Divorces are a state matter, and the rules governing the grounds for divorce, property distribution, alimony, child custody, child support, and other issues depend upon the state in which you live. In the State of Maryland, the Circuit Courts have jurisdiction over divorce cases. A Bethesda divorce attorney can help you understand the details of the process for divorce in Maryland.
Starting the Process – Filing the Divorce Complaint
The first step in the divorce process in Maryland is to meet the residency requirement. To file for divorce, one spouse must be living in Maryland. How long you must have lived in Maryland before filing a divorce complaint depends on where the grounds for divorce occurred.
If the grounds for divorce happened in Maryland, you can file for divorce immediately. If the grounds for divorce occurred outside of the State of Maryland, you or your spouse must have lived in Maryland for at least six months before filing your divorce complaint.
It is acceptable to move to various residences within the State of Maryland, but you should be prepared to prove the dates and addresses of residency. You affirm your residency through your sworn complaint, and typically, no proof is required beyond that. Residency can also be proven by a car registration, utility bills, property tax payments, library cards, and similar items proving you are a Maryland resident.
No-Fault Divorce in Maryland
In the event of mutual consent, Maryland has a “no-fault” divorce. Also known as voluntary separation, it signifies that you and your spouse have separated after mutually and voluntarily agreeing that you no longer desire to live together as husband and wife. To get a divorce on this ground, you have to be separated (not living under the same roof) without interruption and without cohabitation (no sexual intercourse) for one year, with no hope of reconciliation.
There are two types of voluntary separation: Limited Divorce and Absolute Divorce. An Absolute Divorce means that the divorce is permanent. Remarriage is legally permissible and property claims are terminated. A Limited Divorce serves primarily to legalize a separation and provide the support terms. In a Limited Divorce, remarriage is not allowed, and property claims are not terminated.
It’s not legally required to obtain a Limited Divorce before seeking an Absolute Divorce, a common misconception.
Grounds for Divorce If Separation is Not Mutually Voluntary
If the divorce is not mutual and voluntary, the parties seeking such divorce must offer an acceptable reason for the dissolution of the marriage. These grounds are, in most cases, set forth under Maryland Law. In Maryland, an Absolute Divorce can be granted on the following grounds:
- Constructive or actual desertion
- Voluntary separation
- Criminal conviction of a felony or misdemeanor
- Two-year separation
A party can file for divorce on one or several grounds. If any one of the grounds is proved, the court will order the dissolution of the marriage. For a Limited Divorce, the grounds are:
- Cruelty against the complaining party or against the child of the complaining party
- Excessive Cruelty
- Constructive or actual desertion
- Voluntary separation.
An annulment may be granted in Maryland when the marriage is declared void ab initio (i.e., from its inception) as if it had never existed. Characteristics of a “totally void” marriage are that the marriage is defective, such as one party is still married to another, the married parties are blood relatives, or one or both of the married parties are underage.
Annulment may also be granted in Maryland when the marriage is deemed “voidable” because of such issues as a party not being of sound mind or the marriage occurred when the parties were incapacitated by intoxicated or under duress.
A divorce involves dividing the property of the parties. In most cases in Maryland, each party may keep his or her non-marital property which includes property acquired before the marriage, by inheritance, or so designated by an agreement between the parties.
All other property is divided by the parties, not always equally, depending on the judge’s view of the fairness factors.
According to Maryland alimony law, the court may award alimony if the party seeking alimony cannot reasonably be expected to become self-supporting. This might be the result of age, disability, illness or similar circumstances. The court may also award alimony if a party will have a substantially lower standard of living after making as much progress toward becoming self-supporting as can be expected.
The judge may make a “fair and equitable” award of alimony after considering the following factors:
- The ability of the party seeking alimony to be wholly or partly self-supporting
- The time necessary for the party seeking alimony to obtain adequate education or training to enable that party to find suitable employment
- The standard of living established during the marriage
- The duration of the marriage
Child Custody and Child Support
If minor children are involved, there will be a custody determination. This involves making an assessment of how the children’s time will be divided between the parents and how important decisions will be made. If you cannot reach a custody agreement, the judge will decide the issue.
A decision must also be made about the financial support of the minor children. Child support is determined by taking into account the needs of the child and each parent’s relative ability to meet those needs. Maryland’s Child Support Guidelines assist with child support decisions in the event of a divorce.
Protect Your Interests In Your Divorce with the Help of an Experienced Bethesda Divorce Attorney
It’s possible to handle your own divorce in Maryland. But many steps in the process require you to develop a strategy, file forms, and meet with the judge. Protect your interests with the help of an experienced Bethesda divorce attorney. Please call 240-395-1418 or TELL US HOW WE CAN REACH YOU ONLINE today.