person. While not legally accurate, many people commonly refer to a Protective Order as a Retaining Order or Ex-Parte.

Who can obtain a Protective Order in Maryland?

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It is important to be aware that Maryland Courts and Orders recognize two parts to custody in the State of Maryland, physical custody and legal custody.

What does Physical Custody mean in Maryland?

If you have physical custody of your child, it means that you have the right and obligation to provide a home for your child at given times, and to make the day-to-day decisions required during the time your child is actually with you. In Maryland, physical custody can be primarily with one parent and your child visits the other parent or shared between the parents.

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The COVID-19 pandemic has swept the nation, causing uncertainty in its wake. While many essential businesses and government offices have shut down, the Maryland courts have been diligent in figuring out how certain matters can still be heard. While the Maryland courts may be restricted, many are still conducting uncontested divorce hearings at this time. If you and your spouse have an uncontested case that is ripe for testimony, the following courts are accepting new filings and may be able to hear your case now:

Circuit Court for Baltimore County: The Circuit Court for Baltimore County is now conducting remote uncontested divorce hearings as long as two attorneys are involved.

Circuit Court for Kent County: Beginning the week of May 5, 2020, the Circuit Court for Kent County is slated to conduct remote uncontested divorce hearings that are ripe.

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What is an Absolute Divorce?

The effect of Maryland’s absolute divorce is parallel to a traditional divorce; it is the final termination of the marriage. In an absolute divorce, custody, visitation, and child support terms between both parties are set, both parties are granted the right to live separately and apart, a legal name change may be granted (the resumption of a former name), and even remarry if they choose. An absolute divorce also allows the court to decide on matters regarding alimony and marital property, including any division of assets, transfer of retirement interests, and any other equitable distribution of real property, personal property and pension/retirement assets acquired during the course of the marriage. Ultimately, both parties are granted the right to sever all legal and financial ties from one another.

What are the grounds for divorce in Maryland?

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Some parents are facing difficult decisions during this COVID-19 pandemic, including whether their children should be physically near a parent that is working with the public. For some families, it means that one parent temporarily lives in another part of the house. A related CNN article can be found here.  For other families, it means one parent temporarily lives in another place altogether. A related ABC article can be found here.

But, for co-parents that live in separate households, the thought of children being near a parent that is a first responder, a front-line worker, or an essential employee can lead to even more difficult decisions. The guidance from the Maryland Judiciary is clear:

All court orders for a child’s custody, parenting time, and child support are still in effect. In some situations, if permitted under the court order, custodians can jointly adjust their shared parenting responsibilities in ways that they agree are best for the children. If custodians are not able to agree, the court order controls.

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The spread of COVID-19 has stressed many family dynamics on a daily basis. Kitchen tables are now elementary school classrooms and backyards now host recess. With Maryland’s Stay-At-Home Order still in place, children and parents are finding themselves working through finding a new normal. COVID-19 Escalates in Capital Region

Parents that share time with their children between different households face an even larger set of challenges. Court orders that define parenting time, holiday schedules, and other child-focused decisions often do not help guide parents through questions like: “What happens in a global, viral pandemic?”.

With the seeming constant change to regulations and recommendations, the best recommendation is flexibility, while understanding your Order remains in place absent an agreement to deviate. Communicate with your children and your co-parent to make the best decision possible for your children and your collective family. Each day may bring new challenges and it is important that co-parents do their best to communicate about those challenges and remain open and flexible to the resolutions. Family flexibility is the new normal.

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As fears surrounding COVID-19 continue to increase and parents in divided households struggle to do what they think is best for their children’s health and safety, below are two examples of how emergency requests have been handled in other States, Florida and New Jersey.

In Orange County, Florida a mother filed for temporary custody of her child after first-responder (firefighter/EMT) father did not voluntarily agree to allow her to keep their child in her care until the Florida’s state of emergency due to COVID-19 ends. The Judge denied the mother’s request stating there was no evidence the father was failing to take proper safety precautions or otherwise acting in a way to place the child in danger. The Judge further found “there is no evidence indicating the continuation of timesharing would subject the minor child to any risk of harm specific to the actions of behavior of the father”. The full news article can be found here.

In New Jersey, a father filed for temporary custody of his child after the mother, a physician, continued to see patients in person in the hospital during the COVID-19 outbreak. The New Jersey Court granted an emergency order and awarded the father temporary custody of the child. After the mother was able to commit to telework/health and to not see patients in person, the Judge reversed the Order. The full news article can be found here.

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The AFCC is the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts. It is a group of individuals from many disciplines associated with or in the family court arena. AFCC members include lawyers, mediators, judges, psychologists, counselors, social workers, parenting coordinators, psychiatrists, researchers, teachers, and policymakers throughout the country. The AFCC recently released seven guidelines for parents who are divorced/separated and sharing custody of children during the COVID-19 pandemic. While these guidelines are not mandated, they provide knowledge and principles of good practice in navigating this crisis. A summary of the seven guidelines as set forth by the AFCC are:

1. BE HEALTHY: Comply with all CDC, local and state guidelines and model good behavior for your children. This also means to be informed by staying in touch with reliable media sources.

2. BE MINDFUL: Be honest about the seriousness of COVID-19, but maintain a calm demeanor for your children. DO not expose your children to endless media coverage, but encourage your children to ask questions and provide them with age appropriate answers.

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