5 Interview Questions for Divorce Mediator in Annapolis

 So, you’ve decided to seek a mediation for your divorce, and you’re exploring local options. With emotions running high, picking a divorce mediator in Annapolis can seem like a daunting task. The professional you decide to work with needs to hold a level of your trust—after all, they will be helping you and your soon-to-be-ex-spouse navigate the murky waters of divorce.

Choosing a mediator that fits your needs is a careful decision, it’s a good idea to do your homework ahead of time. Thinking about the types of things you might ask a professional mediator before you make the decision to commit to one is a good way to prep for an initial consultation. TruNorth Divorce Solutions has put together a quick list of questions that you might want to ask your prospective mediator.

1.     How do you define success? How do you facilitate this during the mediation process?

This is a great question to ask during your initial meeting with a professional divorce mediator because odds are that this is the first time you’ve sought out a divorce mediation and are unsure about how the process works. Mediation is a collaborative effort between you, your ex, and the mediator you choose to work with.

It’s important to outline expectations before the mediation process begins, and this question can really flush out some of those expectations. Ideally, you want to work towards a divorce settlement that both parties are happy with. Your prospective mediator may go into detail about their strengths and what they bring to the negotiation table.

 

2.     What is your success rate?

This is a great follow up question to ask in tandem with how your mediator defines success. The answer to this question can provide some much-needed confidence and really influence your choice.

The mediator will probably touch on the depth of their experience in the industry and how many divorcing couples they have worked with. They might also have some metrics (i.e., that they have successfully mediated XX divorces in the Annapolis area for X years) of success to share with you that reflect their professional expertise. They may even share some relevant anecdotes.

 

3.     How much does mediation cost?

Ah, the price tag. An important question. Make sure to get these details during your initial consultation. Your mediator may bill hourly or have a flat rate mediation fee. While one divorce mediator in Annapolis may charge $1000 an hour for their services another may have a flat rate fee for services of $7000. Don’t make assumptions and ask for rates up front.

Remember, price isn’t always the main consideration behind choosing a mediator and shouldn’t necessarily deter you. While it is important to stay on budget, you should also consider the level of skill and expertise that the mediator has to offer.

 

4.     How long is each mediation session/how long does mediation typically last?

Another great question to ask your divorce mediator is how long each session will last and how long the process takes overall. These questions can be particularly salient if your mediator bills by the hour. 

 The answer to this question also gives you an idea of how much time you will need to carve out of your schedule for the mediation process. You can also ask about whether your mediator holds private sessions (depending on your circumstances) and other questions surrounding the level of commitment expected of you.

5.      What do your services include?

Being unfamiliar with mediation, you probably want to ask about what is included with their services. Is the mediator drafting up divorce settlement documents for you? Will they be filing them on your behalf? Will you have to pay additional court costs or those included? Asking this question up front will help give you a clear picture of what to expect of your mediator. 

Any reputable mediator would welcome these questions during your consultation, so you shouldn’t hesitate to ask. Looking for a divorce mediator in the Annapolis area? Contact TruNorth Divorce Solutions for a free divorce strategy session. 

 

 

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Why You Need a Divorce Mediator in Maryland

Most of us feel overwhelmed and rather clueless about which direction to take once we conclude we’re going to get a divorce. Traditionally, the first move had been to call a lawyer but you should pause, take a breath, and then reach out to the right professional to get you going in the proper direction for you and your family.

 Other than a DIY divorce (unadvisable unless you have neither assets nor children), mediation is the least expensive and fastest way to get your divorce. A divorce negotiated through mediation will also help you preserve a civil relationship with your spouse, especially important if you have children, and always important for your self-esteem. If you live in Maryland (or any other state) you should first seek the help of a divorce mediator in Maryland to discuss whether this is a viable option for you. 

The Best Mediator for Your Maryland Divorce

Divorce impacts us emotionally and financially and must be processed within the confines of the law. It’s generally not a good idea to go through this process alone, especially when there are qualified professionals who can help guide you through the process and address each of the facets of divorce, not just legal. 

If you choose a divorce mediator in Maryland, identify an experienced moderator who has not only knowledge of Maryland divorce laws and procedures but also training in divorce financial and emotional issues. The mediators at TruNorth Divorce take a holistic perspective on divorce and are dually certified as divorce financial analysts and divorce coaches. They have also been extensively trained in divorce mediation, including how to process your divorce legally. Don’t expect your divorce lawyer-mediator to be  skilled in all of these areas–the reality is that attorneys aren’t trained in anything besides law and often don’t know what they don’t know. Consider adding in a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst CDFA® and divorce coach to your team if you go the lawyer route.

Reach out to a divorce mediator in Maryland if you want a kinder, smarter, and more affordable divorce. If you’re on the fence and you have a list of concerns related to your divorce, don’t hesitate to Schedule a Free Strategy Session to go over your options. 

 

 

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How to Get a Divorce in Maryland

Most “How to Get Divorced” articles take a rather narrow view, i.e., the legal process. Obviously, these articles are typically written by lawyers. 😉 

How to get divorced can be a multi-faceted, complicated, entangled, frustrating, non-linear, jumble of a messy process. Not surprising, given that there are two spouses, years of history, hot emotions, finances, children, a home, secrets and lies, and hidden agendas involved.

Given all this, though, let me try to keep this “how to get divorced in Maryland” piece as simple as possible for this medium (please contact us for more detail.) Here are what we consider to be three essential components.

 #1: Financially Prepare and Protect Yourself Before You Start the Divorce

  • Open a separate checking and credit card account at a new bank
  • Check your credit report and score and then periodically track
  • Establish private communication, e.g., P.O. box, email account
  • Gather and copy financial and legal documents—tax returns, statements for loans, bank and retirement accounts, investments, wills, trusts, deeds, car registrations, insurance policies—and store them outside of the marital home

#2: Talk to Professionals

Most think to first call a lawyer after they talk to a few of their friends and family members. Let me suggest otherwise. Friends and Cousin Amy are great for support but they aren’t likely stellar for advice on how to handle one of the most important and costly events of your life. While well-intentioned, their cases and knowledge of others’ situations are different than yours and you will need the advice of a professional for accurate advice.

You’re best first stop is not with a lawyer but with a far more neutral and resourceful individual: a reputable divorce coach. She or he can help you assess your situation and choose the best path forward and how to execute. They can also help you with setting objectives for how you want to handle the divorce on a personal level, i.e., how to be your “best self.” They can help you better work with a lawyer or mediator, saving you money and significant angst. They are more than anything, the quarterback on your divorce team who can help you assemble the right individuals for the jobs you’ll need to get done.

Lawyers, of course, are a critical component for their knowledge of the legal process. They will often unnecessarily steer you, though, to costly litigation, without regard for what will be best for you and your spouse. Many lawyers are now moving into mediation as its become more popular with divorcing couples, but keep in mind that lawyers aren’t necessarily the best choice for mediation. They are also not equipped to handle the emotional, practical, or complex financial issues of divorce, so make sure you talk to more than just a lawyer early on in the divorce process.

Mediators are a good information source as you consider mediation as a divorce process. Other professionals to consider are a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® (CDFA®) to discuss optimal or creative financial settlement options, or a therapist who may be able to provide extended emotional support.

 # 3: Familiarize Yourself with MD Divorce Law and County Procedures

a. Legal Separation

In Maryland, there is no legal separation but a “limited divorce” serves as a legal separation. Even without legal recognition of a separation you can still create a legally binding separation agreement that covers such things as child support, spousal support, joint bills, parenting plan, health insurance, loans and other debts, etc.  

b. Residency

If the ground for divorce occurred in Maryland, you need only be currently living in Maryland at the time you file for divorce. If the grounds for divorce occurred outside Maryland, you or your spouse must have lived in Maryland for at least six months before filing your divorce complaint.

 c. Types of Divorce, Waiting Periods, and Filings

 In Maryland, there are two types of divorce: limited and absolute. A limited divorce is essentially a legal separation.  

  • Grounds for limited divorce
    • Separation
    • Cruelty or excessively vicious conduct
    • Desertion
  • Additional grounds for absolute divorce
    • 12-month separaton 
    • Mutual consent
    • Adultery
    • Imprisonment for a crime
    • Insanity

Additionally, there are no-fault divorces and at fault divorces and they may be treated differently when it comes to awarding alimony and sometimes, custody if the fault ground negatively affects the children. A no-fault divorce is based on either a 12-month separation or mutual consent. At fault grounds include adultery, actual desertion, and constructive desertion (typically this is cruelty). At-fault divorces will not be granted if the plaintiff is also determined to be at-fault.

 Divorce filings are handled by county court. Filing can take place where either of the spouses resides. Each county has its own procedures and fees and should be researched prior to filing.

 d. Support, Settlement and Custody Agreements

It’s important to note that if you have financial and custody issues to work out before the divorce is finalized you must do so before the waiting period is over or the decisions will be deferred to the court. The court will look to the filing spouse for their preferences.

If you both hire attorneys and litigate in the courts, you will likely spend a minimum of $30,000 – $40,000. Mediation can reduce fees to less than $10,000. Courts will appoint legal representation for those in need or you can negotiate the financial and custody terms yourselves.

 So, that, in a nutshell is “How to Get a Divorce in Maryland.” It’s a bit more nuanced than this as, stated earlier, divorce can be a multi-faceted, complicated, entangled, frustrating, non-linear, jumble of a messy process, right? Call or request a consultation if you want more info. 

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How is Child Support Determined in Maryland?

Child support in Maryland (and 36 other states) is centered on the Income Shares Model. This is based on the concept that children should receive the same proportion of parental income that they would have received if the parents lived together. That amount is related to the level of household income and Number of children. Factors include food, housing, transportation, clothing, $250 in annual  medical expenses for each child, and miscellaneous items that are needed and provided for by their parents. This amount is expressed by the child support guidelines.

Income and Calculations of Support

Calculations for child support in Maryland are based on gross income and includes income from any source. These include employee wages, and businesses owned. It also encompasses pensions and other retirement, estates and trust, social security, tax refunds, awards and verdicts, severance pay, and alimony received. In-kind payments made by an employer that reduce personal living expenses are considered as well. Adjusted gross income is calculated by considering alimony that is intended to finance the support-receiving parent (aka “obligee”) and pre-existing child support. From here, adjustments are made for work-related childcare, health insurance, and extraordinary medical expenses (over $250 per child per year), transportation to/from each parent’s home, and private schooling for special education needs. In Maryland, If monthly combined gross income is above $15,000 the amount may be increased at the discretion of the court. 

When earning capacity is higher than actual income, it may be taken into account. Each parent’s contribution allows for a “self-support reserve” that represents the poverty level of one person. Additionally, there is an assumption that the children will spend up to 35% of their time with the support-paying (aka “obligor”) parent.

Parents’ Individual Payments

The custodial parent receives child support in Maryland. If shared custody, the parent with the higher income pays the child support. When the parents share custody, if the support-paying parent has more than 35% of overnights with the children, adjustments are made.

Example Calculations

Example 1: Sole Custody

Consider the hypothetical case of Keith and Audrey. Keith is the primary physical custodian of their child and has a monthly income of $6,000. Audrey has a gross monthly income of $8,000. Alimony will be awarded to Keith at $500 per month. They have three children. Audrey pays $300 per month for the children’s health insurance and each parent pays $600 per month for work-related child care.

The Math

Keith and Audrey add their monthly incomes together to get $14,000. Keith divides his monthly adjusted earnings of $6,500 by $14,000 to get 0.4643, meaning he earns 46.43 percent of the combined income. Audrey divides her adjusted earnings of $7,500 by $14,000 to get 0.5357, or 53.57 percent. In this case, the child support obligation for combined incomes of $14,000 with three children is $3,154 per month. Adding in the expenses for health insurance that Audrey pays and each parent’s child care expenses, the total child support is now $4,654.

Keith’s share of support is 46.43% of $4,654 or $2,160.85. Audrey’s share is 53.57% of $4,654 or $2493.15. Taking into account the direct pays for health insurance and child care, Keith’s child support is $1560.85 and Audrey’s is $1593.15. Therefore, Audrey will pay Keith $1593.15 per month for child support in addition to the $500 per month of alimony.

Example 2: Shared Custody

Audrey has the children for three nights per week with the kids. As such, we calculate she has the children for 156 of 365 nights per year.  When parents share custody, the State increases the combined child support obligation by 1.5 times. Therefore we take the child support obligation for combined incomes of $14,000 with three children of $3,154 per month and multiply it by 1.5 to get the new obligation of $4,731. Since Keith has the children 57.26% of the time, his obligation is $2196.60 and Audrey’s is 42.74% or $2534.40. 

The Math

First, we look what each parent needs to pay the other for time with other parent by multiplying the respective support obligations by the other parent’s percentage of time. Keith will pay Audrey 42.74% of his obligation of $2196.60, or $938.83, and Audrey will pay Keith 57.26% of her obligation of $2534.40, or $1451.20. The net is that Audrey will pay Keith $512.37. 

Next we need to look at the direct payment adjustments based on each parent’s respective time with the children. For childcare, Keith will pay 46.43% and Audrey 53.57% of $1200. The difference between the two is that Audrey will pay Keith $42.84 monthly for childcare. Likewise, Keith must pay Audrey $139.29 for his portion of the health insurance. The net is that Keith will pay $96.45 for his portion of these expenses. 

Finally, we subtract $96.45 from $512.37. Audrey will pay Keith $415.92 for child support in addition to $500 per month for alimony. This a significant reduction for the shared custody allowance.

 What does it all mean?

If this seems complicated, it sort of is. The calculators provided by the state, though, make it much easier to see. Try it for yourself.

Read more on divorce financial considerations here.

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How is Alimony Determined in Maryland?

Alimony is but one financial aspect of divorce and there are many for which you should have a qualified divorce financial professional review.

Alimony is a generic term that actually refers to two types of support payments made by the higher earning spouse to the lesser earning spouse:

  • Alimony Pendente Lite – Support after the divorce complaint is filed and before the divorce is final
  • Alimony – Payments mad once the divorce is finalized for a set period of time per the divorce settlement

Alimony in Maryland must be awarded before divorce. Alimony awards are almost always rehabilitative, i.e., temporary. On rare occasions, e.g., when a spouse is disabled or too old to enter the workforce, an alimony award may be indefinite. Courts look at many factors when determining if alimony should be granted, especially the ability of the lesser-earning spouse to be wholly or partly self-supporting and how long it will take for him or her to get the necessary education or training to be self-supporting. Standard of living, length of marriage, and a number of other items may also be considered.  The People’s Law Library of Maryland has a “quiz” to help you determine the likelihood of an alimony award in your specific divorce. Access it here: Maryland PPL Alimony Quiz.

There is no formula for alimony in the state of Maryland and alimony awards are not dependent on whether child support will be paid. However, the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) has developed guidelines and a calculator for states that do not have their own.

Alimony Buyouts

The vast majority of men and women view alimony with disdain—who wants to have to write a check to their ex-spouse month after month? Likewise, does anyone like waiting for and worrying about the monthly check they’re expecting from their ex? What happens if the payor dies, loses their job, or becomes disabled? Is he or she going to be obsessing about whether their ex is cohabitating with a new partner? One alternative is to add an offset to the distribution of the assets equal to the present value of the expected alimony payments. So long as there are sufficient assets to cover the amount, this is a win-win for both parties and eliminates the ongoing angst of monthly payments.

Read more on divorce financial considerations here.

 

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