Below, we cover some of the main requirements to seek a divorce in Maryland. Many of these steps are complicated, and remember there is a lot at stake – namely, your future. This means you should always allow an Annapolis, Maryland, divorce attorney to handle the process for you.
To file for divorce in Maryland, either you or your spouse must have lived in Maryland for the last six months. This is known as “establishing residency.” It is necessary that at least one of you is a resident of this state in order to file divorce here. It may be necessary to wait until the residency requirement is met before filing your divorce.
Once the residency requirement is met, a Complaint for Absolute Divorce and a Domestic Case Information Report form must be completed and submitted to the court. The Complaint for Absolute Divorce is five pages long and can take some time to complete. Be prepared to explain how you’d like to divide marital assets and liabilities and change your married name, among other things. These two documents are “the bare minimum.” Others may be required, depending on your situation, such as child support and custody forms.
Yes, the term “absolute divorce” may sound strange if you just moved here from another state. Absolute divorce is simply how Maryland refers to a traditional divorce. Perhaps adding the word “absolute” is a bit redundant, but don’t be confused—there is only one kind of end-all marriage dissolution in Maryland (There is no “temporary divorce” or something not absolute).
Beyond “absolute,” divorces in Maryland might be no-fault, at-fault, uncontested, or contested. An at-fault divorce requires, of course, proving fault (adultery, abandonment, domestic violence, etc). At-fault divorces are more complicated as proving fault is a bit like you might envision a lawsuit. A Maryland divorce attorney can provide a lot of guidance
in navigating through an at-fault divorce. For a no-fault divorce, a document called a Mutual Consent Agreement must be filed.
A Domestic Case Information Report is a two-page document that must accompany all Maryland divorce filings. This form contains your contact details and general information about your divorce proceeding. Some couples must provide additional information that others don’t need to worry about. Most people, for instance, will need to submit a basic financial declaration outlining their income and expenses. Couples with a combined income higher than $15,000 monthly will need to fill out a different financial declaration.
Divorce filing fees change from time to time, so be sure to call ahead to get the most up-to-date amount and forms of payment. As of October 1, 2023, the fee to file for Absolute Divorce is $165. Fee waivers are also available to those who qualify.
Bring three copies of your forms to the county clerk’s office. You must file in the county where you live or the county where your ex lives. Electronic filing is also an option in certain counties, meaning it’s not necessary to personally travel to the clerk’s office to file.
Once your documents are filed, the clerk will give you a Writ of Summons. This document serves to notify your spouse that divorce proceedings have started. If you don’t have a lawyer, you will need to “serve” these documents to your spouse. There are very particular rules about how to properly serve the papers. If you don’t serve the papers correctly, you might have to start the divorce process over again.
If you’re working with an Annapolis divorce lawyer, they will arrange for your ex to be served. Another option is to hire a professional process server. If your spouse is in jail, deployed in the military, or his/her location is unknown, there are alternative methods for serving the papers.
Not every county in Maryland operates the same way. Some may have extra forms to file, unique timelines or procedures, and other nuances. Your local divorce attorney will already be familiar with those intricacies. If you don’t have a lawyer, make sure to investigate those local rules.
At least ten days before your divorce hearing, you and your spouse will need to file a document called a “Joint Statement.” This document outlines the liabilities and assets you obtained jointly during the marriage. In each of your Joint Statements, you will both specify how you think the property should be divided and what you feel each item is worth.
As the divorce process concludes, you will need to submit a form called a Division of Vital Records Report of Absolute Divorce. This form is available from the court clerk. Even if the judge has decreed that you are divorced, it is not “official” until this Report of Absolute Divorce is filed. If you are waiting for your official Divorce Decree to show an insurance company, a bank, or even the county clerk, that will not be sent to you after the Report of Absolute Divorce has been submitted.
A divorce lawyer handles filing your paperwork, as well as knowing which forms need to get filed and how to complete them correctly. Divorce lawyers also give legal advice pertaining to your situation, which might include how to make your claim for alimony strong, how to protect split a pension, or how to navigate an at-fault divorce hearing. Your lawyer will also represent you at your hearing(s) and communicate with your spouse or your spouse’s lawyer on your behalf.
If you’re feeling a bit intimidated by the Maryland divorce process, the Law Office of Patrick Crawford can help. We are Annapolis family law attorneys with great reviews, years of experience, and the knowledge and training to best serve you. We are conveniently located at 170 West Street, Annapolis, MD 21401. To learn about your divorce options, rights, and responsibilities, please schedule a free consultation by calling our office or using our web contact form.