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Divorce is difficult for most people. From the perspective of emotions, relationships and finances, it can be a turbulent time. Hiring a knowledgeable, skilled and trustworthy Bethesda divorce attorney can help you navigate these difficulties in the most expedient way. Each divorce is different, and a host of skills are needed to resolve conflicts and develop creative solutions. The Law Office of Brandon Bernstein can help you through this process with empathy and experience and help you get to a result that is fair and reasonable. 

Uncontested Divorce

Maryland permits uncontested divorces, in which the spouses come to an agreement, prior to filing, on all important terms and conditions of their divorce. These terms and conditions are known as a marital settlement agreement. This is the simplest form of divorce. The marital agreement will include the parties’ understanding of alimony, child custody, child support, property division and other important items. 

In some cases, the parties will have a prenuptial agreement or a legal separation agreement that will be incorporated into the marital agreement. 

Contested Divorce

If the couple has not agreed to the terms and conditions of their divorce prior to filing with the court, this is known as a contested divorce. If they fail to reach an agreement during the court process, a Maryland judge will make the decision after various trials and hearings on the issues. Divorcing parties should be aware that it may take more than one year to finalize a divorce in Maryland. In some cases, the lawyer may feel it is in the client’s best interest to negotiate and settle the issues rather than proceed with a time-consuming and expensive full-blown trial. 

Maryland No-Fault Divorce

Traditionally, Maryland has required a filing spouse to show grounds for a divorce. The most common grounds for a fault-based divorce have been:

  • Adultery
  • Cruelty 
  • Excessively vicious conduct
  • Desertion
  • Felony conviction
  • Mental insanity

These were considered to be “fault-based grounds.” 

However, as of October 2023, it has become much simpler to obtain a divorce in Maryland, as these emotionally charged grounds are no longer required. Now: 

  • Divorcing parties can obtain an absolute divorce after a six-month separation if they have lived separate and apart for six months without interruption before filing the application for divorce. Please note that the parties can be deemed to live “separate and apart” even if they live under the same roof.
  • The court may decree an absolute divorce based on irreconcilable differences stemming from the reasons stated by the Plaintiff for the permanent termination of the marriage.  

To expand on the above-referenced changes, Maryland couples will be able to divorce without a physical separation. That means they won’t need to reside in different households or meet certain waiting periods. In addition, Maryland has abolished limited divorce and only has absolute divorce as of October 2023.

It is also important to note that Maryland is keeping “mutual consent” as a ground for divorce. Mutual consent requires parties to have a signed a written settlement agreement resolving all issues relating to alimony, distribution of property, custody and child support. 

What Is Maryland’s Divorce Process? 

Since each divorce is unique, the process varies from case to case. However, the following outline should give you a general idea of what to expect as your divorce progresses.

  • Determine Your Eligibility  — To file for divorce in Maryland, at least one of the spouses must have been a resident of the state of Maryland for at least six months.
  • The Person Seeking Divorce (Plaintiff) Files — The Plaintiff – that is, the person seeking a divorce – files a complaint in the Maryland county court asking for an Absolute Divorce and stating how the Plaintiff would like the court to decide matters of property, child custody, child support and alimony.
  • Service of the Complaint — The Plaintiff must arrange for a third party, usually a process server, to deliver the Complaint and Summons to the other spouse.
  • The Defendant’s Answer — The responding spouse, known as the “Defendant,” has 30 days to file an answer with the court.
  • Scheduling Conference — After the Defendant files the Answer, the court clerk will place the case on the court calendar for a scheduling conference. Depending on the facts of the case, the court may order various tests and services, such as alcohol/drug screening, co-parenting classes, custody mediation, custody evaluations or home studies by a court social worker, and/or psychological evaluations.
  • Discovery — During discovery, spouses must disclose all relevant information. Financial statements are especially pertinent in this part of the process. 
  • Pendente Lite — The Pendente Lite hearing (which means “pending litigation”) may be held to determine a temporary custodial schedule as well as a fair amount of temporary alimony and/or child support payable until the divorce is finalized.
  • Child Custody Mediation — A neutral third party will work with the spouses to develop a workable parenting plan. 
  • Custody Hearing — A custody hearing will be scheduled to permanently decide issues related to the children.
  • Settlement Conference — At any time during the divorce process, spouses are free to submit a settlement agreement to the court. The court will order a settlement conference to help facilitate that process.
  • Trial — If the parties are unable to settle their issues, the parties will appear at trial before a Judge.
  • Judgment of Absolute Divorce  — At the conclusion of the trial (or earlier if the parties submit a settlement agreement), the court will issue a Judgment of Absolute Divorce. 

Schedule an Appointment with Bethesda Divorce Attorney Brandon Bernstein Today 

If you would like to understand more about divorce in Maryland, we invite you to schedule an appointment with Bethesda divorce attorney Brandon Bernstein. Please call 240-395-1418 or REQUEST A FREE INITIAL CONSULTATION ONLINE today.