You've probably heard that getting a divorce can be a long, complicated process. And while that's true in some cases, it doesn't have to be. In fact, if you and your spouse can reach an agreement on all of the major issues in your divorce, you may get through the entire process without even setting foot in a courtroom.
In our comprehensive guide to getting a divorce in Maryland, we'll cover everything you need to know about the process, including:
- Types of divorce in Maryland
- The grounds for divorce in Maryland
- How to file for divorce in Maryland
- The forms you'll need to file for divorce in Maryland
- How to serve your spouse with divorce papers in Maryland
- The divorce process in Maryland
- Child custody and support in Maryland
- Division of property in Maryland
- Alimony in Maryland
- The roles of lawyers and mediators in Maryland divorce
Whether you're just starting to think about getting a divorce or you've already started the process, this guide will give you the information you need to make it through your divorce as smoothly as possible.
Types of Divorce in Maryland
There are two main types of divorce in Maryland: absolute divorce and limited divorce.
Absolute divorce is the type of divorce most people think of when they think of getting a divorce. It's a complete termination of your marriage, and after you're granted an absolute divorce, you'll be able to remarry.
Limited divorce is a bit different. A limited divorce doesn't completely end your marriage, but it does allow you to live apart from your spouse and make arrangements for child custody, support, and property division. A limited divorce is often used as a stepping stone to an absolute divorce, but it can also be used if you and your spouse are not ready to completely end your marriage.
The Grounds for Divorce in Maryland
In order to get a divorce in Maryland, you must have grounds, or a reason, for your divorce. The grounds for divorce in Maryland are:
- Desertion (abandonment) for at least 12 months
- Cruelty or excessively vicious conduct
- Insanity of one spouse for at least five years prior to filing
- Imprisonment of one spouse
- Mutual consent
At times, fault can be proven by circumstantial evidence, such as a spouse's affair.
How to File for Divorce in Maryland
If you want to get a divorce in Maryland, you'll need to file a complaint with the court. The complaint is the legal document that starts the divorce process, and it must be served on your spouse before the divorce can proceed.
The complaint must be filed in the county where either you or your spouse lives. If you've been a resident of Maryland for at least six months, you can file for divorce in any county in the state.
When you file your complaint, you'll need to pay a filing fee. The fee for filing an absolute divorce complaint in Maryland is $165.
The Forms You'll Need to File for Divorce in Maryland
In addition to the complaint, you'll also need to file some other forms with the court. The specific forms you'll need to file will vary depending on your circumstances, but they may include:
- A Certificate of Absolute Divorce or Annulment or a Complaint for Limited Divorce, depending on the type of divorce you're seeking
- A Child Support Guidelines Worksheet, if you have minor children
- A Statement of Income and Expenses, if you're seeking alimony
- A Property Settlement Agreement, if you and your spouse have reached an agreement on all major issues
- A Separation Agreement, if you and your spouse have a signed agreement on all major issues
- A Summons, which must be served on your spouse along with the complaint
It is important to note that if you have minor children, you'll also need to file a child custody and visitation schedule.
How to Serve Your Spouse with Divorce Papers in Maryland
Once you've filed your complaint and the other necessary forms with the court, you'll need to serve your spouse with the papers. You can't just hand them to your spouse or leave them on the kitchen table; you'll need to have someone else do it for you.
The process of serving divorce papers is called service of process, and there are a few different ways to do it. The most common way to serve papers is by having a sheriff's deputy or a professional process server hand them to your spouse in person.
If you can't find your spouse or are unsure of their whereabouts, you may be able to serve them by publication. This involves publishing a notice of your divorce in a local newspaper for a certain period of time. Once the notice has been published, you'll need to file proof with the court that your spouse was properly served.
The Maryland Divorce Process
Once your spouse has been served with the divorce papers, they'll have 30 days to respond. If they don't respond, you can proceed with your divorce without their input. However, if they do respond, you'll need to work out any disagreements before a judge can sign off on your divorce.
If you can't agree on all major issues, you'll need to go to trial. Once the judge makes a decision on all outstanding issues, they'll issue a final divorce decree, which will officially end your marriage.
Child Custody and Support in Maryland
If you have minor children, child custody and support will need to be decided as part of your divorce. In Maryland, child custody is referred to as legal custody and physical custody.
Legal custody refers to the right to make major decisions on behalf of your children, such as decisions about their education, healthcare, and religious upbringing. Physical custody refers to which parent the child will live with most of the time.
In most cases, parents will share joint legal and physical custody of their children. However, there are some circumstances where one parent may be awarded sole legal and physical custody.
If you're unable to reach an agreement on custody with your spouse, the court will make a decision based on the best interests of your child.
In addition to custody, you'll also need to decide how child support will be handled. In Maryland, child support is calculated using a formula that takes into account each parent's income and the amount of time the child spends with each parent.
Alimony in Maryland
In addition to child custody and support, you may also need to decide whether or not alimony will be paid as part of your divorce. Alimony, also known as spousal support, is a payment from one spouse to another to help them maintain their living standards after divorce.
Alimony can be paid in a lump sum or periodic payments, and it can be temporary or permanent. The amount and duration of alimony payments will be decided based on several factors, including the length of the marriage, each spouse's income, and each spouse's ability to support themselves after divorce.
If you're unable to reach an agreement on alimony with your spouse, the court will make a decision based on the needs of both spouses.
Division of Property in Maryland
Another important issue that will need to be decided as part of your divorce is property division. In Maryland, all property owned by either spouse is subject to equitable distribution.
This means that the court will divide property in a fair but not necessarily equal way. The court will consider a number of factors when deciding on property division, including the length of the marriage, each spouse's income, and each spouse's needs.
If you're unable to reach an agreement on property division with your spouse, the court will make a decision based on the needs of both spouses.
The Roles of Lawyers and Mediators in Maryland Divorce
While it is possible to get divorced without the help of a lawyer, it's not recommended. The divorce process can be complex, and having an experienced lawyer on your side can help ensure that your rights are protected.
The roles of a family lawyer during a divorce can vary depending on the specific situation. Sometimes, a lawyer may simply provide advice and guidance to their client.
In other cases, a lawyer may be more involved in the process, helping their client to negotiate an agreement with their spouse or representing their client in court.
In addition to lawyers, mediators can also be helpful during the divorce process. A mediator is a neutral third party who helps spouses to reach an agreement on the terms of their divorce.
Need help with your Maryland divorce?
Zide Siegel Tabor & Spigel is a trusted divorce law firm in Maryland for some good reasons. First, we blend our skills with our extensive experience to deliver the best legal services to our clients.
Second, we are passionate about what we do, which is evident in every case we handle. You can be confident that when you work with us, you are working with a team that will fight for the best possible outcome for your case.
Also, we are always available to answer your questions and address your concerns. We understand that the divorce process can be confusing and overwhelming, and we want to ensure that you have all the information you need to make informed decisions about your case.
If you are considering divorce or have already started the divorce, call us at (410) 760-9433 or fill out our online form to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced divorce lawyers. We will help you understand your legal options and ensure your rights are protected throughout the process.