Recently a potential client came to our office to discuss his options for seeking a divorce. In Maryland, there are several grounds for an absolute divorce including a one (1) year separation, desertion (actual and construction), insanity, conviction of a crime, cruelty of treatment / excessively vicious conduct, and adultery. During the consultation, our family law attorney obtained information about the marriage, the reason for separation, the length of separation, etc. to determine what ground(s) may be applicable in this case.
Unfortunately, the potential client was not yet eligible to file a Complaint for Absolute Divorce because the applicable grounds in his case all required that he and his wife be separated for at least twelve (12) months prior to filing the Complaint. However, just because he couldn’t file his Complaint yet didn’t mean our family law attorneys weren’t able to start helping him with his case immediately. Our attorneys suggested entering in to negotiations to try and reach a type of agreement called a Voluntary Separation and Property Settlement.
A Voluntary Separation and Property Settlement Agreement can be a global agreement, which means the agreement resolves all outstanding issues related to the Parties divorce. Or, it can only resolve some issues leaving the remaining contested issues for the Court to decide – this is called a partial agreements. Issues that are commonly covered by a Voluntary Separation and Property Settlement Agreement include the grounds for divorce, alimony / spousal support, custody, child support, and division of marital property.
When entering into negotiations for a Voluntary Separation and Property Settlement Agreement, early involvement by a qualified, competent, and dedicated family law attorney like the attorneys at Anthony A. Fatemi, LLC, is key. Our attorneys are very experienced in negotiating terms and can provide the client with invaluable information and recommendations during the negotiations process.
Additionally, entering into a Voluntary Separation and Property Settlement Agreement often involves the waiver of certain rights, like the right to spousal support. With certain rights once they are waived they can never be reclaimed. It is important to speak with an attorney prior to signing any agreement to ensure you fully understand the rights you have under the law and what you may or may not be waiving. Finally, if a global or even a partial Voluntary Separation and Property Settlement Agreement can be reached, the time and attorney’s fees that are saved are significant.
Our family law attorneys can never guarantee that a partial or global agreement can be reached in a specific case. Just like negotiating any contract, both sides have to be willing to negotiate and compromise, and in some cases, that just doesn’t happen. However, based on the facts our potential client provided at the time of the consultation, our attorney recommended trying to negotiate an agreement in his case. The client had never considered trying to negotiate an agreement and he was eager to begin the process.
Immediately after our office was retained, one of our family law attorneys met with the client to go over all the different sections that would be included in the agreement and to determine what the client’s specific demands were. During this meeting our attorney also provided recommendations and answered any questions the client had.
A proposed Voluntary Separation and Property Settlement Agreement was then drafted on the client’s behalf and our attorney entered into negotiations with the client’s wife, who was acting pro se (meaning without an attorney to represent her). At every step in the negotiation process, our attorneys were in constant communication with the client updating him on the wife’s counter demands and discussing the areas where the client was or was not willing to compromise. Our attorneys also made suggestions on which terms the client could change based on what the he wanted and based on the wife’s counter demands.
Ultimately, due to the dedication of our family law attorneys, the Parties were able to reach a partial agreement that covered and resolved all but one (1) issue. Our client was ecstatic that a partial agreement had been reached in his case. He saw firsthand the hard work, perseverance, and persistence our attorneys put into his case and he recognized how much of his time and money were saved by this outcome.
However, our attorneys did not recommend stopping there. Because both Parties still seemed willing to try and reach an amicable and complete resolution, our attorneys suggested enlisting the help of a mediator. Sometimes, when attorneys and Parties are unable to reach a global agreement on their own, the assistance of a neutral third-party mediator adds the extra push that both sides need to resolve the outstanding issues. Mediation is scheduled in the next few months in this case. If a global agreement can be reached, the our attorneys will file a Complaint for Absolute Divorce on the client’s behalf and an uncontested divorce hearing will held fairly quickly once his wife is served. If a global agreement cannot be reached, it will be up to the Judge to decide the one outstanding issue that has not been resolved.
If you are considering a divorce from your spouse, make an appointment with Anthony A. Fatemi and his legal team right away to discuss whether the preparation of a proposed Voluntary Separation and Property Settlement Agreement may be appropriate in your case. Additionally, if you are dealing with a custody / child support matter, our experienced and knowledgeable family law attorneys may be able to help you prepare and negotiate a similar agreement between you and the child’s other parent called a Consent Custody Order.