What should I expect from an initial consultation with Suzanne Ryan Law?

The individual or firm that you retain for your family law matter should be one that you are comfortable working with for months, or even years. Different attorneys have different approaches, and it is important for you to determine which approach is the best for you. During an initial consultation, we will discuss the facts of your case as well as the various resolution options. The initial consultation is also a time for me to share my experience and outline my preferred approaches in law and mediation.

What do I do if my co-parent and I disagree about vaccinations?

Whether or not your child receives vaccinations is a medical decision. Medical decisions for children are controlled by legal custody (decision-making authority). If you have a custody agreement or court order, your agreement or court order likely states which parent has legal custody, and therefore, which parent determines whether or not to vaccinate your child.

If you have joint legal custody and there is disagreement as to whether to vaccinate, it can be more difficult. Joint legal custody requires you and your co-parent to discuss the issue in an effort to reach a joint resolution. If you are unable to reach an agreement, review your custody agreement or court order. There may be a provision governing what to do if you have reached an impasse. If, after abiding by any provisions in your custody agreement or court order, you continue to disagree, consult a family law attorney to discuss options for moving forward.

Should I bring my attorney to mediation?

When you decide to pursue mediation, you have the choice of attending with or without your counsel. There are pros and cons to both approaches, and you must determine which is the better option for you. The most obvious advantage of attending mediation without counsel is that it will help reduce costs. Mediation without counsel is an option if both parties are willing and able to communicate with the other, the issues are not overly complex, and both parties recognize the value of reaching an agreement through compromise. Alternatively, if your case is extremely high conflict, involves complex financial issues, and/or if one party does not appreciate the value of reaching an agreement, the cost of having your counsel present may be advantageous. If you opt not to bring counsel to mediation, you may lose valuable time and money if agreements fall apart after review by your (or the other party’s) counsel.

At a minimum, consult with your counsel in advance of mediation to become educated as to the issues you intend to mediate (custody, finances, etc.). Your attorney can help prepare you for mediation by ensuring you understand the process, helping you identify your goals, and targeting areas where you may be willing to compromise. Your counsel may also have an opinion as to whether they should accompany you to mediation.

How is child support in Maryland calculated?

In most cases, the Maryland Child Support Guidelines are used to determine the amount of child support paid from one parent to the other. The amount to be paid is based on the combined income of both parents. If a parent is unemployed, support may be calculated based on a determination of potential income. In addition to income, the guidelines take into consideration the number of children, any amount being paid for other children, alimony paid or received, work-related child care expenses, the cost of a child’s health insurance coverage, medical and education expenses. The Maryland Child Support Administration provides a child support guideline calculator that can estimate the amount of child support.

What types of issues are covered in prenuptial or postnuptial agreements?

Examples of issues that may be included in prenuptial or postnuptial agreements include: disposition of the marital home and other real property; disposition of personal property upon separation, divorce, or death; disposition of retirement, pensions, and financial accounts; disposition of inheritance received by a spouse; amount and duration of alimony; health insurance; division of debts; tax issues; custody/access (only in postnuptial agreements); and child support (only in postnuptial agreements).

What is limited scope representation?

Limited scope representation, or unbundled legal services, is a way for people to obtain help from a lawyer without paying for the cost of full representation. Under limited scope representation, an attorney can perform certain tasks for a client without taking on the full responsibility for the case. Maryland court rules permit attorneys to enter limited appearances. Examples of limited scope representation include ongoing consultations, coaching for court appearances, and review of and/or preparation of paperwork for a case.

What is shared (or joint) physical custody?

Shared physical custody does not have a specific definition in Maryland. It can be used to describe any custodial time division arrangement (eg., where one parent has 90% of the custodial time and the other has 10%; where both parents divide custodial time equally; or any other combination of divided custodial time). However, for the purpose of calculating child support, shared custody means that each parent has at least 25% (92 overnights/year) custodial time with the children.

Can I get a divorce if I am still living with my spouse?

Yes, if you meet specific criteria. Maryland law does not require married individuals to be living separately in order to get divorced. You and your spouse can move forward with a divorce, on the grounds of mutual consent, if you are living together, and even if you have minor children. In order to proceed, you must have an executed agreement (often called a Marital Settlement Agreement or Separation Agreement) that resolves custody, property, and alimony. As long as you meet these criteria, you are eligible for an uncontested divorce hearing.

How long does it take to get divorced?

It depends. If you and your spouse have reached a resolution and have a signed agreement, you can obtain a divorce based on mutual consent. Many factors determine the length of the divorce process, including the county in which you are getting divorced, the resolution process chosen, whether the parties settle the case prior to a trial, as well as the complexity of the case.