Divorce Process in Maryland

How a Divorce Process Works

patrickcrawford | June 22, 2021

The law in each state sets out the procedures and requirements for a divorce, and Maryland is no different. To make sure you get the best outcome in your case, don’t wait to consult with an Annapolis divorce attorney.

No two divorces are ever exactly alike, and your divorce will proceed according to the circumstances involved. The divorce process, however, is predictable and remains the same for everyone. If you are facing a divorce, consulting with an experienced Annapolis divorce lawyer is one of the most important first steps that you can take to help ensure that your parental and financial rights are protected throughout the process.

Filing for Divorce

The first step in the divorce process is filing for divorce, which involves filing your Complaint for Absolute Divorce with the proper family court. When you file the papers, you become the plaintiff, and your divorcing spouse becomes the defendant. If your spouse files, however, your roles will be reversed. You may also need to file the following:

  • Your Property Settlement Agreement (if you and your divorcing spouse have hammered out the divorce terms that will apply)
  • A Financial Statement for Alimony or Child Support (the financial documentation you will need if you are seeking alimony and/or child support)

The divorce forms you file are exacting, and having a dedicated divorce lawyer in your corner helps to ensure that you won’t face any setbacks and that your rights will remain well protected. 

Serving Your Spouse

Generally, your spouse will need to be served personally, and you can move forward with this step once the court issues a Writ of Summons, which you should receive (in triplicate) within 5 to 10 days of your divorce filing. You can’t serve your spouse until your case has been assigned both a case number and a summons. The service package that you serve your spouse with should include a copy of the summons and of every form that you filed with the court, and you can choose any of the following service methods:

  • Certified Mail with Restricted Delivery and Return Receipt Requested – This method will provide you with your spouse’s signature on service and demonstrates that your spouse has been served. You’ll then file the green card that proves your spouse’s receipt, a copy of your summons, and an Affidavit of Service with the court.  
  • Sheriff – For a fee, the sheriff’s office will deliver your service package to your spouse and complete your affidavit. 
  • Process Server – For a fee, you can also hire a process server to serve your spouse and complete the Affidavit of Service. 
  • Private Process Server – You also have the option of enlisting someone whom you know – who is over the age of 18 – to serve your spouse, and your chosen representative will complete the Affidavit of Service. 

The service process is important, and if mistakes are made, your case could be dismissed by the court.

Awaiting Your Spouse’s Response

There are time restrictions that apply to your spouse’s answer to service that include:

  • If your spouse was served in Maryland, he or she has 30 days from the date of service to file his or her answer.
  • If your spouse was served in another state, he or she has 60 days from the date of service to file his or her answer.
  • If your spouse was served in another country, he or she has 90 days from the date of service to file his or her answer.

If your spouse does not respond within the appropriate amount of time, you can file a Request for Order of Default. 

Negotiating Terms

From here, the negotiating process will begin, if you and your divorcing spouse have not already begun the process. 

The Division of Your Marital Property

The division of marital property is a primary concern of nearly every divorce, and it sets the stage for your financial future. Those assets that you and your spouse obtained while you were married are considered marital property, and they must be distributed between you in a way that is deemed equitable upon divorce. Equitable means fair under the circumstances and does not necessarily mean equal. Those assets that either you or your spouse brought into your marriage with you – and kept separate throughout – will remain your separate property, but the issue of separate vs. marital property often becomes a sticking point. 

Your Child Custody Arrangements

The State of Maryland addresses both legal and physical custody. Legal custody concerns who will be making important decisions on behalf of your children moving forward, and it can be either sole or joint. The kinds of decisions involved include:

  • Decisions regarding your kids’ education
  • Decisions regarding your kids’ extracurriculars
  • Decisions regarding your kids’ healthcare needs
  • Decisions regarding your kids’ religious upbringing

Physical custody concerns how you and your ex will split your time with your children, and it can also be either sole or joint, but the court is unlikely to deny a parent’s right to spend time with his or her children (without a compelling reason for doing so). If you and your children’s other parent can find common ground and hammer out a schedule that works for you, there are no restrictions that apply. If the court is required to intervene, it generally hands down one of its standard visitation schedules. 

Child Support

Child support is based on the state’s calculation process, which takes each parent’s income and the amount of time that he or she is responsible for the children into consideration. Child support is calculated in accordance with the children’s best interests, and both parents are deemed responsible for supporting their children financially in direct correspondence with their ability to do so. Generally, the primary custodial parent – with whom the children live primarily – receives child support from the other parent. Even if both parents split their time equally with their shared children, however, the higher earner typically pays child support to the other parent. 


Many divorces don’t address alimony, but it can play an important role if the divorce leaves one spouse facing a financial setback and the other has the financial ability to help. Many factors go into the court’s decisions regarding alimony – and its duration and amount – including:

  • The length of your marriage
  • The contributions each of you made to the marriage (including running the home)
  • The standard of living you enjoyed in your marriage
  • The circumstances that contributed to your divorce
  • The amount of time it would take for the spouse seeking alimony to obtain the education, experience, and/or job skills to become more financially independent 
  • The age and mental and physical health of both of you

Last Steps

If you and your divorcing spouse are able to negotiate terms that are acceptable to both of you, the court will move forward with a Judgement of Divorce. If you come up short and one or more terms remain unresolved, you’ll need the court to intervene on your behalf and settle those remaining terms.    

Seek the Legal Guidance of an Experienced Annapolis Divorce Lawyer

Patrick Crawford at the Law Office of Patrick Crawford is a trusted Annapolis divorce lawyer whose practice focuses on helping clients like you obtain favorable case resolutions as efficiently as possible. We’re here to help, so please don’t hesitate to contact or call us at (410) 216-7905 today.


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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.