If you are considering divorce in Maryland, the best place to start is by familiarizing yourself with the state’s requirements before beginning the process of filing. This useful guide covers the basic requirements for divorcing in Maryland to give you a solid foundation and a better understanding, but it is not a substitute for mediation or legal counsel. Also, and particular for the state of Maryland, you should be aware that the state’s legislative body has the ability to revise domestic relations laws each year, and often does so. Any major changes to Maryland divorce laws are published between January and April so make sure you stay up to date. Here we go!
In Maryland, grounds for divorce are numerous. Additionally, the state has the ability to declare that a marriage is invalid, void, or voidable, in which case an annulment may be granted in place of a divorce.
A void marriage is one in which:
A voidable marriage is one in which:
In a “voidable marriage,” only the victimized party can challenge the validity, and the marriage is considered valid until the court declares invalidity. If an annulment is allowed, it can take place in Maryland even if the invalid, void or voidable marriage happened elsewhere.
Even though an annulment means that no legal marriage happened, the court will act to protect individual property rights. Additionally, parties seeking an annulment in Maryland should understand that any children produced via the invalid union must be provided with child support as determined by the court, and those children are not considered to be illegitimate. The judge may also award alimony (spousal support).
In valid marriages, parties must provide grounds for divorce. Maryland courts do not accept simple accusations.
If spouses are seeking a limited divorce (also known as legal separation), they may use the following grounds:
Spouses seeking absolute divorce in Maryland (i.e., a divorce that can be finalized or a complete dissolution of marriage) may use the following grounds:
There are a few different methods for carrying out a Maryland divorce.
The first method involves mediation and is the least complicated as well as the least expensive option. Before filing for divorce, couples can opt to work with a mediator, who can aid in the process of conflict resolution. Once the settlement terms are reached, the mediator helps the spouses complete a Separation Agreement. After the agreement has been drawn up, each party must have the Separation Agreement reviewed by an independent attorney. Maryland’s divorce laws prohibit couples from using the same attorney to review the Separation Agreement before submitting it to the court.
The terms outlined in the Separation Agreement are meant to bridge the gap between marriage and cohabitation and the time when a divorce is finalized, or the parties opt to resolve their differences by revoking the agreement in writing. The Separation Agreement is not a substitute for divorce.
The Separation Agreement should contain the following information:
Under Maryland divorce law, parties may not engage in sexual relations with others while separated, as this legally constitutes adultery. If one of the spouses violates this law or any of the terms of the Separation Agreement, the other has the right to file a lawsuit for breach of contract.
After the one-year separation has passed (if applicable) all parties seeking an annulment, limited divorce (legal separation) or absolute divorce should use the following procedures to file for divorce.
In order to begin a legal action, you start by filing a complaint with the court. The complaint will include:
Next, you will need to serve the other party with a copy of the complaint and a summons.
If the defendant fails to file a response, then the filing party may request a default judgment.
In case a default judgment is requested, the filing party must also provide a military affidavit stating that the responding party (i.e. defendant) is not in the military.
If the divorce is uncontested and both parties agree to the terms, then the case will be heard by a Master-Examiner, who will determine whether divorce should be granted. The defendant will be given an opportunity to appear but is not required to do so. The plaintiff (filing party) will need to testify, along with any witnesses who can corroborate evidence in assigning grounds for divorce.
If the divorce is contested, then the case goes to trial. Many months of discovery may take place depending on the circumstances.
Prior to the trial, both parties can expect to attend a scheduling/settlement conference. In some cases, multiple conferences may take place so that issues can be resolved. The court may also require parties to attend mediation to reduce the burden of trial.
If no agreement can be reached, the divorce will go to trial. During the trial, both spouses will present testimony, and both spouses can expect to be cross-examined by the other side. Witness statements will be heard as well, if applicable.
After all the evidence has been presented, the judge will determine whether the divorce will be granted to the plaintiff. Terms concerning contested issues, including alimony, child custody and/or visitation, and the division of marital property, will be determined as well.
It is worth noting that contested divorces can take months to even get to trial and even longer to proceed after the trial begins.
Once a judgment is entered, a 30-day appeal period goes into effect. The losing party then has the opportunity to enter an appeal if he or she wishes to do so.
There are a few different answers to this question, depending on the details of your case. While we recommend consulting an attorney before moving forward, here are some basics about how long it takes to get a divorce in Maryland.
Whatever the reason for divorce, residency must be established prior to the judge hearing the case. At least one party must have resided in Maryland for six months prior to the divorce filing.
In uncontested divorces, the final judgment may be granted within several weeks of filing, depending on Master Examiner and judicial caseloads as well as circumstances of the individual case.
In contested divorces, the final judgment often takes months or even longer than a year to obtain, depending on unique circumstances, court schedules, and other unique factors.
In all Maryland divorce cases, the divorce judgment is final when the judge provides his or her signature. This may or may not happen on the date of the trial.
In Maryland, the cost of divorce varies from one jurisdiction to the next, and from one case to the next. Initial filing fees for civil actions are $165, however additional costs may apply. Amicable, mediated divorces cost least as they incur the least amount of court resources, and as the amount of legal aid required is often minimal. Many divorce lawyers offer free consultations, making it easier to determine how much individuals can expect to spend on their divorces.
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While individuals may opt to represent themselves when divorce proceedings are simple and straightforward, Maryland lawyers offer expertise in navigating the state’s laws. When matters are complicated, it is best to obtain counsel. If a mistake is made during filing or hearing procedures, you may be required to start over, meaning that the divorce will take longer to complete, and costs are almost certain to increase.
Because divorces are challenging under the best of circumstances, trained professionals dedicate their careers to guiding their clients efficiently through procedures, particularly in complicated cases. You may choose to build your Maryland divorce team using the following individuals or websites:\n
National Association of
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Legal Disclaimer: This article is intended for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as legal advice on any subject matter. Consult with an attorney for more information regarding your individual situation.
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