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Maryland men’s divorce attorneys provide answers to frequently asked questions about the divorce process and Maryland divorce laws.
What are the grounds for divorce?
There are two types of divorce in Maryland: limited divorce (a divorce a mensa et throro) and absolute divorce (a divorce a vincula matrimonii).
A limited divorce constitutes permission to live separate and apart. The primary difference between the two is that you can only remarry after obtaining an Absolute Divorce. Grounds for both types of divorce in Maryland are determined by statute.
Grounds for a Limited Divorce:
- Cruelty of treatment of the complaining party or a minor child of the complaining party.
- Excessively vicious conduct to the complaining party or of a minor child of the complaining party.
- Voluntary separation, if the parties are living separate and apart with no reasonable expectation of reconciliation.
Grounds for an Absolute Divorce:
- Desertion, if the desertion has continued for at least 12 months without interruption before the filing of the complaint for an absolute divorce; the desertion is deliberate and final; and there is no reasonable expectation of reconciliation.
- 12-month separation, when the parties have lived separated and apart without cohabitation for 12 months without interruption before the filing of the application for divorce.
- Cruelty of treatment toward the complaining party or a minor child of the complaining party, if there is no reasonable expectation of reconciliation.
- Excessively vicious conduct toward the complaining party or a minor child of the complaining party, if there is no reasonable expectation of reconciliation.
- Conviction of felony or misdemeanor. Defendant has been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor, and has been sentenced to serve at least three years or an indeterminate sentence in a penal institution and has served twelve months of the sentence prior to complaint for divorce.
- Insanity, where the insane spouse has been confined for at least three years before filing complaint. The complaining party will have to provide proof of incurable insanity without hope of recovery from the testimony of two psychiatrists. Also, one of the parties has to have been a resident of Maryland for at least two years prior to filing complaint.
What is a divorce going to cost me? Can I afford it?
It depends. The cost of divorce is entirely case specific. If the parties have many assets and debts to evaluate for distribution, it can be a fairly long, complicated, and expensive process. There are processes like settlement and mediation that can help reduce the potential costs.
Do I really need to hire an attorney?
Although a non-attorney could theoretically handle his or her own divorce, it is usually best to let a licensed professional handle the matter. Domestic litigation is rife with legal nuances that, if unknown or not understood, could put a non-attorney at a disadvantage when handling their own case.
Additionally, each state has their own law when it comes to Domestic Litigation, so what held true for your friend in another state may not be true in Maryland.
One of the other complicating factors when it comes to any kind of litigation is understanding and meeting the court’s procedural deadlines. By failing to file certain documents by certain times, you could jeopardize your case and possibly limit your standing in a given matter. An attorney will not only be familiar with the law in Domestic Litigation, but will also be aware of the Maryland Rules of Civil Procedure.
Does this state grant divorces based on marital fault?
Yes, see the previous question regarding the grounds for divorce in Maryland.
Can I get maintenance or will I have to provide maintenance to my spouse?
Whether or not maintenance, or alimony, will be awarded to either party in a given case will depend on the specific facts of each case. The court uses a specific set of factors in determining alimony.
It is important to note that alimony in Maryland can be classified in three different groups: pendente lite alimony, statutory alimony, and indefinite alimony.
Alimony pendente lite is alimony awarded to a dependent spouse that is only meant to continue for the duration of the case, until a final order is entered. The purpose of pendente lite alimony is to maintain the status quo between the parties as much as possible.
Statutory alimony is awarded to a dependent spouse, the amount and duration of which is determined by a list of factors that the court considers. In Maryland, the primary purpose of alimony is to be “rehabilitative” in nature, allowing a dependent spouse time to reach a point where they may become self-supporting. “Rehabilitative” alimony is temporary in nature and is typically awarded for a set period of time.
Indefinite alimony is the exception to the rule of statutory alimony. It may only be awarded if the court makes one of two specific findings regarding the dependent spouse.
Can I change my name at the time of divorce?
Either party may resume the use of either their given name at birth or any other former name, provided the following occurs: that they changed their name at their marriage; that they specifically request to restore their former name; and that their purpose in doing so is not illegal, fraudulent, or immoral.
Can I get an annulment?
In Maryland, annulments are only granted when the marriage is void. For instance, an annulment could be granted in the case of incest or bigamy.
When can I file for divorce?
A limited divorce can be filed immediately, regardless of the grounds. The time period in which to file for an absolute divorce will be determined by the grounds for the divorce.
When is my case going to be over?
The length of a case for divorce depends on the complexity of the matter and the jurisdiction in which it is being heard. For instance, an uncontested divorce where the parties have agreed to all issues and the Complaint and Answer were filed contemporaneously, may take as little as two months. Most cases do not move so quickly.
Do I have to appear in court?
To obtain a divorce in Maryland, even if a divorce is uncontested and all of the issues have been resolved by agreement, the Plaintiff (or the party that filed the initial Complaint) will have to appear in court to give specifically required testimony regarding the marriage and divorce. That party will also be required to bring a witness to corroborate the necessary testimony.
If a divorce is contested and/or there are outstanding issues that have not been settled at the time of the trial or hearing regarding the divorce, both parties will likely have to appear in court.
If attempts to serve my spouse do not work, what is my next step?
Maryland has several procedural options that may be pursued if your spouse is evading service.
At what point during the process can a spouse remarry or start dating?
A party may remarry only after they are divorced. A divorce is final 30 days after the parties have received the Judgment of Divorce, signed by the judge.
As to when a spouse may start dating again depends. It is important to note that so long as you are married, regardless of whether or not you have separated from your spouse, sex with any person other than your spouse is adultery under Maryland law.
What if my spouse does not want the divorce?
Depending on the grounds for the divorce, you can move forward regardless. For instance, the law in Maryland has recently been changed so that you may obtain a divorce after a year of living separate and apart, whether or not your spouse agreed to the separation or ultimate divorce.
How long do I have to live in this state to obtain a divorce?
Typically the residency requirement is one year.
After I file for divorce, do I have to continue to live in this state?
No, but you should consult a divorce lawyer prior to moving. It is possible that moving may have a negative impact on your case, especially when it comes to child custody.
What forms do I need to file a divorce?
To initiate a case for divorce, you will need to file a Complaint for an Absolute and/or Limited Divorce, a financial statement, and a Maryland Civil Domestic Case Information Report.
These are only the papers you would need to begin the case. The progression of the case after filing will dictate what other papers may have to be filed.
How and where is a divorce complaint filed?
In Maryland, a divorce complaint must be filed with the Circuit Court for the county that has jurisdiction. The party filing the initial complaint will also have to pay a filing fee.
The Complaint and the Summons, which will be generated by the court, will then have to be properly served on the opposing party.
How do I serve the divorce complaint on my spouse?
There are several methods available to serve the other party. Such methods include service by the sheriff’s deputy, private process service, and service by certified mail. The complaining party cannot personally serve the complaint on the opposing party.
What typically happens if I go to court to obtain my divorce myself?
That can depend greatly. The biggest concern facing anyone seeking a divorce on their own is that they may be in over their heads.
There are very specific rules that have to be followed when dealing with the court and court system. Failing to follow those rules can potentially result in an inability to thoroughly present your case at trial.
Can a couple become legally married by living together as man and wife under the state’s laws (common law marriage)?
Maryland does not recognize common law marriage itself, but will give full faith and credit to common law marriages that were formed in another state. In other words, no matter how long you live together in Maryland, there is no common law marriage.
However, should you live in a state that does recognize common law marriage and meet the threshold for common law marriage in that state before moving to Maryland, Maryland would recognize your common law marriage from the state you previously resided.