Going through a divorce, for most people, can be a difficult time. It is emotionally draining and can also be a financial burden. The length of the marriage, the amount of shared property and assets, the reasons for the divorce, and whether there are children adds to the complexity of the matter. Every divorce is unique. While it is possible to file for divorce without an attorney, depending on the circumstances of the divorce, hiring an experienced family law attorney can have benefits. An experienced family law attorney in Maryland can help ease much of the strain of a divorce, by ensuring that you receive fair treatment, avoid future conflicts, and that the divorce is granted in the mostly timely manner possible. Below is an introduction to some of the laws in Maryland related to divorce. You can also read about Child Custody in the State of Maryland to learn about some of the basic issues surrounding custody or watch our Child Support Basics video.
Maryland, like most states, including Virginia, follows equitable distribution laws that hold property and assets acquired during the marriage belong to the spouse who earned it. In a divorce the property will usually be divided between the spouses in a fair and equitable manner depending on various factors like: marriage length, fault, contributions toward the marriage, and the parties’ respective economic circumstances, to name a few. While most states follow equitable distribution, ten states follow “community property” distribution which hold that spouses equally own all income and assets earned or acquired during the marriage, regardless of who hold title. Alaska, Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin are community property states.
In order to get divorced in Maryland, one of the parties must have resided in Maryland for at least six months before the complaint is filed. Grounds for absolute divorce in Maryland include adultery, desertion, imprisonment, insanity, cruelty, and excessively vicious conduct. These are known as “fault” grounds. A fault ground can be one of many factors the court will use in determining whether and how much alimony should be awarded, or how to divide marital property. To get a fault-based divorce you will need to prove the fault, through evidence, testimony, affidavits, and other ways. However, if you do not have fault-based grounds for a divorce, you can still get divorced in Maryland based on “no fault” grounds if there has been a 12-month separation or there is mutual consent.
Mutual consent is probably the easiest and most amicable way to get divorced. Maryland law requires that the parties execute and submit to the court a written settlement agreement, signed by both parties that resolves all issues relating to: alimony, distribution of property, and support/custody of any minor or dependent children. An attorney can assist in drafting this settlement agreement that meets the Maryland family law requirements.
How long will it take to get divorced? This is one of the most frequently asked questions people have when they decide to get divorced. Because every divorce is unique, it is impossible to give an answer. An uncontested divorce where the parties have agreed on everything, and they have each timely file their complaint and answer can happen in a matter of months. If the divorce is contested, or the parties have a lot of martial property, or shared assets, all these factors can complicate and prolong the divorce process.
Getting divorced in Maryland requires an understanding of the law, filing the correct paperwork (like a financial statement) in the correct court, filing a complaint or an answer to a complaint, properly serving the other party, appearing in court, and more. It can be an overwhelming process. When you decide that a divorce is the next step in your life, seeking an initial consultation with a divorce attorney can be a good first step in deciding how you want to proceed.
If you or your spouse is in the military, there are additional complexities when it comes to Military Divorces. Patriots Law Group regularly assists civilians and members of the military seeking divorce in Maryland. Call today to schedule a consultation to see how we can help.