Maine divorce law and procedure is similar to that of most other states. A divorce for any married couple will accomplish two things: (1) severing the marital relationship, and (2) dividing assets and debts. If they have been married for a significant length of time and one of them will be unable to be self-supporting after the divorce, the issue of alimony may also arise. If there are minor children, they will also need to resolve issues of child custody, visitation, and support.
Residency and where to file
To file for divorce in Maine, you must meet one of the following requirements: (1) you (as the plaintiff) have been a resident of Maine for at least six months, (2) you are a resident and were married in Maine, (3) you are a resident and you and your spouse were residents at the time the cause for divorce occurred, or (4) your spouse (the defendant) is a resident. You will file in the District Court in the county where either you or your spouse lives. However, your spouse may have the case transferred to Superior Court.
The most simple procedure is for an uncontested divorce. This is where you and your spouse reach an agreement about the division of property, and what arrangements will be made for any children. You begin the procedure by preparing a Complaint for Divorce, along with various other supporting documents. For an uncontested divorce, one of these documents will be a marital settlement agreement outlining the division of assets (and your agreement regarding any children). These documents are filed with the court, and copies of them are provided to your spouse. You will attend a court hearing, at which time the judge will make sure that all of your paperwork is in order, perhaps ask you a few questions, and enter your Judgment of Divorce.
Grounds for divorce
Grounds for divorce are legally recognized reasons to get a divorce, and sever the marital relationship. Maine, like most states, has what is commonly called a no-fault ground for divorce, and several traditional fault-based grounds.
To get a no-fault divorce in Maine you need to state in the Complaint for Divorce that “the parties have irreconcilable marital differences.”
There are also numerous fault-based grounds for divorce: adultery, impotence, extreme cruelty, desertion for three years, alcoholism or drug addiction, nonsupport by a spouse capable of support, cruel and abusive treatment, and mental incapacity (if determined by a court and a guardian has been appointed). However, in most cases, there is no reason to use any of these, since they add complexity to the case by requiring proof.
Generally, you will be able to keep any nonmarital property, which is property:
- acquired prior to marriage, or by gift or inheritance
- acquired in exchange for nonmarital property
- acquired after a decree of legal separation
- excluded by valid agreement of the parties, and
- representing an increase in value of nonmarital property
All other property is marital property. In the absence of an agreement, the court will divide the marital property “in proportions the court considers just” after considering the following factors:
- each party’s contribution to the acquisition of marital property, including the contribution of a party as homemaker
- the value of the property set apart for each party
- each party’s economic circumstances, including the desirability of awarding the family home, or the right to live in it, to the party having custody of the children, and
- any other relevant factor
Alimony in Maine
Alimony is called spousal support in Maine, which may be general support (to help a spouse with less income potential maintain a reasonable standard of living; it is usually not awarded for marriages of less than 10 years, and not for more than 1/2 the length of the marriage if less than 20 years; transitional support (for a spouse’s needs associated with the divorce, including vocational training and education); reimbursement support (for exceptional circumstances, such as economic misconduct, or contributions to the spouse’s education or occupation); and nominal support (a small amount, preserving the authority to grant future spousal support).
Absent an agreement between the parties, the judge will consider the following factors:
- the length of the marriage
- each party’s ability to pay
- each party’s age
- each party’s employment history and employment potential
- each party’s income history and income potential
- each party’s education and training
- the provisions for retirement and health insurance benefits of each party
- the tax consequences of the marital property division
- each party’s health and disabilities
- the tax consequences of a spousal support award,
- either party’s contribution as homemaker
- either party’s contribution to the education or earning potential of the other party
- either party’s misconduct resulting in the diminution of marital property or income
- the standard of living of the parties during the marriage
- the ability of the party seeking support to become self-supporting
- the effect on a party’s need for, or ability to pay, spousal support of actual or potential income from property awarded to the party, and child support, and
- any other relevant factor
Child custody in Maine
Maine child custody laws provide that the court must approve an agreement of the parties for custody, unless “there is substantial evidence that it should not be ordered.” Absent an agreement, the judge will determine custody after considering the following factors:
- the age of the child
- the relationship of the child with the parents and any other significant person
- the preference of the child, if old enough to express a meaningful preference
- the child’s current living arrangements and the desirability of maintaining continuity
- the stability of any proposed living arrangements for the child
- each party’s motivation and capacity to give the child love, affection, and guidance
- the child’s adjustment to home, school, and community
- each party’s capacity to encourage contact between the child and the other parent
- each party’s capacity to cooperate, or to learn to cooperate, in child care
- each party’s capacity to assist parental cooperation and resolve disputes
- the effect on the child if one parent has sole authority over the child’s upbringing
- any domestic abuse between the parents, and how it affects the child
- any history of child abuse by a party
- any other relevant factor
- a party’s misuse of the protection from abuse process
- if the child is under one year of age, whether the child is being breast-fed
- a party’s conviction for a sex offense or a sexually violent offense, and
- whether a person residing with a party has been convicted of certain crimes
Child support in Maine
Child support is determined by the Maine Child Support Guidelines that may be found on the state government’s website.
If either party denies there are irreconcilable differences, the judge may continue the case and require both parties to receive counseling. As part of the Judgment, either party may have their name changed to any name they wish.
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