Maryland Divorce Laws

Divorce Laws in MD

In Maryland, divorce is a legal process that officially ends a formal contract of marriage between two people. To initiate this process, one party must be a resident of the state. Depending on the grounds indicated, they may need to have been living in the state for at least six months prior to filing. The court grants a divorce based on one of the statutory grounds specified by law. These include 6-month separation, irreconcilable differences, and mutual consent.Maryland divorce

  • For the grounds of 6-month separation, the parties must have lived separately and apart for a period of six months before the divorce application can be filed.
  • Irreconcilable differences are conflicting issues or problems which have caused an irreversible breakdown of the marriage. When filing a petition on this ground, the issues causing the separation will become part of the complaint.
  • Mutual consent requires both spouses to agree to the permanent termination of the marriage.

The court has the final authority to decide whether to grant a divorce based on these grounds. To ensure that the interests of all parties involved are adequately protected and respected, it is important to consult legal counsel when seeking a divorce.

Limited Divorce

Big changes are coming to Maryland regarding divorce laws. On October 1, 2023, Governor Wes Moore signed a bill that not only ended limited divorce but also changed the residency requirements and grounds for filing for divorce. It’s important for couples filing for divorce on or after this date to understand how these changes could affect them.

Under the new law, there will be no more limited divorces in Maryland. This was a popular option for those unsure whether they truly wanted to divorce or whose religious beliefs prohibited an absolute divorce. Their only options now are a six-month separation or a divorce based on irreconcilable differences. Additionally, adultery, desertion, criminal convictions leading to jail/prison time, twelve-month separation, insanity, and cruel treatment/vicious conduct towards a spouse or child are no longer valid grounds for divorce.

There are several benefits to these proposed changes. Reducing the length of separation from twelve months to six months makes it easier and faster for couples to get divorced. The allowance for couples living together but still being considered separated makes it financially accessible for people who cannot afford two separate homes. Eliminating some of the traditional grounds for divorce can make it safer and less conflictual — particularly for victims of domestic abuse and violence.

But there may be drawbacks to this new legislation as well. Without the option of limited divorces, couples who cannot or will not legally end their marriage may struggle to access health care and other benefits; couples who later choose to reconcile may also find themselves without legal protection. Additionally, the courts still retain power over decisions related to alimony, custody, and asset division even if stated grounds do not apply – meaning one person’s moral issues may impact court decisions.

While these changes can be daunting, with an experienced attorney by your side you can navigate them with confidence. We can help ensure that you receive a fair outcome and all the information you need to make an informed decision about your future.

Grounds for Divorce

The Maryland legislature has recently revised its laws surrounding divorce, making it simpler and more streamlined for couples in the state to dissolve an unhappy marriage. The amended law eliminates certain grounds for absolute divorce, including adultery, desertion, conviction of a felony or misdemeanor, 12-month separation, insanity, cruelty of treatment, and excessively vicious conduct. In their place, the new law allows for the following as grounds for an absolute divorce:

  • six-month separation
  • irreconcilable differences
  • mutual consent

Parties seeking to obtain a dissolution on the basis of mutual consent are still expected to submit a detailed written agreement to the court that resolves all issues related to alimony, property, care, custody, and support of any minor children. Notably, a six-month separation period for absolute divorce can be interrupted by the parties continuing to reside under the same roof, or in accordance with knowledge of a court order.

The purpose of these changes is twofold: firstly to reduce court backlogs caused by high levels of domestic disputes, and secondly to give those seeking dissolution greater autonomy when navigating the process. This revised legislation could prove beneficial for those looking to quickly move on from an unhappy marriage.

Six-month Separation

In Maryland, spouses must live separately without any interruption in order to be eligible to file for an absolute divorce. During this time, the couple may still reside under the same roof, but they are expected to lead separate lives. Alternatively, couples can rely on a court order such as a protective order to demonstrate that they have been living apart for at least six months. No matter which route you choose, it is important to ensure that you have been living independently and separately for the required amount of time before filing for divorce.

Irreconcilable Differences

In Maryland, irreconcilable differences in a marriage can be grounds for divorce. This means that one spouse believes there is no hope of resolving their issues and that the marriage should end. It is important to understand all aspects of this particular form of dissolution so that couples can make an informed decision about the future of their relationship. It is also essential to have access to reliable legal guidance in order to ensure that the necessary steps are taken correctly and with due consideration for any potential consequences. By understanding the applicable regulations and consulting with experienced professionals, those dealing with irreconcilable differences can make sure they are using the most appropriate path forward.

Mutual Consent Divorce

Mutual consent divorce is the quickest and most affordable option for divorcing couples in Maryland who have reached an agreement on all issues related to their divorce before filing. This process allows married individuals to dissolve their marriage without having to wait six months after separation. In order to begin the process, couples must first draft a marital settlement agreement that covers how they will divide property and debts, alimony (if applicable), and child custody and support (if applicable). If negotiation proves difficult, mediators are available to help couples come to an agreement. Furthermore, those who cannot afford a consulting lawyer can utilize the free legal advice at their local Family Court Help Center.

Once the necessary forms and documents have been gathered, they must be filed at the Maryland Circuit Court in the county of residence for either spouse. These filings include:

  1. a complaint for absolute divorce
  2. financial statements
  3. Civil Domestic Information Report
  4. a parenting plan
  5. child-support worksheets (if children are involved)
  6. and a request for a filing fee waiver

It is also important to note that one of the spouses must serve the other with copies of all paperwork; this service may be conducted by a private process server or sheriff.

After filing the paperwork, the court clerk will issue a summons, create a case file, assign a number to the case, and collect the filing fee (unless waived). Additionally, a hearing may be held where at least one spouse must appear with a copy of their marriage certificate and proof of residency. Before granting the divorce decree, the judge will review and approve the settlement agreement as well as verify that it is in the best interest of any minor or dependent children. With approval from the court, couples can proceed with a mutual consent divorce and move forward with their lives.

Filing with the Court in Maryland

You must file your Maryland divorce papers in the court located in the County where you presently reside. We will provide the court information in the documents that we send to you, but some of the courts in Maryland are listed below:

  • Frederick County Courthouse:
    100 West Patrick St., Frederick, MD 21701 Phone: 301-600-2005
  • Baltimore County Courts Building:
    401 Bosley Avenue, Mailstop 3102, Towson, Maryland 21204 Phone: 410-887-2687 Fax: 410-887-4806 E-mail: [email protected]
  • City of Baltimore:
    Courthouse East: 111 North Calvert St., Room 462, Baltimore, MD 21202 Phone: 410-333-3722 or Phone: 410-333-3711
  • Howard County Courthouse:
    8360 Court Ave., Ellicott City, MD 21043 Phone: 410-313-2111
  • Montgomery County Judicial Center:
    50 Maryland Ave., Rockville, MD 20850 Phone: 240-777-9402
  • Harford County Courthouse:
    20 West Courtland St., Bel Air, MD 21014 Phone: 410-638-3426
  • Cecil County Courthouse:
    129 East Main St., Elkton, MD 21921 Phone: 410-996-5315
  • Washington County Courthouse:
    95 West Washington St., Hagerstown, MD 21740 – 4831 Phone 301-733-8660
  • Allegany County Courthouse:
    30 Washington St., Cumberland, MD 21502 Phone: 301-777-5929 Fax: 301-777-2100
  • Garrett County Courthouse:
    P.O. Box 447, 203 South 4th St., Oakland, MD 21550 – 0447 Phone: 301-334-1934 Fax: 301-334-5017

If your County court is not listed, the information for your court will be included in the divorce papers we send you.

Divorce Property Distribution in Maryland

As with many states, Maryland has adopted equitable distribution policies when it comes to divorce. This means that if the parties entering into the divorce can’t agree on the terms, the court will decide on the distribution of property and assets.

To make those decisions the court takes into account what each party brought into the marriage, how long the marriage was for, what caused the break-up, the economic status of each spouse, and any alimony that might be granted.

What is Considered Marital Property in Maryland?

Marital property refers to any assets or property that you and your spouse acquired during your marriage. This can include real estate, vehicles, financial accounts, furnishings and personal possessions, and businesses. Anything that is owned jointly by both partners is typically considered marital property.

It’s important to note that gifts and inheritances made only to one spouse, as well as property owned prior to the marriage, are not considered marital property. In some cases, items purchased with money from an inheritance or other non-marital assets could also be non-marital property.

When it comes to dividing marital property in a divorce, couples can reach an agreement between themselves. If they cannot agree, a Joint Statement of the Parties Concerning Marital and Non-marital Property (CC-DR-033) needs to be filled out for the court to decide who gets what.

In situations where there are children involved, the court will often award exclusive use of the family home and “family use personal property” to the spouse with primary physical custody of the child or children for up to three years from the time of divorce. The aim is to ensure that children can maintain their familiar environment and community.

Alimony in Maryland

In Maryland, alimony, or spousal support, is a periodic payment from one former spouse to the other that can only be ordered before a final divorce decree is issued. If an agreement on alimony cannot be reached between spouses, the court will make the determination. The consideration of the court includes the length of the marriage, financial circumstances, marital property division, reasons for the divorce, and age and health of both parties.

There are three forms of alimony available in Maryland:

  • pendente lite alimony, which is temporary support while the divorce action is pending;
  • rehabilitative alimony, providing support for a defined time or purpose with the goal of becoming self-supporting;
  • and indefinite alimony, providing support without endpoint. This type of alimony is used when one spouse cannot make reasonable progress toward self-sufficiency due to age, health, or disability.

Alimony may be modified or extended upon agreement or by court order. It terminates upon death, the recipient’s remarriage, or by court order to avoid a harsh result. Understanding the details of alimony in Maryland is important in order to make an informed decision regarding such matters during a divorce.

Maryland Child Support

As parents, it is your responsibility to financially support your child. If you are living separately from the other parent, then you may be entitled to receive child-support payments from them. This amount is determined by taking into account each parent’s income and expenses, as well as the child’s needs. To ensure that the amount of child support is in the best interests of the child, you will need to provide a Financial Statement with form CC-DR-030 or CC-DR-031, depending on your combined gross monthly income.

If you are considering filing for divorce or custody, or if you need help enforcing an existing child support order, you can get assistance from your local child support enforcement office. Additionally, the Child Support Administration (CSA) has an online calculator that can give you an estimate of how much support the court might approve under current guidelines. Finally, if you have any questions about your legal rights and obligations with regard to child support, it is always a good idea to consult a family law attorney.

Child Custody

When minor children are involved, custody and visitation become integral parts of the divorce process. In Maryland, parents have an opportunity to create their own parenting plan (custody agreement) as part of their divorce decree which will address decision-making authority and time spent with each parent. For couples who are unable to reach an agreement, the Joint Statement of the Parties Concerning Decision-Making Authority and Parent Time (CC-DR-110) form is available to assist the court in determining what is in the best interest of the children.

It is strongly recommended for individuals facing divorce to consider retaining legal representation, especially if there are complicated issues or their spouse has already hired an attorney. If self-representation is being considered, free resources such as the Family Court Help Center and the Maryland Court Help Center are available to provide assistance. The lawyers may not be able to represent you in court, but they can offer guidance in helping you represent yourself.

FAQs About Divorce Laws in MD

What is a spouse entitled to in a divorce in Maryland?

In Maryland, spouses are entitled to an equitable distribution of any marital assets and properties acquired during the marriage. This includes debt, real estate, and other assets like cars or furniture. As a result, each party will receive a portion of their marital asset contributions upon a divorce.

How long do you have to be separated in Maryland before divorce?

A legal separation can be established by filing for divorce in Maryland. After filing, the couple would need to be living separately for at least one year before the court may grant them an absolute divorce.

Who gets the house in a divorce in MD?

The right to use or possess the house belongs to both parties during the divorce process. Unless either party makes a special request to move out of the house or there has been a court order, both parties are expected to remain in the house while they sort out their separation and possible sale of the home. The final disposition of the house, if it is to be sold, comes down to how the marital property was divided during the proceedings.

Does adultery affect divorce in Maryland?

Adultery can be considered by the court when making determinations on alimony and/or division of marital property. However, it likely won’t be a factor when determining child custody and support or when making decisions about visitation rights and privileges.

How many years do you have to be married to get alimony in Maryland?

Generally speaking, couples must have been married for three or more years in order to qualify for alimony payments. However, whether or not alimony payments are awarded depends on individual circumstances and is determined by the court.

Is spousal support mandatory in Maryland?

No, spousal support is not mandated by the state of Maryland. The amount and duration of any alimony payments are decided on a case-by-case basis depending on factors such as income disparity between spouses and length of marriage.

How long does wife get alimony in Maryland?

The duration of alimony payments varies from case to case, but typically last no longer than one-third of the length of the marriage. Any additional factors such as age, income, and employability will also affect the amount and duration of payments.

 Does my husband have to pay the bills until we are divorced?

Yes, both spouses are responsible for covering all necessary expenses during the time leading up to the divorce until it becomes legally finalized. This includes bills like mortgages, rent, medical expenses, utilities, etc.

What is Rule 9 207 in Maryland?

Rule 9 207 outlines procedures regarding interim spousal support orders in Maryland courts and helps determine duration and payment amounts during an active divorce proceeding.

How is alimony calculated in Maryland?

Alimony calculation in Maryland depends largely on several factors such as the length of the marriage, each party’s income level and earning capacity, age, health, employability, marital standard of living, and contribution to marital assets. A family law attorney can help provide guidance on Maryland’s alimony calculation and laws.

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