Germantown, Silver Spring and throughout Montgomery County, Maryland Divorce Attorneys Assisting Clients Facing a Divorce
In Maryland, couples wishing to end their marriage may file for absolute divorce or limited divorce. Absolute divorce is like a regular divorce in other states, in which both parties will no longer be married and will be free to marry other people after the divorce is finalized. A limited divorce is similar to a separation, in which the couple is still legally married, but a judge can then issue necessary orders such as child support and custody that will remain in place until the couple gets an absolute divorce or gets back together. Each of these processes has slightly different steps – our divorce attorneys explain the basics about filing for a divorce in Maryland.
What Are the Steps to Filing for Divorce in Maryland?
To begin filing for divorce in Maryland, you will need to check if you meet the residency requirements for yourself, your spouse, and any children. The courts usually require that either spouse should have lived in Maryland for at least six months before the divorce begins. This means that if your ex has lived in Maryland for that time but you have not, you may still file for divorce in Maryland. If neither of you has lived in Maryland for six months, then you might not be able to file for divorce in this state and may have to do so in your home state. If you are unsure about whether you meet the residency requirements, ask an attorney before filing any forms.
After checking that you meet the residency requirements, the next step is to file the initial paperwork, which usually includes a form called a Complaint about Absolute Divorce and another form called a Domestic Case Information Report. These are usually accompanied by many other supporting documents, and if you are working with an attorney, he or she will typically help you prepare what is necessary for this first step.
These documents will contain essential information about your divorce, such as whether you are filing a contested or uncontested divorce, a no-fault or at-fault divorce, and what your legal reason for divorce is. It may also contain information about whether you have a mutual agreement and concerning your intentions for changing your last name after the process is done. You may also add information about any financial support you will be seeking, and attach any property division or custody agreements you may have with your ex. There may be other items you will need to include, and an attorney can advise you on what else is needed for your specific case.
The next step involves filing the documents with your local courthouse, and if applicable, paying any filing fees. If you cannot afford to pay the filing fees, you may ask the court to waive your fees by submitting an additional form. Once the forms and supporting documents are filed correctly, the court will set a trial date for your case. The timeline for this to happen varies depending on the county where you are filing for divorce.
Several days in advance of the trial date, you and your ex may be asked to submit additional documentation, which may include a joint statement in which the couple lists their joint property and note how the assets should be divided. The last step to finalize your divorce after the trial is done is to file a Report of Absolute Divorce or Annulment of Marriage with the Division of Vital Records. After filing, the state will then send you your final divorce decree which makes you legally divorced. This is just an overview, and it is strongly recommended that you seek the help of a divorce attorney to ensure your case goes smoothly and that your rights are respected in court.
Does Maryland Have No-Fault Divorces?
In Maryland, divorces can happen due to one of the spouse’s actions that led to the end of the marriage (i.e., a “fault divorce”), or simply because both parties agree that the marriage is not sustainable and wish to end their relationship due to irreconcilable differences (a no-fault divorce). In order to initiate a fault divorce, you will likely need to have specific reasons (referred to as “grounds for divorce) to do so.
Some examples of divorce grounds accepted by the state of Maryland may include adultery, a felony or misdemeanor conviction resulting in a jail term of three or more years, or severe mental illness that resulted in one of the spouses being institutionalized for at least three years (accompanied by expert witness testimony that the condition is permanent and has no cure). In addition, victims of cruel treatment and abusive or violent behavior from their spouses may also file on the grounds of abuse. If filing for a no-fault divorce, spouses can simply claim mutual consent, especially when they can agree on all or many aspects of their divorce.
How Is Property Divided in a Maryland Divorce?
Assets acquired by both spouses during the marriage may be considered marital property. The exception to that is when a spouse receives a gift or inheritance, and when that spouse uses those assets to purchase something such as real property, for example. In other words, even if a spouse inherited a vehicle from a deceased uncle during the marriage, and decided to sell that vehicle and purchase a newer vehicle, the newer vehicle will likely remain as separate property because it can be traced back to another piece of separate property.
When it comes to deciding who gets what at the time of a divorce, Maryland is not a community property state and follows the equitable distribution statute. This means that whatever assets counted as marital property may not be necessarily split in a 50/50 fashion but will be divided in a way that the court finds fair. It is not unusual for each party to receive half of the marital property, but this may vary on a case-by-case basis.
In some cases, one of the spouses may attempt to sell off or otherwise get rid of certain marital assets while the marriage is in crisis. If this happens, the court might consider the action as fraudulent and a waste of marital property and may count the dissipated property as if it still existed at the time when marital property is being divided.
The court may also determine to give a monetary award in place of dividing property and may use several factors to decide whether to split up the property or require a monetary payment to the other spouse. The goal is to divide all marital assets in a fair and equitable manner. This also applies to marital debt, which is any debt incurred by both spouses together during the course of the marriage. Marital debt is divided in the same manner as marital property.
How Can a Divorce Attorney Help Me?
Going through a divorce is an emotionally draining process by itself. Add to it all the paperwork and formalities required to initiate the process, and it becomes an overwhelming task to most people. By hiring a divorce attorney, you may benefit in many ways. Your attorney will know how a particular court tends to deal with divorce filings, anticipate any issues and even provide you some insight about the judge that was assigned to your case.
During the course of filling out the required divorce paperwork, you will likely need to make important decisions concerning the type of divorce you prefer and whether you want it to be settled quickly and amicably or you want the court to hold your ex accountable for his or her actions by going to trial. Your attorney can counsel you on all your options and help you make those important decisions more confidently.
In some cases, clients are exhausted and simply want the divorce process to be settled quickly, which may lead to mistakes and hasty decisions. Your attorney can assist you with taking steps in an objective, clear-minded manner without letting your emotions interfere with key decisions that will likely affect you and your children for many years.
At Paré & Associates, LLC, our attorneys have handled countless divorce cases in Germantown, Silver Spring and throughout Montgomery County, Maryland and vicinities, assisting clients looking for a fresh start in their lives. We know how emotionally tiring a divorce can be, and our attorneys have the knowledge and skills to help you at every step of the way. If you are going through a divorce or simply considering it, you probably have a lot of questions. Call Paré & Associates, LLC today at (301) 962-2492 to schedule a free consultation.