If you've agreed to get a divorce in Maryland, you've probably already been through a lot of tension. Now that you've arrived at this stage, you want to get through the divorce as quickly as possible. Starting a divorce case can be difficult, particularly for those without a legal background or previous court experience. Fortunately, having a divorce in Maryland is an easy procedure that you can complete without a divorce attorney's help. This article covers the fundamentals of filing for divorce in Maryland
. If you have specific concerns about divorce or if your situation is difficult, you can seek legal advice from an experienced family law attorney.
Facts about Divorce in Maryland
The "plaintiff" is the partner who asks for a divorce (files for divorce), and the "defendant" is the other spouse.
There are two forms of divorce in Maryland: "absolute divorce" and "limited divorce."
Property division, child custody/support, and alimony are all topics addressed with any form of divorce. The only difference is that the pair is still legally married after a limited divorce (often known as “legal separation” in other states). While in an absolute divorce, the court will terminate the marriage, and the partners will be deemed single again at the end of this process.
Both fault-based and no-fault divorces are permitted in the state. A no-fault divorce requires:
• 12–month separation, in which the parties have lived separately and apart without cohabitation before applying for divorce; and
• Mutual Consent, in which the parties have no minor children, all property, debt, and spousal support issues have been resolved, and both parties attend the final hearing.
Grounds for a fault-based divorce in Maryland include adultery, cruelty, grossly abusive behavior against the complaining party or a minor child of the complaining party, insanity, deliberate desertion for one year, and felony conviction.
When it comes to resolving divorce issues, Maryland divorce mediation is often the most cost-effective option, especially when compared to a protracted legal battle with divorce attorneys.
Unlike many other jurisdictions, Maryland limits the number of no-fault divorces that can be granted. Before you can file for a no-fault divorce or use mutual consent as a ground, you and your spouse must have lived separately for one year. Otherwise, you'll have to go through a fault-based divorce.
The plaintiff must file a "Complaint for Absolute Divorce" form as well as a "Civil Domestic Case Information Report" to start the divorce process. These forms can be found on the Maryland Courts' website. Learn more about the divorce process by visiting the Maryland Courts Family Law Self-Help Center website.
One of the most affordable ways to fill out forms is using an online divorce service. Spouses can choose an appropriate platform that prepares the documents for an uncontested divorce. They will answer several questions about their marriage and dissolution. After this, the system will select the papers that meet the case’s conditions and fill them out according to the legislation. This method is significantly cheaper than the services of lawyers.
Papers must be filed in the circuit court that covers the complainant spouse's district. Eight circuit courts serve the 23 counties of Maryland and the city of Baltimore. See the circuit court information page on Maryland's Court website for more information on where to register. The plaintiff must either pay the court a filing fee or seek a fee waiver at the filing time.
SERVICE OF THE COMPLAINT
The court clerk will grant a "Writ of Summons" and a copy of the complaint after it has been submitted to the court. The defendant must be served with these two papers.
The term "service of process" refers to the other spouse receiving copies of the divorce papers, notifying them that the divorce has been filed.
Under Maryland law, the responding spouse can obtain a copy of the complaint and the writ of summons from:
• an individual who is not the plaintiff and is over the age of 18
• Sheriff of the defendant's country or place of work (for which the sheriff will charge a fee), or
• a private process server (who will collect a fee)
If the above methods of service fail, you will need to ask a judge for permission to serve your spouse by certified mail with a return receipt requested. This means that the defendant will be required to sign for the copy at the post office, and the plaintiff will receive proof of delivery when the receipt, which is the green card, is returned.
In case you can't find your partner, they're in the military, or they're in prison, you'll have to go to court to convince a judge to let you choose a special type of service. A court can authorize you to complete service by publishing in some instances, ensuring that you serve your divorce notice by posting it in a local newspaper.
The complainant should obtain proof of service from the server, whether it is the sheriff, a private process server, a third party, or a receipt from the United States Postal Service. This evidence in the form of an affidavit will show that the defendant was duly served. Forms are available on the Maryland court website for this function.
RESPONDING TO THE COMPLAINT
The defendant should file an "Answer" to the divorce complaint, in which he or she admits or denies the allegations made in the divorce complaint.
The answer must be filed within 30 days of service, 60 days if the defendant lives out-of-state, and 90 days if the defendant lives out of the country.
The defendant can also file a "Counter Complaint for Absolute Divorce." The counter-complaint, unlike the answer, allows the defendant to state grounds other than those stated by the complainant in the initial complaint. No formal service is required for the answer and counter-complaint to be mailed to the complainant.
Both couples must fill out financial statements, which detail each party's assets, liabilities, earnings, and expenditures, as well as any mutual assets and debts
If one party demands child support or alimony from the other, the judge can make child and spousal support orders based on the financial information. As a result, the financial data must be as authentic as possible.
UNCONTESTED DIVORCE IN MARYLAND
An uncontested divorce happens when both parties consent on all of the divorce's major terms. Separated spouses without children and no property can quickly receive an uncontested divorce. If they have a signed separation agreement that tackles these problems, couples who share property and have children together can also get an uncontested divorce. The guidelines for getting an uncontested divorce in Maryland vary slightly from county to county, so knowing the rules in your state is critical.
MARYLAND'S UNCONTESTED DIVORCE METHOD
You are responsible for choosing where to file your papers if you are handling your divorce without an attorney's assistance. If you file your divorce in the wrong court, it may be thrown out or moved, and you'll have to start all over again. You will find a court directory on the Maryland Courts website that lists all judicial circuits by county.
The district court is Maryland's entry-level trial court, which deals with minor cases such as small claims and misdemeanors. More serious matters, such as divorces, are handled by circuit courts, which are also trial courts. A circuit court is assigned to each county and the city of Baltimore. Your divorce case must be brought to your nearest circuit court.
In Maryland, completing divorce papers is a must.
The applicant (the partner who initiates the divorce) must first find and fill out the necessary paperwork. The Maryland Courts have free online divorce forms. Along with the forms, the Maryland Courts website offers step-by-step guidance for filling out and filing the documents. It's crucial to take your time and fill them out carefully. Everything should be typed on a computer or written neatly. Mistakes in your paperwork could cause your divorce to be postponed.
You'll need to fill out various papers, the most relevant of which is the complaint. The lawsuit contains lots of information about the partners and their union and a request from the complainant for the court to grant specific relief, such as a divorce or an order for the defendant (the other spouse) to pay alimony.
A court clerk cannot give you legal advice, although you can ask them simple questions. If you have reservations about the legal consequences of your divorce, you should consult a divorce attorney.
Your Paperwork Should Be Filed and Served
You'll need to take your divorce papers to your nearest circuit courthouse for filing once it's over. A summons will be issued, a case file will be created, a number will be assigned to the case, and a filing fee charged. If you are unable to pay the charge, you can request an indigency waiver from the clerk. With your fee waiver submission, you'll need to include financial details. The court will waive the filing and support costs if you meet the financial requirements (i.e., you are below the poverty line).
The plaintiff's next move is to serve the defendant. "Service" refers to the formal process of ensuring that the other partner receives a copy of your papers. The summons and complaint will be personally delivered to your partner by a sheriff or private process server, who will also complete an affidavit of service to be filed with the court. It may look silly to have to serve the documents if you and your spouse have already spoken and reached an agreement, but you must do so unless your spouse agrees to sign a waiver of service.
To get an uncontested divorce in Maryland, the claimant must file an answer indicating complete compliance with the petition, as well as a copy of the written separation agreement demonstrating that both parties consent on all major issues in their divorce.
Hearing on an Uncontested Divorce in Maryland
After the document has been filed, the plaintiff can write to the court clerk to request an uncontested trial date. The plaintiff must bring a witness (not the other spouse) to the hearing who will attest that the plaintiff has met the residence standards for a divorce in Maryland. The plaintiff should also bring a copy of the marriage certificate, a copy of the signed separation agreement, and other documents supporting their Maryland citizenship.
The plaintiff will testify at the final hearing by responding to several brief questions from the judge. The offender has the option to appear. However, he or she also has the choice not to. The judge will sign the final agreement and put it "on the record" (that is, it will be written in an official transcript by a court reporter). If the final divorce decree is fair and equitable and represents the children’s best interests, the judge will sign it.