Divorce in Maryland is a lengthy and intrusive process, involving petitions, discovery, court-ordered co-parenting classes, multiple court conferences, mediations, negotiations of pendente lite and/or permanent child custody and marital separation agreements, and, ultimately, a trial.
The process of getting divorced in Maryland is particularly designed to get the parties together on numerous occasions in hopes of the parties working together towards an amicable and reasonable resolution.
Once divorce proceedings have begun, most Maryland divorces can generally take anywhere from two weeks to more than a year, depending on the contestability of the pending issues at stake.
The complexities of a divorce in Maryland can feel confusing and overwhelming. In the midst of a deeply personal experience, you shouldn’t have to navigate the legal process alone. If you are in need of a Baltimore family law attorney you can trust, The Bishop Law Group can help.
In Maryland, divorce timelines may include the following:
1. Decide to Divorce
Whether it is one-sided or mutual, every divorce begins with the choice to end the relationship. When choosing to divorce, the first thing one must do is confirm their eligibility for obtaining a Maryland divorce through the Residency Requirement. One party must live in Maryland for a certain period of time prior to filing. Next, it is important to understand how the decision to divorce fits within the grounds for divorce recognized in Maryland. Grounds for divorce in Maryland are categorized into two types: “Fault” and “No Fault” grounds.
No Fault Grounds, include:
- 12 Month Separation: The parties are living separate and apart without reconciliation and cohabitation, and without having sexual relations for a period of 12 consecutive months.
- Mutual Consent: A court may grant absolute divorce on grounds of mutual consent so long as parties have entered into an agreement resolving all issues prior to entry of divorce.
Fault Grounds, include:
- Adultery: If a party can prove that his or her spouse committed adultery, the court can grant the absolute divorce. In Maryland, proving actual intercourse is not required. The party proving adultery must prove that the offending partner had bother the disposition and the opportunity for intercourse outside the marriage.
- Desertion (Actual and Constructive): One party abandons the marital home and relationship uninterrupted for a period of 12 months.
- Violence, cruel treatment, or adultery: In cases of violence or cruel treatment, spouses may file for divorce citing specific grounds for divorce as soon as they are separated. In cases of adultery, spouses may file for divorce while they still live together.
- Involuntary separation: If one person in the marriage doesn’t want a divorce, the spouses must live separately from one another for two years. During this time, they may not have sex with each other up to the date the divorce is granted.
- Felony conviction: Where one party was convicted of a crime resulting in incarceration for an extended period of time. A one-year separation is required in these cases.
- Insanity: Where one party suffers permanent and incurable insanity. The insane must be diagnosed by at least two physicians and remain in a mental institution for at least three years, and one spouse must have been a resident in Maryland for at least two years.
2. Hire a Baltimore Divorce Lawyer
Once you have made the decision to divorce, it is in your best interest to contact an experienced Baltimore divorce lawyer right away. Your choice of divorce attorney in Maryland may be one of the most important decisions you make. An experienced attorney will address your concerns and guide you through the complex process. In a divorce, spouses should have their own lawyers, even when both sides agree to end the marriage.
3. Determine if the Divorce is Absolute or Limited
In Maryland, divorces are recognized as either limited or absolute. Although spouses are not allowed to remarry in a limited divorce, this arrangement can help to temporarily address some child custody and financial issues during a separation. In a limited divorce, it may be beneficial to consider a separation agreement – although this is not required. Separation agreements are an effective way to formalize separations and divide responsibilities.
4. Determine if the Divorce is Contested or Uncontested
Before filing for divorce, couples should already have decided whether issues such as child custody, property division, and other concerns will be handled in or out of court. When divorce is filed, spouses are asked whether they have an agreement in place or if they would prefer for the court to help them settle these issues.
In cases of uncontested divorce, a negotiation method should be identified and employed, such as mediation, 4-way meetings, or collaborative law. These methods help determine child custody issues, financial settlements, and property settlements.
5. File for Divorce
After the required separation period has elapsed, couples may proceed with filing for divorce. In divorce proceedings, the official form used is called a Complaint for Absolute Divorce. At this point, steps in the process generally include:
- A spouse is served with the complaint along with a hearing request.
- The spouse served must confirm receipt of the complaint by responding to it. If a spouse
- does not respond, it will not prevent the divorce from proceeding.
- A hearing is typically scheduled several months after the date of the divorce’s filing to
- provide each spouse with adequate preparation time.
6. Final Trial or Hearing
In a contested divorce, couples may attend one or more pretrial conferences and trials. Divorce lawyers on each side conduct a discovery process and gather witness testimonials helping to determine how best to settle the existing issues. The trial may be scheduled in a few weeks or even years from this point, depending on each spouse’s willingness to cooperate and how busy the courts are at the time.
If an uncontested divorce, spouses come in for a final hearing, during which the grounds for divorce are confirmed and any agreements are assessed to ensure they are fair and lawful.
In some cases, the court orders spouses to engage in specific activities, such as mental health evaluations, custody evaluations, or co-parenting classes. These orders typically relate to matters of child custody and are intended to help reduce stress on children.
Once a judgment has been given by the court granting an absolute divorce, spouses are free to remarry.
7. Appeal, if Necessary
Both parties have a right to appeal once a decision has been issued relating to alimony, child support, custody, property, assets, etc.
A divorce can be one of the most difficult times in a person’s life. At The Bishop Law Group, we understand the hardships a divorce can cause, and we are committed to helping you and your family resolve your legal issues fairly and confidently.
If you are facing a divorce, please contact the divorce attorneys at The Bishop Law Group today online or at (410) 390-3101 to discuss your case. We serve families in Baltimore, Ocean City, and other areas in Maryland.