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How To File for Divorce in Maryland

Posted in Divorce on August 28, 2019

Filing for a divorce in Maryland is similar to doing so in many other states, but there are a few different requirements and steps to take in order to ultimately end a marriage and divide up assets and debts with the help of an Annapolis divorce lawyer.

Residency and Where to File for Divorce

One party must be a resident in Maryland for at least 12 months in order to then file for divorce. Unless a spouse can prove grounds for the divorce, the couple must be separated and living apart for at least one year, according to Maryland law. The state has specific grounds that must be met in order to file before one year of separation. Those grounds include but are not limited to, cruelty or vicious conduct against a spouse or minor child, adultery, desertion, and insanity.

To begin legal action, a complaint must first be filed with the circuit court which covers the plaintiff spouse’s county. The forms are called a “Complaint for Absolute Divorce” and a “Civil Domestic Case Information Report,” and they can be found online. The complaint will include:

  • Date and location of marriage
  • Names and ages of children
  • Length of residence in Maryland
  • Whether any other legal actions exist between the parties
  • Grounds for divorce
  • A specific amount of relief, i.e. child support and/or alimony is requested. When relief is requested, a financial disclosure must accompany the filing, stating each individual’s assets, income, expenses, joint property, and debts.

Serve the Other Party

Secondly, the other party will need to be served with a copy of the complaint and a summons. The copy can be sent via certified mail, through a private process server, or by the sheriff. The defendant spouse has 30 days to provide an “answer” to the complaint if they are residing in Maryland. An “answer” will consist of either admitting or denying the statements made on the complaint. On the other hand, if the defendant spouse lives out of state then they have 60 days to respond, or finally 90 days if they are outside of the country. When defendants fail to respond, the plaintiff spouse has the option to request a default judgment.

Completing the Divorce

How a divorce will be completed will be based on the defendant’s answer:

Uncontested Divorce in Maryland

If both parties agree to the terms of the divorce, then a Master-Examiner will hear the case and determine whether or not the divorce is granted. The plaintiff along with any witnesses will testify as to the grounds for which they are seeking a divorce. The defendant spouse can but is not required to appear in court. If the Master-Examiner agrees that the divorce should be granted, they will give their recommendation to a judge who will then make the final judgment.

Contested Divorce in Maryland

When the defendant spouse contests the complaint, the case will then head to the trial phase. One or multiple scheduling/settlement conference(s) will be required prior to trial in order to see if a settlement can be reached and important matters resolved. In some cases, the court will require the parties to attend mediation. When an agreement cannot be reached, the case will proceed to trial. Once the evidence has been presented, the judge will determine whether the divorce will be granted, as well as the terms regarding unresolved issues of child support, custody, alimony, etc.

The process of solidifying an uncontested divorce can take several weeks, whereas an uncontested divorce in Maryland may take months before even getting to trial and then even longer once the trial has begun.