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How To File for Divorce in Maryland

patrickcrawford | November 29, 2023

Patrick Crawford

Patrick is an Annapolis Family Lawyer dedicated to helping you through the most complex and emotional family law matters. During his career, Patrick has successfully represented countless people in divorce, child custody, child support, domestic violence and other family law cases of diverse complexity.

Years of experience: 20+ years.
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Below, we cover some of the main requirements for seeking 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.

Maryland Divorce Requirements

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. 

 

What Is Absolute Divorce in Maryland?

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.

 

What Is the Domestic Case Information Report?

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.

 

Maryland Divorce Filing Information

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.

 

The Divorce Hearing

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.

 

What Divorce Lawyers Help With

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.

Talk to an Annapolis Divorce Lawyer Today   

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

 

FAQ’s

What are the grounds for divorce in Maryland?

The divorce laws in Maryland recently changed significantly regarding the grounds a spouse must cite to petition for a divorce. As of 2024 in Maryland, there are three grounds for divorce: six-month separation, irreconcilable differences, and mutual consent.

To establish the ground for a six-month separation, the parties must have lived separately for six months without interruption.

Irreconcilable differences refer to significant issues or conflicts that have led to the breakdown of the marriage and cannot be resolved.

Mutual consent requires a written settlement agreement that resolves all issues relating to alimony, property distribution, and child custody and support. If a divorce is granted based on mutual consent, the settlement agreement may be merged or incorporated into the divorce decree.

What are the residency requirements to file for divorce in Maryland?

To file for divorce in Maryland, you must meet certain residency requirements. These requirements ensure that the state has jurisdiction over your divorce case.

Either you or your spouse must be a resident of the state for at least six months before you can file for divorce. This means that you must have established a physical presence in Maryland and intend to make it your permanent home. If you recently moved to Maryland, you may need to provide proof of residency, such as a driver’s license, lease agreement, or utility bill.

Maryland does not have any additional county or city residency requirements. As long as you meet the state’s six-month residency requirement, you can file for divorce in any county or city within Maryland.

What happens after you file a divorce petition?

After filing a divorce petition, the legal process begins to dissolve your marriage. The next stages of the process can vary depending on your circumstances, but here is a general overview.

After your divorce petition is filed, you will need to serve your spouse with a copy of the petition. This can be done by a process server or a sheriff’s deputy. Once your spouse has been served, they will have a certain amount of time to respond to the petition. If they fail to respond within the given timeframe, you may be able to proceed with an uncontested divorce.

If your spouse does respond to the petition, the case will typically move forward to the discovery phase. During this phase, both parties will exchange financial information, such as income, assets, and debts. This is important for the court to make fair decisions on issues like property division, spousal support, and child support.

Do I need to hire a lawyer to file for divorce in Maryland?

While it is not legally required to hire a lawyer to file for divorce in Maryland, it is highly recommended. Divorce involves complex legal issues, and having a divorce attorney by your side can significantly simplify the process and protect your rights.

A skilled attorney will ensure that all required documents are filed correctly, that you request property division and support outcomes within your rights, and that you provide guidance and support throughout the process. They can also help you understand the legal implications of your decisions regarding the various issues in your divorce.

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This page has been written, edited, and reviewed by a team of legal writers following our comprehensive editorial guidelines. This page was approved by attorney Patrick Crawford, who has more than 16 years of legal experience practicing family law.