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Frequently Asked Anne Arundel County Divorce Questions
How long do I have to live in Anne Arundel County before I can file for divorce?
In order to file a complaint for divorce in the State of Maryland, you or your spouse has to have been a resident of the state for at least a year. The divorce complaint must be filed in the circuit court for the county where the Plaintiff (the party filing for divorce) lives or where the Defendant (other party) lives, works, or owns a business.
So, if you or your spouse have lived in Maryland for the last year and you presently live in Anne Arundel County, or your estranged spouse lives, works, or owns a business in Anne Arundel County, then you may file in Anne Arundel County.
Is there a mandatory waiting period in Anne Arundel County before a divorce can be granted? How long will a divorce take?
There is no mandatory waiting period in Anne Arundel before a divorce can be granted. There are, however, specific time requirements that govern when a Complaint for a Limited and/or Absolute Divorce can be filed.
The length of the divorce process depends on several factors, including the complexity of the case. The more issues the parties are in agreement with the faster the process may be able to move along. If the case is for an Uncontested Divorce, meaning that the parties agree to the divorce and the grounds thereof, and there are no issues regarding minor children or property, the case could go to trial in several months.
If the case is a contested divorce and/or there are issues regarding minor children and/or property distribution, the court will first schedule a Scheduling Conference, which will probably not occur for several months.
At the Scheduling Conference a judge or master will talk to the parties and determine dates for such things as a discovery deadline; whether or not a pendete lite hearing should be held; and the date for a Settlement Conference. If the case has not reached settlement at the time of the Settlement Conference, it will then be set in for a trial.
Keep in mind that the domestic division of the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County is a busy docket and can get backlogged.
How can I serve my spouse in Anne Arundel County? If attempts to serve do not work, can I serve by publication?
After filing your Complaint, you will receive from the court a Summons. This Summons and a copy of your Complaint will have to be served on your spouse.
This is called Process. Process can be served by either the Sheriff or a private person over the age of 18, who is not a party to the action.
The person filing the Complaint cannot serve Process on the other party.
Service of Process can be effectuated in several ways. It is best to serve initial pleadings by personal service directly on the defendant. Process can be served by certified mail, but this can create problems, especially if someone other than the defendant signs the certificate.
There are alternate methods of process that may be ordered by the court if it can be shown that the defendant is evading service or if good faith efforts for delivery have not otherwise successful. The court will order which alternate method of service is to be used.
Alternate methods may include service by first class mail to the defendant’s last known address and delivering a copy of the same to a person of suitable age and discretion at the place of business of the defendant. If the court orders that service by publication is permissible, The Capital is the local publication typically used.
What are the specific forms I will need to file for a divorce in Anne Arundel County?
To file for divorce you will need to file a Complaint, a Financial Statement, and a Domestic Case Information Report. The clerk’s office has fill-in-the-blank forms for a Complaint. They also have the Financial Statement and Domestic Case Information Report. All of these documents are also available at the Maryland Judiciary website.
It is important to note that the Complaint forms that the court has are very generic and will most likely not be tailored to fit some of the specifics in your case. Also, the clerks will not be able to assist you in filling out the forms.
Anne Arundel County does offer a Family Law Self-Help Center, and information regarding this program can be found on the Anne Arundel website.
Where do I file for divorce in Anne Arundel County?
All Domestic (Family Law) matters, like divorce, child custody, child support, paternity, and guardianship in Baltimore County are conducted through the Family Division of the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County.
The Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County is physically located at 7 Church Circle, Annapolis, Maryland, 21401.
The mailing address for the clerk’s office is: Office of the Clerk of the Circuit Court, P.O. Box 71, Suite 300, Annapolis, Maryland, 21404-0071.
Note: A petition for protection from domestic violence may be filed in any District Court or Circuit Court in Maryland.
How much are divorce filing fees in Anne Arundel County?
Filing fees for a Civil Complaint are $145. The Entry of Appearance (for an attorney) fee is $10.
There is a petition that may be filled out to request that the court waive these filing fees. Filing fees will only be waived, however, if the petitioning party can show poverty.
NOTE: The clerks can only accept cash, money order, or attorney’s check. They will not accept personal checks or credit cards.
NOTE: There is a separate charge of $40 for service of process by the Sherriff’s Office, payable by money order. This is not a mandatory fee, but only if you chose to use the sheriff’s office to serve the other party.
Are there any Anne Arundel County-Specific laws that are different from how other family law cases around the state are handled?
There are no specific laws that differ between Circuit Courts, but each court may have slightly different procedural methods. For instance, in Baltimore City, when you go to a Scheduling Conference, the entire case will be scheduled, from Settlement Conference to trial.
In Anne Arundel County, the court will not schedule the trial until after the Settlement Conference has been held and if no settlement was reached.
NOTE: In Anne Arundel County, any request for services, other than mediation, should be made no later than the time of the Scheduling Conference. The preference of the court is that these motions be made in writing prior to the Scheduling Conference.
How should I dress for court dates?
It is very important that you show deference to the court. While the court will not likely turn you away for how you are dressed, it may affect the way you come across to the judge. At a minimum, parties that are to appear in court should wear clothing that would be classified as business casual.
Do wear slacks, skirts, collared shirts, sweaters, blazers, and dress shoes.
Do not wear sagging, jeans, revealing tops, t-shirts with slogans, and flip-flops.
How should I address the judge?
Judges should be addressed as Judge or, preferably, Your Honor. A judge should never be addressed as sir, madam, or miss.
If you are in front of a Master, they may be addressed as Master, or Your Honor.
What is a master? What is the difference between a master and a judge?
A master in the Family Division is an attorney who has developed an expertise in family law. The court has expressed trust in these individuals and given them the power to handle certain matters within the Family Division.
A master conducts a hearing in the same manner as the Trial Court, and the same procedural and evidentiary rules apply. The Master, however, is not a member of the judiciary and therefore cannot make a final judgment.
Instead, Masters will make a report and recommendation to the trial judge. If no exceptions (see below) are filed to the report and recommendation, and if the judge accepts it, they will pass a final Order of Court in accord with what the master has recommended.
If one of the parties to the action is not satisfied with the master’s report and recommendation, they are permitted to file exceptions to the same within 10 days from the date of the report and recommendation. A trial court would then review the exceptions.
Can I bring my cell phone into the courthouse?
Yes, however, it must be silenced while you are in a courtroom. If the phone should ring in court, or if the vibration is strong enough to be heard, your phone will be confiscated by the court. It is likely that your phone will not be returned to you until the end of the day.
Taking photographs within the courthouse is prohibited.
It is always possible that the rules regarding cell phones and other electronic devices may change or vary depending on the county. You should confirm the court’s rules prior to your appearance.