Am I required to pay for my children’s college expenses?
In Maryland, mothers and fathers are generally not required under the law to pay for college expenses of their children. Child support obligations for fathers and mothers terminate when a child attains the age of 18 years or graduates high school, which ever one occurs last and child support generally will not go beyond the age of 19 years. If parents are committed to paying for a child’s college expenses, the law will enforce a contract, usually in the form of a separation agreement. This may later become a part of the final judgment of absolute divorce between the parents. Of course there is nothing that prevents either parent from paying for a child’s expenses, but without a contract, a parent may not be legally obliged to do so.
If I don’t live with my children, how can I maintain a relationship with them after the divorce?
When a family reorganizes, parents can decide, or if necessary courts can determine, where children live.
In Maryland law, we have three general concepts that address this. One is called sole physical custody, where a child lives primarily under the roof of one parent. Another concept is shared physical custody which means a child lives for a minimum of one third of the year, or 128 overnights, with one parent or up to one half of the time, or approximately 182 overnights with each parent. A third concept is known either as visitation, also known as an access schedule, which means something less than the shared physical custody. Visitation can include alternating weekends or certain time during the week, but it does not add up to 128 overnights per year.
As a general matter, courts take very seriously the importance of preserving a relationship between parents and children after divorce and will require children to spend time with both parents. If parents cannot agree on an access schedule, courts will generally order an access schedule if parents and children live in different homes.
If I haven’t worked for many years, can I receive alimony?
Alimony is one of the most complicated parts of a family law case. There is no simple formula under the Maryland law that will determine what alimony looks like following a separation and then a divorce of a married couple. For temporary purposes, a court will often award alimony based on a balancing test which weighs the needs of recipient of alimony against the ability of the donor of alimony to provide for those needs and meet the donor’s needs as well. For alimony that goes behind a temporary phase, a court looks at a variety of factors that are enumerated in the Family Law Article of the Maryland Code, before determining the length of and amount of alimony to be awarded.
Among the factors that a court evaluates in an alimony case is the time it would take for the recipient of alimony to return to the workplace and to make progress towards being self-supporting.
Alimony awards can be different depending on the jurisdiction where a case is litigated. For example, judges applying the alimony factors in Howard County may differ from judges applying the alimony factors in other communities. Maryland judges are given much discretion in this area of family law.