A Step-by-Step Guide to the Adoption Process in Maryland

Making the decision to adopt a child is a joyous occasion, but the process itself can often be tedious and confusing. If you intend to adopt a child, you can make an appointment with a lawyer in Baltimore who handles adoption cases. Your lawyer can walk you through the stages of the adoption process and provide legal representation if any problems arise. adoption - process

Requirements

The requirements to adopt a child in Maryland are not unnecessarily strict. However, an adoptive parent must be at least 21 years of age. Adoptive parents may be single or married. If married, then both adoptive parents will be joined to the petition unless the couple is separated or the other parent is not legally competent. It is not necessary for adoptive parents to be affluent; however, they must have the financial means to provide for the child. Adoptive parents may be renters or homeowners. It is required to complete a 27-hour home study course before adopting a child through a public agency.

Consent

Under Maryland family law, the legal guardians of the adoptee must provide consent for the adoption. The legal guardians may be the birth parents or the adoption agency. If the court has terminated parental rights, then only agency consent is required. If the adoption is an independent adoption, the adoptive parents must obtain the consent of all legal guardians. However, the consent of only one parent may be needed if the other parent cannot be located, does not object to a published notice of adoption, and has not been in contact with the department for a certain length of time.

Petition

A lawyer will file a petition for adoption with the court, which will likely include supporting documents. Once the petition is filed, the court will send a notice to all of the involved parties and their attorneys.

Hearing

During the hearing, the judge will decide whether to grant or deny the petition for adoption. If it is an independent adoption, the court might require an investigation prior to granting the petition. If the matter is being facilitated by a private adoption agency, then the agency will need to submit a report prior to the hearing. During the hearing, the judge will consider whether the petitioners are fit to be adoptive parents, whether all necessary paperwork has been completed, and whether being adopted is in the best interests of the adoptee.

How Living Trusts Work

One of the methods people use while estate planning to avoid probate is a living trust. A living trust allows you to pass assets outside of probate to your beneficiaries while you are still alive. When building a living trust, it is important to work with an experienced estate lawyer in Baltimore to ensure that it is established correctly.

Watch this video to learn more about living trusts. Because probate can be lengthy and expensive for your beneficiaries, many people focus on taking steps to avoid it while going through the estate planning process. Living trusts are also beneficial for people who wish to avoid probate because of privacy concerns or who want to ensure certain assets get to the intended beneficiaries by passing them outside of the probate process.

Preparing for Mediation in a Paternity Dispute

Sometimes, part of child support and child custody cases involves addressing the issue of paternity. This area of family law can be difficult for everyone involved, but it is necessary in some cases to take this important step before any decisions about child support are made or after child support is in place but one parent has a doubt about paternity. Although some paternity tests are ordering the courtroom, disputes about paternity can also be addressed during mediation. Going to mediation in Baltimore to deal with questions surrounding paternity and child support is similar to any other mediation experience. If you have a mediation session planned, here are some tips for preparing. couple - mediation

Consider Your Personal Statement

Most mediation sessions begin with each party making a brief statement about the issues you hope to resolve during mediation and how you view the dispute from your perspective. Although you will be allowed to speak without interruption while making your statement, keep in mind that the other party’s attorney may be present and could use information shared in mediation in court should the negotiation fail. Talk through your statement with your lawyer to avoid any issues. For instance, if your stance is that a paternity test should be required, avoid saying anything that suggests that you know the child is yours.

Prepare for Questions

The mediator will likely ask both sides questions to gather information that could be helpful during the negotiation. These questions help the mediator identify possible solutions that could work for both sides. Remember that mediators do not provide legal advice. Your lawyer should be present at all mediation sessions in case you have legal questions and to review any documents before you sign them.

Be Open to the Process

Mediation is designed for both sides to come away feeling satisfied with the agreement. One side does not win while the other loses. Your lawyer can help you understand the strategies the mediator may use to help you reach an agreement. Remember that your paternity dispute is not resolved until an agreement is signed, so you have nothing to lose by entering negotiations.

Tips for Talking to Your Spouse About Estate Planning

Estate planning is one of the most important things you and your spouse will do for your family, but starting the conversation isn’t always easy. Scheduling an appointment with an estate lawyer in Baltimore is a good step, but it can be helpful to have a conversation before your meeting so you can align your priorities and come up with a list of questions. Use these tips for talking to your spouse about estate planning. estate - planning

Start With Why

Before you begin the estate planning process, discuss why it is important to you and why you want to begin it now. In some cases, you may only have a vague idea that estate planning is something you’re supposed to do and feel like you are at the age to do it. In other instances, you may have very specific goals you want to accomplish. By identifying why you want to make a plan for your estate, you can focus in on your goals and create a framework for your decision making process.

Identify Your Non-Negotiable Points

You and your spouse may have some very specific things you hope to accomplish with your estate, and it’s important for your attorney to understand these needs up-front. You may have a family business that you want to pass on to your heirs in a specific way, or you may have a child with special needs that you want to make preparations for. Make a list of the things your estate must do so you can make sure your plans meet these needs appropriately.

Take a Break When You Disagree

Estate planning should be something you and your spouse feel good about together, not the source of conflict. If your conversation becomes heated over things like making a living will or setting up a trust, take a break. Allowing each other time to think and returning to the conversation when you’re calm again will make the process easier.

Common Reasons for Post-Divorce Mediation

Mediation can be a useful tool during divorce to settle issues with as little acrimony as possible. Whether or not mediation was part of your initial divorce, it can also be helpful in solving new issues as they arise after the divorce. Post-divorce mediation in Baltimore allows former spouses to address unforeseen circumstances without reopening old wounds and going into the process as adversaries, since mediation is focused on building agreements that are acceptable for everyone. Here are some of the many reasons people attend post-divorce mediation. family - mediation

Child Support Modification

There are numerous reasons why a child support agreement may need to be modified, from job loss to increased income. When a circumstance arises that causes one parent to reopen the discussion about child support, mediation allows him or her to do so without the contentious nature of court. A mediator can help both sides lay out their opinions and work with them to build a new agreement that satisfies both sides.

Child Custody Modification

Child custody is almost always a difficult issue during divorces, and sometimes, after the final decree is issued, parents find that the agreement isn’t working. Perhaps the children want to split up their time differently or one parent feels like he or she needs more time with the children. In some cases, parents need to adjust child custody and visitation schedules because of relocations or changes in working hours. Rather than arguing over the issue in court, mediation lets parents work together on the same side to give and take on an agreement that meets both of their needs.

Alimony Modification

Sometimes, the circumstances that were in place during the original alimony ruling may change, forcing the need to modify the agreement. For instance, the spouse paying alimony may lose his or her job, changing his or her ability to pay, or a spouse receiving rehabilitative alimony may finish school early and land a lucrative job. Mediation gives both parties a place to discuss their concerns openly and collaboratively in order to come up with a solution.

What to Expect During a Business Dispute Mediation Session

Business disputes can arise over many situations, including miscommunications, disagreements over verbal contracts, and conflicts within your employee pool. Handling business disputes through litigation can be a costly and drawn-out process; by contrast, mediation can help conflicting parties reach an agreement much more quickly, often at lower cost. Knowing what to expect from business dispute mediation in Baltimore can help you better determine whether the mediation process is right for you. business - mediation

The Role of the Mediator

When you seek business dispute mediation, you and the party with whom you have a conflict will meet with a mediation attorney. This mediator will serve as an impartial third party to help you reach a resolution that is satisfactory to both parties. Prior to your mediation session, you may have the opportunity to speak with the mediation attorney in person or over the phone without the other party present, allowing you to present your side of the story. During mediation, the mediator may take either an active or a passive role, depending on your preferences.

The Process of Conflict Resolution

Mediation is a beneficial conflict resolution process , allowing both parties to discuss and reach a solution in private without the oversight of the public or a judge and courtroom staff. Depending on the type of mediation you prefer, your mediator may simply listen to both parties and point out the pros and cons of the potential solutions offered with complete neutrality. Alternatively, your mediation attorney may take a more active role that involves structuring the discussion and proactively guiding both parties toward a conclusion. Mediation can involve both joint sessions, during which all parties and their attorneys are present, as well as private caucus meetings, which allow each party to meet with the mediator privately as the process continues. Caucus meetings allow the mediator to evaluate both sides of the issue and make better-informed suggestions during joint sessions, and all information discussed during a private caucus remains confidential. Once a solution has been reached, your attorneys will use this information to draw up a legally-binding agreement.

Find Out How Mummert Law Can Help You Plan for the Future

When most people begin the estate planning process, they have two goals: to protect their resources as much as possible and to make dealing with the estate less stressful on their loved ones. When you need help with estate planning in Baltimore, Timothy Mummert of Mummert Law can help. Watch this video to learn more.

Mummert Law is experienced in all aspects of estate planning, from last will and testament preparation, revocable and irrevocable trust planing, and more. The firm is also here to help your loved ones deal with the process of probate as quickly and efficiently as possible. Delaying estate planning can put your assets at risk, so make an appointment with our attorney today.

A Look at the Stepparent Adoption Process

When you form a new family through divorce and remarriage, your child’s remaining biological parent typically retains some measure of legal guardianship over your children. If your new spouse wishes to become a legal guardian for your child, you must complete a stepparent adoption to terminate the rights of your divorced partner so these rights can be transferred to your new spouse. Stepparent adoption may or may not proceed smoothly, depending on the opinions of the child’s biological parents; thus, it is always beneficial to seek the guidance of a family law attorney in Baltimore to guide you through the stepparent adoption process, especially if you anticipate a dispute that may require adoption mediation or a court investigation. step - parent - adoption

Seeking Parental Consent

To pursue a stepparent adoption in Maryland , the consent of both biological parents must be obtained. Thus, the first step in the stepparent adoption process is contacting the child’s additional biological parent regarding the adoption. If consent is given, the adoption may proceed unhindered. However, if the biological parent does not consent to the adoption, further steps must be taken if you still wish to pursue stepparent adoption.

Handling a Parental Objection

When a biological or legal guardian refuses to relinquish their guardianship rights, they may file an objection to the adoption process. Alternatively, the biological parent may simply fail to provide legal consent. When an objection is filed or consent is not given, the couple wishing to pursue stepparent adoption may seek a court investigation to show that stepparent adoption is in the best interests of the child. If the legal parent is determined to have been absent or neglectful with regard to his parenting responsibilities, his rights may be terminated and the stepparent adoption allowed to proceed. Alternatively, if the contesting parent does not meet the legal definition of a presumed father, his rights may also be terminated to allow for stepparent adoption.

Even if you expect a stepparent adoption to go smoothly, a family law attorney is your best resource for guidance and support during this process to reduce stress for you, your spouse, and your child.

Estate Planning Questions to Ask Your Attorney

When you hire an estate planning attorney in Baltimore , it is important to ask the right questions so you can make the best choices for yourself and your heirs. There are many different things to consider when make an estate plan, so it can helpful to prepare your questions in advance so that you don’t overlook anything. Consider adding these questions to your list for your meeting. estate - planning

What kind of experience do you have?

Estate law can be extremely complex, and it changes frequently. It is important to hire an estate lawyer with experience in the field, rather than an attorney who is simply willing to make a plan for you. The advice and information you get from an experienced attorney is invaluable, and by working with an experienced estate lawyer, you can feel better about the decisions you’re making and how they will impact your heirs.

Can you help me with a trust?

Not all estate planning attorneys are willing or able to help you establish a revocable or irrevocable trust, so if this is one of your goals, ask your prospective attorney up front if he or she can manage your request. There are many advantages to setting up a trust and using it in place of a will for some families, so ideally, your attorney will help you decide if a trust is right for you and assist you in setting it up.

Is it possible to avoid probate?

Many people who are making plans for their estate wish to avoid probate for their heirs if it is possible. Going through probate is time-consuming and costly, and can cause conflict within the surviving family members. Ideally, an estate planning attorney can guide you towards options, like trusts, that can limit the probate process. If it isn’t possible to avoid probate, ask your attorney if he or she will be available to guide your heirs through the process.

Solving Marital Asset Disputes in Mediation

During a divorce, a couple’s assets must be divided to the satisfaction of both parties. These assets may include money, property, vehicles, and personal items. When partners disagree on the division of property and assets, it is the role of a mediation lawyer to step in and assist the couple to ensure that the divorce process can proceed. During divorce mediation in Baltimore , you and your spouse will meet with an agreed-upon mediation attorney to reach an agreement concerning your assets without the influence or mandates of a judge. mediation - process

The Mediation Process

When you meet to solve a dispute over marital assets via mediation, you and your spouse will typically meet with your mediation attorney without the company of your divorce lawyers. Instead, the mediation attorney will provide any advice or family law information you may need during the mediation process. Once you have both signed a mediation agreement, you will discuss your concerns with the mediator, who will attempt to guide you and your spouse to a resolution regarding the way in which assets will be divided following your divorce. You may need several sessions with the mediation attorney to reach a satisfactory agreement. Once this agreement has been reached, your mediator will draw up a settlement agreement, which you and your divorce lawyer may review before signing.

The Benefits of Mediation to Divide Assets

There are several benefits associated with seeking mediation services if you and your spouse are having difficulties dividing assets during a divorce . The mediation process is confidential and informal, allowing you to reach an agreement without the oversight of a judge or in the setting of a formal courtroom. Additionally, the divorce mediation process is often faster and more cost-effective than an in-court settlement mandated by a judge. This process gives you and your spouse the opportunity to work out the division of your assets in a way that is acceptable to you both, rather than being forced to follow the decree of a judge.