How to get a divorce in Maryland
One of the first questions most clients ask us is: “What are the steps for filing for divorce in Maryland?” At Jimeno & Gray, our dedicated family law attorneys understand that the process can seem complex and full of paperwork, but we also know that many clients feel much better when they know what to expect. Being informed about the divorce process can also help clients see the light at the end of the tunnel.
If you are considering divorce and aren’t sure about your next steps, contact one of our compassionate Maryland divorce attorneys today to discuss your options and get answers to your questions. Call or fill out our online form now, and one of our attorneys will contact you within 24 hours about your case.
Requirements to File for Divorce in Maryland
The first thing you need to know about filing for divorce are the requirements. According to the Maryland Courts, you may file for absolute divorce if you and your spouse have lived apart for 12 consecutive months.
If you have not lived apart for 12 months, you may be able to show there are grounds for an immediate divorce if you can prove:
- Excessively vicious conduct
- Certain criminal convictions
Once you have established that you meet one of these requirements for filing for divorce, your case can proceed.
The Difference Between Contested and Uncontested Divorce in Maryland
No matter how long you’ve been married or whether you have no children or several, every couple is faced with a multitude of decisions when it comes to divorce. Whether you can come to an agreement on those decisions will determine what type of divorce you will have:
In an uncontested divorce, both spouses agree on how to handle all the issues, including dividing property, child custody, child support, and alimony. Uncontested divorce cases are usually heard quickly so a judge can review any agreements the couple has reached and finalize the divorce.
In a contested divorce, the spouses cannot reach an agreement on some or all of the issues related to the divorce. In some cases, your respective attorneys can help you move toward an agreement. In other cases, the court may make an additional push for you to resolve your differences before going to trial. If no agreement can be reached, a judge will hear both sides and make a decision.
Steps to Filing for Divorce in Maryland
Divorces in Maryland begin with one spouse filing a complaint with the court stating his or her reasons for divorce. The other spouse has a chance to respond to that complaint, and then many important decisions must be made before the couple’s case actually goes before a judge.
In general, the steps for filing for divorce in Maryland are:
- The divorce process begins when you file your complaint for divorce. In this complaint, you explain what you want the court to do and why. Your complaint may include a property settlement agreement and a financial statement for alimony or child support.
- Next, your spouse must be served with a copy of the complaint and a summons from the Clerk of the Court.
- Your spouse has 30 days to file an answer to the complaint if he or she lives in Maryland. (If your spouse lives outside of Maryland, the time limit could be 60 to 90 days. If no answer is filed, you will need to file a request for an Order of Default.)
- Then it’s time for a scheduling conference, during which your court date will be set.
- If pressing issues such as child custody have not been decided early on, a judge can make a temporary decision in a “Pendente Lite” hearing that will settle these matters until your absolute divorce is finalized.
- To prepare for your hearing, your attorney will work with you on the discovery process, which involves gathering evidence to prove your case.
- Before your court date, you should attempt to reach an agreement on important decisions regarding child custody as well as marital and non-marital property. If you cannot, the court may require a pretrial or settlement conference to try to resolve the contested issues.
- At your hearing, the judge will review your agreements, hear the evidence on any contested issues, and make a ruling.
- Depending on the circumstances in your case, appeals and post-trial motions may follow the trial.
It is important to note that decisions regarding child custody and child support are not set in stone. Because your life and your children’s lives can change, there is always an option to revisit these matters with the court at a later time to request modifications.
Find Out What Your Spouse Doesn’t Want You to Know About Divorce in Maryland
When Do You Need an Attorney to File for Divorce?
Although it is possible to file for divorce without an attorney, having a knowledgeable divorce lawyer on your side can make the complicated legal process a lot less stressful. The Maryland Courts advise that people should hire an attorney if:
- You are going through a contested divorce, and your spouse has a lawyer.
- You or your partner owns a home, has a pension, or has a lot of income and property.
- You do not agree on child custody matters.
- You do not think you can get access to certain important information.
- You have been married for 10 years.
- You do not know where your spouse is, so you can’t serve him or her with the necessary papers.
The court warns that even if you feel that your divorce is amicable, you should still discuss your case with a family law attorney before you sign anything or file papers with the court.
To speak with one of the dedicated divorce lawyers at Jimeno & Gray, call or fill out our online form today. With offices in Glen Burnie, Annapolis, and Columbia, we are centrally located and ready to serve residents throughout Maryland and help explain how to get a divorce in Maryland.