As we work to resolve their family disputes, we provide clients support, guidance and access to our firm's breadth of resources.
Few areas of the law are as personal or fraught with emotion as matters concerning family. Individuals faced with the challenge of dissolving a marriage require an attorney who is sensitive to their needs and the emotional impact of divorce, yet is also practical in their approach, addressing such issues as financial obligations, tax consequences, business valuation and the long-term interests of any children.
Stein Sperling understands the personal and financial difficulties individuals face when going through separation and divorce. With over 80 years combined experience handling issues of separation, divorce, custody and the distribution of marital property, the attorneys in our family law department combine a sensitive approach with the determination and expertise to achieve our clients’ objectives. Working with our attorneys in diverse, yet interrelated, areas of law such as business and tax, we strive to make the transition into the next chapter of a client’s life as smooth as possible.
Of course, not all family law matters entail divorce. Our attorneys are also experienced in handling matters involving the happy circumstances of adoption, as well as the proactive step of drafting pre-nuptial agreements.
With the understanding that every client’s personal and family situation is different, we listen carefully to their concerns and customize our services to meet their needs. Whether it involves drafting a pre-nuptial agreement, negotiating a separation and property settlement agreement or valuing and distributing assets, our family law attorneys provide the strategic thinking necessary to guide clients through a very difficult time in their lives.
Stein Sperling understands that couples enter into marriage with the firm belief that the relationship will last a lifetime. Unfortunately, in many cases marriages do not last and every member of the family unit is affected. In Maryland, couples have the option to pursue absolute divorce, which terminates the marriage relationship and allows each party to remarry, or limited divorce, also called “legal separation,” which permits couples to live separately but remain married. In either case, divorce is not a simple process and usually presents immense challenges to all parties involved. Because of this, our experienced family law attorneys take care in guiding clients through the myriad of personal and financial decisions involved in the process. We also help them anticipate and plan for short- and long-term consequences of those decisions.
In developing marital settlement agreements, our attorneys can pursue equitable distribution or a monetary award on clients’ behalf. In either case, we work side-by-side with our clients to determine which assets are “marital property.” Then, our family law team relies on the experience of our business law and tax law departments to determine that property’s value, and provide thorough analysis of potential business and tax ramifications to inform our case strategy. This includes valuation of retirement accounts and business interests, alimony and forensic determination to arrive at an appropriate distribution of marital property. At all times we strive to protect our client’s assets while achieving this or her goals.
After a client’s divorce is resolved, our attorneys are able to enforce resulting court orders as they relate to alimony or child support, as well as child custody and visitation. If changes occur that impact either party’s ability to comply with such orders, we help clients seek modifications to them. For example, children’s needs may change or either party in the divorce may have a change in their financial situation due to an increase or decrease in income. As these material changes in circumstances occur, our attorneys are able to guide clients as they renegotiate the terms of their divorce agreement, as well as any alimony, child custody and access, or child support agreements.
Stein Sperling’s family law attorneys regularly assist clients with child custody and access issues. Negotiating an agreement that works for all parties involved can be challenging, especially since each parent usually wants to see his or her children as often as possible. Throughout this process, we help each client preserve a relationship with his or her ex-spouse that will allow them to cooperate and work together to co-parent their children.
To start, we help clients distinguish between legal custody and physical custody, and define their goals for negotiating each, keeping their child’s best interests in mind. Legal custody allows a parent to make decisions related to a child’s health, safety, education, religion and overall welfare. A child’s legal custodian chooses where he or she goes to school, in what extracurricular activities he or she will participate, and determines the child’s religious practices and health care procedures. Physical custody relates to a child’s primary residence, as well as the schedule for child sharing. This includes weekday and weekend visitation planning, as well as a schedule to share holidays, school breaks, summer vacation and special family events.
As we develop plans for each parent’s custodial time, our attorneys help clients anticipate present and future challenges in scheduling, protecting our clients’ wishes and interests. Once a custody agreement is established, we are able to help clients enforce those agreements, or modify them as needed. Child custody modifications often occur when parents move residences, children need to switch schools or previous agreements otherwise no longer suit the children’s needs. As these material changes in circumstances occur, our attorneys are able to guide clients as they renegotiate the terms of their custody agreement or seek intervention to change the provisions.
In addition to serving clients in the area of child custody, some of our attorneys are able to act as a Best Interest Attorney (BIA) or Privilege Attorney on behalf of a child whose family is involved in a custody dispute. In these cases, we represent a minor child at the expense of his or her parents, protecting the child’s interests while exercising ordinary care and diligence. In our roles as Best Interest Attorneys, we assess what is in the child’s best interest and advocate for that interest, even if it is not what the child is requesting at that time. When acting as Privilege Attorneys, we recommend whether or not to waive a child’s right to privilege in his or her interactions with a mental health care provider, as well as other statutory privileges.
Stein Sperling’s attorneys have extensive experience negotiating and litigating child support arrangements, helping clients accurately convey the needs of their children and determine each parent’s appropriate income. Our goal in child support matters is to help our clients develop plans that will provide their children the resources and support they need from both parents.
Each state has specific guidelines for determining adequate levels of child support. In Maryland, parents’ income is the primary consideration, rather than children’s expenses, except in cases where parents’ combined income exceeds $180,000. In these cases, the state requires each parent to complete a Long Form Financial Statement. Though these guidelines are applied to cases state-wide, our attorneys understand that each child support matter is as unique as the family it affects.
Once we have helped our clients establish child support, we are able to enforce child support orders or modify them where material changes impact our client’s or their ex-spouse’s ability to comply with the order. Child support modifications can occur when parents receive job promotions, switch jobs or experience other changes in income, and when the needs of the children change. Modifications are also sought when parents with multiple children see an older child graduate from high school or turn 18. As these changes occur, our attorneys are able to guide clients as they renegotiate their child support arrangements or seek court intervention.
Stein Sperling’s family law attorneys regularly advise clients on the terms of pre-nuptial and post-nuptial agreements. Our experience enforcing and defending these agreements in divorce negotiations and at trial gives us valuable insight into drafting agreements that are carefully considered by each party and that will be recognized under the law.
By setting out each party’s rights and obligations for the marriage before entering into it, pre-nuptial agreements often help a couple preserve their marriage while protecting certain individual assets. In developing these agreements for our clients, we work closely with them to reflect their personal needs and shared goals. Throughout this process, our family law attorneys benefit from the knowledge and experience of our tax law team, which can provide added insight with regard to asset valuation and any tax implications of these agreements. We also do our best to help clients complete their pre-nuptial agreements in advance, with adequate time to finalize these agreements before their weddings take place.
In addition to pre-nuptial agreements, Stein Sperling’s family law attorneys are well versed in post-nuptial agreements, which are implemented after the wedding has taken place, but before either party separates, divorces, leaves or dies. The content of these agreements closely mirrors that of pre-nuptial agreements. They allow couples to alter property rights or titles, which can lead to significant tax complications. As in pre-nuptial agreements, our family law attorneys are able to call upon our tax law department to appropriately assess the values of assets, as well as possible tax burdens associated with a client’s post-nuptial agreement.
Stein Sperling’s family law department has a depth of experience handling domestic violence matters, including past supervisory involvement by a few of our attorneys in the Montgomery County Circuit Court’s Domestic Violence Assistance Project. Most often, these matters involve requests for or enforcement of protective orders, also often called restraining orders. These orders are usually filed in family court and relate to acts of abuse that have been threatened or committed by a spouse, domestic partner or other family members.
As we assist clients with these types of matters, we listen carefully to their needs and concerns. We maintain a sensitivity to each unique situation and work as quickly as possible to protect our clients and their rights.
Guardianships are implemented to protect minors or adults who may find themselves unable to make decisions on their own. Our attorneys advise adults whose age, physical disability or mental capacity is diminishing their ability to make health care or financial decisions. We can also assist in situations where a minor’s legal guardian is unable or unwilling to perform their duties. In either case, we offer clients a depth of experience in establishing guardianships for family members or other loved ones.
Adoptions are most often happy occasions that signal an expanding family. Whether we represent parents, step-parents, grandparents, other family members or non-family members, our family law attorneys are adept at handling the intricacies of adoption matters. We help clients prepare the necessary documents to avoid unnecessary challenges or delays in the adoption process.
Stein Sperling’s family law team aggressively pursues all reasonable means to achieve our clients’ objectives. Our experience in alternative dispute resolution, such as mediation and arbitration, often leads our clients to successful resolution of their divorce or custody dispute outside of court.
Collaboration is an alternate avenue for resolving divorce and custody matters. It requires a commitment from both spouses that they will maintain open, honest communication with an aim of creating solutions that account for both parties’ priorities, as well as those of their children. Parties also must pledge that they will not pursue litigation as a means to resolve their dispute. If collaboration fails to resolve a dispute, each party must seek new counsel before going to court. While our attorneys are able to assist clients in the collaboration process, we are also sought after by clients pursuing litigation after collaboration failed to resolve their disputes.
When necessary, we are always prepared to seek judicial relief on our clients’ behalf, and are regularly in court to pursue their interests through litigation. Before we take a litigious approach, we discuss with our clients the financial and personal burdens often associated with litigation.
Our depth of experience as trial attorneys and the issues and demands associated with separation, divorce, child support, child custody, domestic violence and the determination and valuation of marital property benefits our clients. We have many years of experience appearing before the Domestic Relations Masters and Circuit Court judges in Montgomery County, as well as before the Courts of Appeal, and can effectively and efficiently pursue clients’ interests in any of these venues.