You shouldn't have to add to your stress and tension by waiting to have your questions answered. Browse the following frequently asked questions and see if you can find the answers you need.
The answer depends. Generally, if you have no children or assets which you and your spouse are arguing about, you can probably file your case as a pro se litigant. Simply fill in the blank forms that are available at the Circuit Court in your county that permit you to represent yourself when there is agreement and/or no real dispute between you and your spouse. These forms are available at the MD Judiciary Website (see the link below).
If you are seeking only child support and you already have custody, or the other parent is not contesting custody, you can obtain assistance from the Office of Child Support Enforcement in your county. The services are provided for free by the Office of the State's Attorney and, other than the initial application fee, they will assist with the establishment and collection of your child support. They will not, however, assist with the establishment and/or modification of custody.
On the other hand, if you own a home, have children and can't reach resolution by agreement, or are in need of child support, a custody determination, spousal support, etc., you should probably hire an attorney. At minimum, it is prudent to at least meet with an attorney to discuss your situation and learn your rights and options.
Retaining a divorce attorney is a very personal decision. Be sure to find an attorney who has experience and is well versed in the area of domestic relations. It is not for the faint of heart, as attorneys who regularly practice in the areas of divorce and custody know, it is an area of concentration that requires experience, judgment and knowledge. Do not trust your legal needs to someone who "dabbles in domestic." You want an attorney with experience and judgment you can trust.
Custody decisions are based upon what is known as the "best interests of the child." Some of the factors considered in the evaluation by the courts include such things as:
1) the fitness of the parents; 2) the character and reputation of the parties; 3) the desire of the natural parents and the content of any agreement between them; 4) the potential of maintaining natural family relations; 5) the preference of the child, at least when the child is of sufficient age and capacity to form a rational judgment; 6) any material opportunities affecting the future life of the child; 7) the age, health and sex of the child; 8) the suitability of the residences of the parents, and whether the non-custodial parent will have adequate opportunities for visitation; 9) how long the child has been separated from a natural parent who is seeking custody, if applicable; 10) the effect of any prior abandonment or surrender of custody of the child. Mo. Co vs. Sanders
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Child support is determined by the MD Child Support Guidelines. In essence, each parent's gross monthly income is factored into the calculation and, depending upon the number of children, is adjusted accordingly. Day care expenses, health insurance, medical needs and other expenses such as private schooling also factor into the calculation of the child support.
Joint legal custody means that both parents participate in the important decisions involving their child or children and will make those decisions together. Such things as religious training, private vs. public schooling, and health care related decisions other than minor bumps and bruises that require medical treatment. Joint legal is appropriate when two parents can effectively communicate and cooperate, despite the fact that they may no longer be together or even like one another.
Sole legal custody means that the primary custodial parent will be responsible for the major decisions. This occurs in high conflict cases or in those cases where the non-custodial parent has no role and little interest in the minor children. Day to day decisions are still made by the non-custodial parent when the child is in their care.