Columbia Divorce Lawyer

Columbia Divorce Lawyer

Columbia Divorce Attorney

In many states, marriage dissolution is a relatively streamlined process. But in Maryland, there is an underlying assumption that it’s still possible to save the marriage after a spouse files for divorce. So, this family law process is rather cumbersome. Some 2015 amendments streamlined the process a little, but not much. Furthermore, in all states, many divorces involve very complex financial and emotional issues.

At the Law Offices of Todd K. Mohink, PA, our Columbia divorce lawyers make divorce as simple as possible. After a comprehensive consultation, we thoroughly review all your legal options. Afterwards, working together, we develop a plan of action. Then, we put that plan into immediate action, beginning with the temporary hearing. All the way through the process, we fight for your legal and financial rights.

Divorce in Maryland: An Overview

A few states, including Maryland, recognize both limited and absolute divorces. Procedurally, they are rather similar. But in other ways, they are significantly different.

Limited divorce is what some people used to call an “Irish Divorce.” The parties separate their property and set up custody/visitation arrangements for their children. But, the spouses remain legally married. Because the spouses are legally still married, they will not distribute their marital property, but decisions about the use of marital property can be made. This arrangement can be temporary or indefinite, but there will be a documented date of separation for the spouses, and neither spouse can remarry. Some states call this outcome a legal separation.

A limited divorce may be a good option for some spouses who want to move on but have a moral or religious problem with divorce. However, it is important to note that neither spouse can move on and find a new relationship, as sexual relations with another person will constitute adultery. Limited divorce also enables non-employee spouses to stay on group health plans and does not have inheritance and succession ramifications. Any property owned during the marriage will likely still transfer to the surviving spouse if one of them dies. But limited divorce provides closure to no one. Furthermore, if one spouse files for limited divorce, the other spouse usually counter-files for absolute divorce.

Absolute divorce permanently dissolves the marriage. Once the divorce is final, all marital property will be divided, and the spouses are free to remarry. Neither will inherit property if the other dies. They can ask the court to decide on things like alimony, child support, and child custody.

Requirements for a Divorce in Maryland

Parties may obtain no-fault divorces after a six or twelve-month waiting period. The 12-month waiting period is mandatory unless one of the following listed at-fault reasons can be proven. To expedite the divorce process, a spouse may claim martial fault, such as:

  • Adultery
  • Cruel treatment
  • Abandonment
  • Criminal conviction of a misdemeanor or felony
  • Legally declared insanity

The broadly defined cruel treatment fault is the most common one. That cruelty could be physical, verbal, emotional, psychological, or otherwise. Plus, the cruelty does not have to be severe. Almost any incident will suffice. Failing to provide reasonable grounds for the divorce filing before the 12-month requirement can result in legal penalties.

Maryland law also states that the separated spouses must have resided in Maryland for 6 months of the tax year before they can file for divorce.

The Divorce Process in Howard County

Every case is different. Moreover, most divorce cases settle out of court, and that settlement may occur at any time. But for the most part, most marriage dissolution cases follow the same outline.

About two weeks after the plaintiff files a petition, the court normally holds a hearing to determine temporary child custody and financial matters. These decisions are not permanent. However, they usually serve as the blueprint for the final absolute divorce order. That’s especially true with regard to child custody, as many Howard County family law judges prize consistency above everything else.

Next, the parties participate in discovery. They exchange information about their claims and defenses. Discovery often includes witness depositions and property inspections as well. In some cases, this process may be quite limited. In other situations, such as high-asset divorces, discovery could be extensive and last for months.

Once discovery is mostly complete, most Maryland judges order contested divorces to mediation. A neutral third party tries to facilitate a settlement between the two parties on issues like:

  • Child custody
  • Property division
  • Domestic Support Obligations

DSOs usually include things like child support and spousal support. They may also include things like insurance reimbursement and tuition payments.

Mediation works about 75 percent of the time. If successful, mediation reduces attorneys’ fees, makes the process more civil, and gives the litigants more control over the outcome.

If there is a trial, it is usually before a judge without a jury. In some cases, litigants could wait several months for a trial date. If the trial court makes a serious error or there is some similar issue, a successful appeal may be possible.

Uncontested Divorce vs. Contested Divorce

There are two types of divorce: contested and uncontested. The type of divorce that you go through dramatically changes the time it will take for your divorce to be final, as well as the final cost of your divorce.

  • Uncontested Divorce: In an uncontested divorce, the two spouses can agree on most aspects of their divorce, including asset distribution, legal fee division, and child custody. This method avoids a trial and all the costs associated with it. It is possible for an uncontested divorce to be reached without an attorney or mediator. However, it may be difficult to reach an agreement without a neutral third party present to help guide negotiations. If you are unable to reach an agreement, a mediator or attorney can help bridge the gap and achieve an uncontested divorce. If the spouses are unable to reach a satisfactory solution for any of the divorce issues, a contested divorce will then proceed.
  • Contested Divorce: A contested divorce requires the intervention of a judge to finalize the divorce. The judge must solve the contested issues of a divorce during a trial, typically after a thorough discovery period has taken place. This can dramatically increase the time and expense of your divorce.

It is typically in both parties’ best interests to proceed through an uncontested divorce. It will be significantly faster, as you will not be required to wait for a trial date. It will also be cheaper, as you can avoid the extra time required by your attorney to be in court and some court costs. Ultimately, an uncontested divorce will likely result in less financial and emotional stress than you would experience in a contested divorce. However, it requires putting aside your issues with your spouse and moving towards an amicable resolution, if possible.

Divorce Proceedings Due to Domestic Violence

Maryland family law states that domestic violence includes acts like causing serious bodily harm, placing a victim in fear of serious bodily harm, kidnapping or false imprisonment, assault, stalking, rape, or child abuse. Maryland’s definition of domestic violence does not exclude any gender, and it also includes relationships between same-sex couples.

One of the grounds for a divorce before the mandatory 12-month waiting period includes cruel treatment. It is this at-fault condition that allows a domestic violence victim to leave their spouse without waiting for the separation period. Typically, mediation will not be possible in these situations due to a power imbalance and intimidation tactics by the accuser. Therefore, the court will decide the divorce issues based on the evidence provided by both parties and their attorneys.

One additional step that can be taken in domestic violence situations is acquiring a protective order. This court order has two phases: the temporary protective order and the final protective order. The temporary order is obtained immediately, and its intent is to keep the abuser far away from you and your children. It can also award you full custody of your children and allow you exclusive use of the family home. The second phase, the final protective order, is issued after a hearing if the judge deems it necessary. This final protective order can be used as evidence both for granting a limited divorce and in absolute divorce proceedings.

Costs Associated With Divorce in Columbia, MD

Along with the negative emotional impact of a divorce, there is also a significant financial cost. Even though the divorce rate is declining, Americans still spend more than $11 billion on divorces each year. In the United States, the median cost of a divorce is $7,000, while the average divorce cost is between $15,000 and $20,000. There are many different factors that go into the total cost of a divorce, and your specific circumstances will determine your final cost.

  • Court Fees: You will be responsible for filing fees, at the very least, for your divorce. This fee is around $300 in Maryland, depending on the county where you file your divorce. These costs will apply to every divorce and cannot be avoided. If your divorce progresses to a courtroom, fees such as transcript costs will apply.
  • Hourly Lawyer Fees: Different lawyers will have different fee structures, but it is typical to pay a retainer fee, which acts as a down payment to secure the lawyer’s time and service on your case. Lawyers will then charge an hourly fee based on factors such as their level of experience and the complexity of your case. Included in this fee will also be any relevant court fees, travel expenses, appraiser and consultant payments, or other miscellaneous fees that arise while the lawyer is handling your divorce case. The longer that your divorce takes to complete, the more you will accrue in legal fees.
  • Mediation Fees: Many divorces can be solved with mediation instead of relying on a judge to separate marital assets and decide on other relevant issues. Unfortunately, it will likely be difficult for separating spouses to work through these issues without assistance. This is where a mediator can help. They are an uninvolved third party that is skilled in conflict resolution. They can help work through any negative emotions to find solutions that are agreeable for both parties and in the best interests of any children. Resolving your divorce with a mediator will be less costly than hiring a lawyer and going through litigation.
  • Expenses for Property Split: If you and your spouse share a home or business, there will be associated costs with splitting these assets. For any shared real estate, an appraiser must be hired to evaluate the cost of the property to determine the total equity that must be split. Further, there will be refinancing costs if one of the spouses chooses to keep the marital home. The same is true for a shared business—the business’s value must be determined, and it may need to be examined by a certified public accountant.
  • Other Costs: There may be other costs that you did not previously consider. These costs could potentially include counseling sessions, parent education classes, and psychiatric evaluations.

A divorce also has additional soft costs. These expenses are common in divorces but are explicitly separate from the legal process. These costs include:

  • Packing and moving your belongings
  • Expenses related to starting a new home
  • Therapy for yourself or your children
  • Changing insurance
  • Starting a new phone plan
  • Replacing any items that went to your spouse in the divorce

It will also include any costs that were shared in your marriage and for which you are now solely responsible. You may also need to account for transportation costs if you share custody of your children.

Once the divorce is final, there are likely to be associated costs that continue long after the official end of your marriage.

  • Alimony: Sometimes called “spousal support,” this is money paid to one former spouse from the other. This amount can be determined by the spouses or ordered by a judge. If the judge makes the decision, they will consider factors like the contributions that the spouses made to the marriage in support of the other’s career and education, the financial needs and resources of each party, and the standard of living that was established during the marriage. To be legally binding, the alimony stipulations must be included in the divorce decree.
  • Child Support: If the couple has minor children, child support will also be part of the divorce decree. The amount of child support that must be paid will be determined by the custody agreement, the parties’ incomes, the child’s health and educational needs, and childcare costs.

Reducing the Cost of Your Divorce

The financial cost of a divorce can be exceptionally high, and this is ignoring any mental or emotional costs that also came with your divorce. Fortunately, there are routes to lowering the overall cost of your divorce.

  • Avoid a Trial: The best way to reduce your overall divorce cost is by avoiding a trial. There are a few ways to accomplish this. You can hire a mediator who will act as a neutral third party to assist you and your spouse in reaching an uncontested divorce agreement. Hiring a mediator will be most beneficial if your divorce is relatively amicable. You can also hire an attorney who will negotiate on your behalf for a settlement in a collaborative divorce. This option may be more costly, but you are more likely to walk away from the divorce with more assets.
  • Organize Your Financial Records: The more time you spend organizing all of your records and painting a clear picture, the less time an attorney will need to spend doing the same. The records that you can compile to save your attorney from billing you to do it include previous tax returns, bank statements, recent pay stubs, credit card statements, statements for mortgage or car loans, and copies of titles or deeds. If possible, acquire electronic documents because these are typically cheaper for an attorney to process than paper documents.
  • Bypass Appraisals: If you and your spouse can agree on the value of your vehicles, home, or other high-value property, you can avoid paying for a professional appraisal. You can use Kelly Blue Book to estimate the value of your vehicles and speak with a local realtor for a comparative market analysis. While these values may not be as accurate as a professional’s analysis, they will save time and money while being reasonably accurate.
  • Email Your Attorney: Any time your attorney spends on your case is billable time, so you must be wise in how you use it. Sending clear and concise emails can help save your attorney’s time when compared to a phone call, especially if you are less likely to stay on topic and rant about the case while on the phone. While you absolutely need time to vent about your feelings and emotions during a divorce, that time will be much better spent with a therapist.

Contact an Experienced Columbia Divorce Lawyer

A divorce has both legal and emotional components. This difficult combination of factors can make filing for divorce complex and draining. It is not easy to juggle all the requirements of filing for a divorce, like the complicated court paperwork processes, gathering evidence, cataloging the things you have collected in your marriage that you cannot live without, etc. All these tasks are in addition to the work you must put into maintaining your everyday life, ensuring your children and career do not struggle any more than absolutely necessary during the divorce process. Divorce is a rough time in your life, and you deserve to have capable lawyers to help you.

For more than 20 years, the Law Offices of Todd K. Mohink, PA, has represented members of our community in their divorces. We have ensured they get what is deserved from the marriage and worked toward the best outcomes for any children involved. Our team can work diligently during every stage of your divorce, planning multiple steps ahead at every moment of the process. We have experience with many different types of divorce, including those with non-traditional family make-ups, high-value asset divorces, and abuse situations. For a free consultation with an experienced Columbia divorce lawyer, contact the Law Offices of Todd K. Mohink, PA. We routinely handle matters in Howard County and nearby jurisdictions.


Anne Arundel County

Empire Towers
7310 Ritchie Highway, Suite 910
Glen Burnie, MD 21061

Phone: 410-766-0113

Fax: 410-766-0270

Howard County On the grounds of Columbia Mall

30 Corporate Center
10440 Little Patuxent Parkway,
Suite 900
Columbia, MD 21044

Phone: 410-964-0050

Baltimore County (Arbutus/Catonsville)

Phone: 410-719-7377

Fax: 410-766-0270