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Filing for Divorce in Maryland

Representation for Limited & Absolute Divorce in Annapolis

One of the most frightening aspects of going through a divorce, negotiating child custody, or dealing with any other aspect of family law, is the unknown. Unfamiliar experiences and uncertain outcomes making real, permanent changes to your life can cause a great deal of anxiety, and we feel that it is our job to try to minimize that anxiety as much as possible.

For advice specific to your situation, call (410) 709-8971 to schedule a consultation with one of our Annapolis divorce attorneys.

What are the Two Types of Divorce in Maryland?

Maryland has two types of divorce: absolute and limited divorce.

  • Absolute divorce

This is what most states call divorce or dissolution of marriage. It ends the relationship, and the parties are free to separate.

  • Limited divorce

This is a legal separation and does not end the marriage. It constitutes permission to live separate and apart.

You can state two or more grounds for a divorce, even if they conflict or seem contradictory. For example, you can argue that you left the home willingly (no-fault divorce) and were forced out by your ex-spouse (fault divorce).

At Rice Law, we help clients with both types of divorces. We can explain the differences between the two types of divorce and help you determine the best way to move forward in your situation.

What is a Limited Divorce?

A limited divorce is granted when the parties do not have grounds for an absolute divorce but need the court’s assistance on limited matters, including custody, visitation, child support, alimony, and use and possession of the marital home. The action does not end the marriage, but instead, results in a Court Order, or an agreement, on some of the issues listed above.

What is an Absolute Divorce?

An absolute divorce permanently ends a marriage. The final divorce decree specifies how property is to be divided, alimony, custody of any minor children, child support payments, and any changes to the last name of either spouse. Jointly owned property is divided equitably, which may or may not mean equally. Any agreements, such as a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement will be enforceable during a divorce. In order to file for an absolute divorce, the person must have grounds for the divorce.

What are the Grounds for Divorce in Maryland?

Grounds for divorce in Maryland may include:

  • One year separation
  • Adultery
  • Mutual consent
  • Desertion
  • Insanity
  • Cruel or violent treatment
  • Incarceration of three or more years

For either type of divorce, Maryland has statutory residency requirements. If the grounds for divorce did not happen in Maryland, there is a six-month residency requirement. When using insanity as the grounds, the residency requirement is two years. There is no residency requirement when both spouses are residents of the state and the grounds for the divorce occurred in Maryland.

What is Uncontested Divorce?

An uncontested must have two factors:

  1. Both parties agree to get a divorce
  2. Both parties agree on the terms of the divorce

Some of the common issues that both parties can agree on pertain to things like division of assets, child custody, visitation, and more. Uncontested divorce is typically a much smoother process when compared to uncontested divorce and can take half the time. By Maryland state law, uncontested divorces have been significantly easier to obtain. In fact, if each spouse previously signed a separation agreement, they can get an uncontested divorce on the ground of mutual consent. Previous law stated that each spouse must live separate from one another for a period of 12 months prior to filing.

It is important to remember that both parties do not have to completely agree on terms right away. Our firm can take you step-by-step on each of the processes, as we know how stressful this entire ordeal can be.

What is Contested Divorce?

Contested divorce occurs when one member of the party does not agree to the terms or grounds for the divorce. Certain issues that are disagreed on frequently may include:

  • Who gets custody of the child/children
  • How child support and visitation will be organized
  • The exact alimony terms
  • If the validity of a prenuptial agreement be proven
  • How the property and division of common debt will be dispersed

If common ground cannot be met, they will usually need to take the divorce to court. While uncontested divorces may take longer, and typically are more expensive, they can help uncover hidden finances by either party. This type of divorce is commonly seen with spouses who have large financial holdings or are overwhelmed with complex family circumstances.

What are the Requirements for Divorce in Maryland?

These are the initial steps that need to be taken when filing for divorce in Maryland.

  • Service of Complaint & Writ of Summons – The first document is what a spouse uses to file for divorce. The second document will be issued by the court clerk along with the initial petition. These two documents will be “served” to the defendant spouse.
    • Service of Process – This refers to the official process by which the defendant spouse must be served the divorce papers.
  • Answer to the Complaint – This is the defendant’s answer to the documents he or she has been served. A “Counter Complaint for Absolute Divorce” can be issued as well, which allows the defendant to state different grounds for the divorce.
    • In-state defendant has 30 days to respond
    • Out-of-state defendant has 60 days to respond
    • Out-of-county defendant has 90 days to respond
  • Financial Disclosures – Each spouse must complete a financial statement. This will disclose information about the assets, liabilities, income, and expenses each spouse independently has in addition to any property or debts they jointly own.

If you are contemplating divorce, call our lawyer at (410) 709-8971 to discuss the options that are available to you under Maryland state law.

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