A divorce in Maryland, like in any other state, is the legal process to terminate a marriage. In Maryland, the requirements to be eligible for divorce have changed over the years. Most recently, the changes have been dramatic. Prior to 2000, the waiting period to be eligible for divorce was two years. The waiting period was later reduced to one year. In 2015, Maryland enacted divorce by mutual consent. A divorce by mutual consent requires that the divorcing spouses.
- Have no children in common,
- that they entered into a written, signed separation agreement,
- That neither of the spouses were challenging the agreement, and
- Lastly, both spouses had to appear in court and testify, confirming for the court that they both wanted a divorce.
In 2018, divorce by mutual consent was made even easier and expanded to include spouses who have children. Further, the requirement that the both spouses appear for the divorce hearing was removed. Now, only one spouse need appear for the divorce.
The cornerstone of a divorce by mutual consent is that there is a written, signed marital settlement agreement that resolves all of the issues arising from the marriage. The complexity of the agreement varies by the individual circumstances. Spouses who have not acquired property, do not have children, and are both self-supporting most likely have a fairly simple agreement. When the issues become more varied, then the agreements tend to be more complex. Once an agreement is reached, reduced to writing, and signed by both parties, then the parties are ready to proceed with the divorce.
To initiate the divorce process, one party must first file a complaint for divorce. This party is referred to as the Plaintiff. In turn the court will issue a summons and forward it to the Plaintiff. The Plaintiff will then serve a copy of the summons and complaint on the other party. The other party is referred to as the Defendant. The Defendant must file a responsive pleading that is referred to as the “answer”. If there are no children, just one party needs to appear at the divorce hearing with the separation agreement.
There is one other thing that is important about a divorce by mutual consent and that is that Maryland must have jurisdiction. The requirement for jurisdiction is that one of the spouses must have lived in the state of Maryland for at least six months. If you have not reached a written, signed separation agreement, you cannot obtain a divorce by mutual consent. However, there are other grounds by which you can proceed with the divorce. One of them would be a one-year separation. To obtain a divorce on the ground of a one-year separation, you must be separated from your spouse for an entire year before you can proceed with the divorce. You file for a divorce after the one-year separation.
In instances where you are unable to reach an agreement with your spouse, you may need a contested hearing to resolve the issues that you do not agree on. The other grounds that require a waiting period to get a divorce are desertion, cruelty, harsh conduct, a spouse who has been convicted of a criminal offense that resulted in a sentencing to prison of a minimum term of three years, a spouse who has been incarcerated for a year and lastly, a spouse who is insane.
The other ground for divorce that does not require a waiting period is adultery. You can file for a divorce immediately and there is no waiting period, if you can prove that a spouse committed adultery. To prove adultery, you must have competent evidence of affection between the spouse and paramour, time and opportunity. So pictures of your spouse checking into a hotel with the paramour, arm-in-arm, and their re-emergence hours later is sufficient to prove adultery.
Is There Any Benefit To Filing For A Divorce Before Your Spouse?
It is always better to file first in litigation. If the matter is contested and you are going to proceed to a divorce trial, the plaintiff is the person who presents first at the trial. So the Plaintiff makes his or her opening statement before the other spouse does. That gives the Plaintiff the opportunity to set the stage. The Plaintiff will be first to tell the court what the issues are, what you think the court should do about the issues, and advising the court what evidence the court is going to see. It is also an opportunity to tell the court what is wrong with the other spouse’s position. It is an opportunity to steal whatever thunder your spouse may think he or she has. You get the chance to water that down and address any accusations that your spouse may make against you, in your opening statement. So if you know that your spouse seeks to prove that you committed adultery, you may discuss the complete sexual abandonment of your spouse for years. Leaving no choice to seek affection elsewhere.
The advantage of going first continues throughout the trial. The Plaintiff is first to present evidence; thus influencing the court first. As Plaintiff you have the opportunity to put on a rebuttal case; you can attack and disprove the defendant’s case with evidence, witnesses, and arguments. At the conclusion of a trial the Plaintiff is first to present their closing argument, so you get to tell the court what your interpretation of the evidence is and why you think the evidence supports the particular conclusion that you would want. You get to anticipate what the defendant is going to argue and you can acknowledge that in your closing statement. After the defendant makes his closing statement, you get to come back and get the last word, telling the court why what the defendant argued is incorrect. You get to make the first impression and you get to make the last impression. You can only do that if you are the first one to file.
For more information on Divorce In The State Of Maryland, an initial consultation is your best next step. Get the information and legal answers you’re seeking by calling (301) 515-1190 today.