Divorce is common, with more than 40 percent of marriages ending in divorce. Spouses have different reasons for getting divorced, though each couple in Maryland must follow similar legal procedures to legally end their marriages.
If you are in the process of considering filing for divorce from your spouse, the following guide offers a brief outline of the forms to file and how to adequately prepare for divorce proceedings in the state of Maryland. Keep in mind that, in reality, there is nothing simple about the divorce process. Always seek help from an experienced divorce attorney from the start.
The process begins with one spouse filing a divorce petition with the proper court. The cost to file for divorce is $165 in Maryland (effective September 2021). If your spouse is in the military or jail, additional rules may apply.
Before submitting any documents, you should speak with your attorney to confirm filing fees and accepted forms of payment. You may be eligible for a fee waiver if you are unable to cover the cost of the filing fee. Your lawyer will identify the right court where you should file your case.
An absolute divorce refers to the full dissolution of one’s marriage. A limited divorce refers to legal separation–the marriage does not end, but child custody and support are addressed until the parents are ready to proceed with an absolute divorce.
An absolute divorce requires that you or your spouse live in Maryland and are permanent residents as of the date papers are filed. If the cause of divorce occurred outside of Maryland, then the requirement lengthens to at least six months before the filing date.
In an uncontested divorce, both parties agree mutually to the reasons for divorce and that they should divorce. They also agree on how to resolve all financial and child-related matters. In a contested divorce, the two parties cannot agree on one or more divorce-related issues.
Whether your divorce is contested or not will dictate the timeline and steps of your case. An uncontested divorce is quicker and less costly to complete, though you still want guidance from an experienced divorce lawyer.
You should also determine if you want to file for divorce with the help of an attorney or file on your own. It is always wise to seek legal help, as this increases your chances of a positive outcome.
Divorce can be very difficult emotionally for both spouses in divorce proceedings, and an attorney can help shoulder much of the stress and burden of navigating the legal process.
An attorney will also have experience with the process and can offer guidance that can shorten the timeline of completing the divorce process in many cases and help you avoid mistakes. If you need assistance filing for divorce, contact attorney Patrick Crawford today.
These forms may include one or more of the following:
This is the time when you will pay the $165 fee associated with filing for divorce. You may file in person, by mail, or electronically. It is not required to file electronically if you don’t have a lawyer.
Once you have filled out all forms, we recommend making three copies to either the court clerk’s office or where your spouse lives or works.
The court clerk will provide a “writ of summons” to give to your spouse. You have 60 days from the time this document is provided to deliver divorce papers to your spouse. A third party must serve the papers–you cannot.
With a fee, you may request that your county Sheriff deliver the summons. The court may grant a waiver if eligible. Your papers may also be served by a friend or family member over 18 years old or a private process server by handing them directly to your spouse.
The papers may also be sent via certified mail to an adult not party to the case. The mailing will require certified mail that requests “Restricted Delivery–show to whom, date, address of delivery.”
The person who served the papers should complete an Affidavit of Service as proof your spouse received divorce papers. An Affidavit of Service must be filed with the court. Your lawyer can handle this process of ensuring proper service (or waiver of service) and filing the affidavit with the court.
Allow for time for your spouse to file a counterclaim. If served in Maryland, they have a 30 days answer after the service of process. If the papers are served outside of Maryland, the defendant has 60 days to answer.
If the papers are served in another country, your spouse has 90 days to answer. If your spouse does not answer or file a counterclaim within the allotted time period, you may need to file a Request for an Order of Default.
The steps for finalizing an uncontested divorce are relatively simple. After you have filed for absolute divorce through mutual consent, your municipal court may schedule a hearing for you–or you may need to request a hearing yourself through Form CC-DR-059, called the Request for Hearing form.
The petitioner spouse will need to be present at the hearing. You will need to prove that you are a resident of Maryland. You may also be asked to answer necessary questions related to your divorce petition.
The judge will review the state of the marriage agreement, including provisions for minor children. If everything is accepted, the judge will approve the marriage agreement and give an official decree for the absolute divorce.
A contested divorce will require a little more work. You may be required to go through a discovery process, which allows for the acquisition of evidence.
A contested divorce may also require testimony and expert reporting. Additionally, a judge may require mediation to agree on major points of contention such as custody, visitation, debt, or property.
From here, a judge may need to settle a dispute if neither spouse can agree. Once an agreement is reached, an official decree for absolute divorce can be made, as the components of the divorce are no longer contested.
A divorce contains many steps, decisions, and court filings. It is also an emotional process for those undergoing this difficult process. A lawyer can help bring clarity during a confusing and painful time.
Attorney Patrick Crawford carries trusted experience in the many areas of family law and divorce and will treat you with the respect you and your sensitive case deserve. Contact us today through our online form or via phone at (410) 846-9109.
Tell him about your legal issue and he will get back to you promptly.