Procedures for an Amicable Divorce in Maryland
By Wayne Thomas
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Maryland offers an amicable divorce process for couples who can agree on all the terms of their divorce. This is known as an uncontested divorce and eliminates the need to prove that one spouse was the cause of the marriage's collapse. Further, by drafting separation or divorce agreements, parties to an uncontested divorce have more control over the terms of their divorce, avoiding the uncertainty in having these matters decided by a judge.
To pursue an uncontested divorce in Maryland, you and your spouse must have lived separate and apart for one year if you separated with the intention of obtaining a divorce, and two years if you were motivated by any other reason. To qualify, you and your spouse must maintain different residences and the separation period must be uninterrupted. If you resume living together, even for a day, the period starts over. Unlike some states, even isolated incidents of sexual intercourse interrupt the separation period in Maryland.
In Maryland, uncontested divorces begin with the filing of a complaint for absolute divorce in the circuit court of the county where you or your spouse lives. The complaint needs to include certain basic information, such as how long you have lived in the state and when you were married, as well as the age and names of any minor children. A financial statement listing marital income and expenses and a joint statement regarding marital and non-marital property need to accompany the complaint. After you file, you must provide notice to your spouse, which may be accomplished by having someone over 18, with no interest in the case, deliver the documents or hiring a process server to do so. Your spouse then has 30 days to file a written response.
Maryland allows spouses to enter into voluntary agreements setting the terms of the divorce. These are known as separation agreements if the spouses are waiting out the separation period, or divorce agreements if the couple completed this step and have filed for divorce. Both may cover issues related to property division, child custody and support, and spousal support. The agreement will form the basis of the divorce decree, and becomes a binding and enforceable contract following approval by the presiding judge. If there are still outstanding issues not covered by the agreement and the parties cannot agree, the case is considered contested and will proceed to trial.
Although a lengthy trial can be avoided by reaching a voluntary agreement, the court will still hold a hearing in an uncontested divorce. At the hearing, you are required to present corroborating witness testimony by someone other than your spouse who has knowledge of the marriage and circumstances of your separation. The judge will question this witness to ensure that all of the requirements have been met, after which a final divorce may be granted.
- Maryland Judiciary: Complaint for Absolute Divorce: Instructions for Completing DOM REL 20
- HG.org: Maryland Divorce Basics
- LexisNexis: Maryland Rules of Civil Procedure: Rule 2-123
- Jimeno Gray: Basics of the Maryland Divorce Process: Uncontested v. Contested Divorce
- Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County: Uncontested Divorce Hearings
- Justia.com: 2010 Maryland Code, Section 8-101
Wayne Thomas earned his J.D. from Penn State University and has been practicing law since 2008. He has experience writing about environmental topics, music and health, as well as legal issues. Since 2011, Thomas has also served as a contributing editor for the "Vermont Environmental Monitor."