A Guide to Filing for Divorce in Maryland
Although every divorce is unique, there are several things that all divorces in Maryland have in common. Understanding the laws and processes concerning divorce in the state will help to reduce the stress and strain you are sure to encounter as you work through the steps.
Here are some important things to know:
- Gathering Important Information
- Choosing Which Type of Divorce is Right for You
- Filling Out the Necessary Forms
- Filing Your Documents
- Serving Divorce Papers to Your Spouse
- Frequently Asked Questions About Divorce in Maryland
Important information you need to gather
There are many complicated issues in divorce that you will need to be prepared for. Getting organized early on and having the documents you need at your fingertips will make the entire process a little bit less daunting.
It will also save you time and money, while helping to expedite the divorce process.
For a better understanding of what documents you’ll need, we’ve put together this Divorce Information Checklist. It’s a great resource as you begin the tedious task of pulling together your financial documentation.
What type of divorce is right for you?
Deciding on what divorce process to use (litigation, mediation, collaborative divorce, etc.) provides you with the framework to begin moving forward. That’s an important decision and not one that should be taken lightly.
It will drive how amicable or contentious your divorce will be and set the tone for your future co-parenting relationship if you have kids. With so much at stake, it’s imperative that you understand all of your options and how they will play upon your individual situation.
To learn more about your options and the pros and cons, be sure to check out our article on The Types of Divorce.
Fill Out the Necessary Forms to Start your Divorce
You will need to complete several forms and submit them to start the divorce process in Maryland. Which forms you need to complete will depend on the circumstances of your divorce. If you are working with an attorney, they will assist you with the process and make sure that all the forms you need are filled out and that they are done so correctly.
Many counties have forms that are unique to their jurisdiction, although the forms may be similar throughout the state and in many cases may be used for any county in the state. It is best to check with your attorney or with the courthouse in the county where you plan to file your paperwork.
File Your Documents
If you are working with an attorney, they will make sure all the forms are correct and will file them at the clerk of the court where your spouse resides. If your spouse has moved out of state, then you can file in your county of residence. In an uncontested divorce and if your spouse consents, you can file in your own county as well.
You will need to pay a filing fee when you submit your documents. Fees vary by county but generally run about $200. If you qualify, you may be able to have the filing fees waived.
Serving Your Spouse with Divorce Papers
When the complaint is filed the court clerk will also issue a Writ of Summons as well. Both the complaint and the summons must be served on your spouse through a formal means known as “service of process.”
Maryland law provides several ways this can happen.
It can be delivered to your spouse by anyone over 18 who is not the plaintiff.
Copies can also be delivered by U.S. mail with return receipt requested. The defendant will need to sign for the delivery which is then used as proof that service was completed. In this case, someone other than the defendant must also mail the paperwork.
A defendant has a specified amount of time to respond to the complaint. If he or she lives in Maryland, they have 30 days. If they live out a state, the time limit is 60 days. A defendant who lives out of the country has 90 days to respond.
Frequently Asked Questions About Filing for Divorce in Maryland
How much does it cost to file for a divorce in Maryland?
Costs vary by county but generally run about $200. You may also need to pay a fee to the sheriff or a process server if you choose that option to have proof of service completed.
Read More: How Much Does Divorce Cost?
Can divorce fees be waived in Maryland?
If you are not able to afford to pay the filing fees for a divorce in Maryland, you can request that those fees be waived. You will need complete and file a Request for Waiver of Prepaid Costs and submit it for consideration.
Can I file for a divorce online in Maryland?
You must file for a divorce in Maryland with the Circuit Court in the county where either you or your spouse lives or in the county where the defendant works. You do have the option of filing by mail, but you cannot file online.
How long does it take to get a divorce in Maryland?
It depends on several factors. The length of time a divorce takes varies county to county. The length also depends on the grounds being cited.
There is no waiting period before you can file an absolute divorce in the case of adultery, cruelty, or misconduct. But there are waiting periods for desertion, voluntary separation, criminal convictions, and insanity grounds for divorce.
After filing in an uncontested divorce, the process takes about two to three months. In a contested divorce, if there is no appeal, your divorce will be final 30 days after the judge signs the final decree.
What are the residency requirements to file for a divorce in Maryland?
At least one spouse must be a Maryland resident for at least one year prior to the filing for divorce. In a no-fault divorce Maryland law also requires that a couple lived apart for at least 12 months before filing as well.
Can I file for divorce in Maryland without using a lawyer?
If you and your spouse can agree on all the terms of your divorce, you can go through the process without using a lawyer in Maryland. An uncontested divorce means that you have reached agreement on things like a division of assets, child custody and support, alimony, and other important issues.
You will need to give the court grounds for the divorce and also submit a separation agreement that both you and your spouse agree to before a judge will certify your divorce. You will also need to meet residency requirements as well.
If you still have some unresolved issues, you can also use the services of a mediator, as long as both you and your spouse agree on this option. Over the course of one or more sessions, a mediator will review financial documents, forms and worksheets as part of a discovery process and then guide you and your spouse through a series of discussions about the outstanding issues, attempting to peacefully resolve things between you.
Once these issues are resolved, a mediator will draft a Memorandum of Understanding and you will file this document with the court as part of your divorce process. Going this route saves time, money and stress instead of retaining a lawyer to represent you.
Can I get a divorce in Maryland if I am pregnant?
You can get a divorce if you are pregnant in Maryland but doing so can be a complicated process. The process may take longer, especially if there are paternity issues to be resolved. In general, the ex-husband is assumed to be the father of the child unless evidence can be produced that shows the pregnancy took place outside of the marriage.
This also raises issues of child support, health insurance coverage, visitation and other issues that can take time to work out.
What are the implications of getting a divorce in Maryland if I am a member of the military?
The grounds for getting a divorce in Maryland if you are a member of the armed forces are the same as they are for civilians. You will need to file for a divorce in a civilian court as well and not in a military court as some people might assume.
After divorce paperwork has been filed in Maryland, copies must be served on a spouse to give him or her a chance to respond. However, when that spouse is in the military, they have certain protections afforded to them by the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. This allows them to postpone the divorce while they are overseas or otherwise not able to adequately respond to the petition due to military service commitments.
The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act eases many legal and financial burdens of military personnel and their families who face the added challenges of active duty. A service member may choose to waive delaying the divorce by signing off on paperwork which will then allow the divorce to proceed uncontested.
Normal property division laws apply for a military divorce in Maryland which is an equitable distribution state, but the federal government also protects military personnel through the Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act that governs how military benefits are calculated when a divorce takes place. Federal laws will not allow a military members retirement to be distributed to a spouse unless the couple has been married for 10 years or more while the service member was on active duty.
Child support and spousal support are determined by Maryland state guidelines, but federal law dictates that child and spousal support awards may not exceed 60% of a servicemembers pay and allowances.
In a best-case scenario, a spouse will negotiate a child custody and visitation agreement that clearly addresses deployment, relocation, and other military-related issues. If an agreement can’t be reached on child custody and visitation, the judge will consider the best interests of the child. This can be complicated in a civilian divorce, but issues of deployment and relocation make child custody in a military divorce even more difficult.
Looking for more great tips about filing for divorce? Check out a few of our favorite resources:
- How to File for Divorce
- How Should I Prepare for Divorce
- What Are The Types of Divorce
- How Should I Prepare for Divorce