How to File a Divorce in Maryland

How to File a Divorce in Maryland

by Edward A. Haman, Esq., July 2015

Getting divorced in Maryland is similar to getting divorced in 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 and support.

Residency and Where to File

In order to file for divorce in Maryland, one party must be a resident of the state for any period of time, if the grounds for divorce arose in Maryland. Otherwise, one party must be a resident for one year. If the ground for divorce is insanity, the residency period is two years. A witness is required to verify residency. You may file in the Circuit Court in the county where either you or your spouse resides.

Procedures

The most simple procedure is an uncontested divorce. This is where you and your spouse can reach an agreement about the division of your property, and, if you have any children, what arrangements will be made for them. You begin the divorce procedure by preparing a document called a Bill 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 Decree of Absolute Divorce.   

Grounds for Divorce

Grounds for divorce are legally recognized reasons to get a divorce. This is the justification for severing the marital relationship. Maryland, like most states, has what are commonly called no-fault grounds for divorce, and several traditional fault-based grounds.

To get a no-fault divorce in Maryland you need to state in the Bill for Divorce either that “the parties have voluntarily lived separate and apart for 12 months without interruption or cohabitation and there is no reasonable expectation of reconciliation,” or that “the parties have lived separate and apart without cohabitation or interruption for 2 years.” The difference is whether the separation is voluntary (that is, by mutual agreement).

There are also several fault-based grounds for divorce in Maryland: adultery, desertion for 12 months, incurable insanity for at least 3 years, conviction of a crime with at least a 3 year sentence, or an indeterminate sentence, but only after 1 year has been served, and insanity. However, in most cases, there is no reason to use either of these, since they add complexity to the process by requiring proof.

Property Division

A divorce involves dividing property and debts between you and your spouse. Generally, each party may keep his or her nonmarital property, which is property:

  • acquired before the marriage,
  • acquired by gift or inheritance (but not from your spouse),
  • excluded by a valid agreement, and
  • directly traceable to any of these sources.

According to New Hampshire divorce law, all other property is marital property. In dividing marital property the judge must consider the following factors:

  • each party’s contributions, monetary and nonmonetary, to the family,
  • the value of all property interests of each party,
  • each party’s economic circumstances at the time the award is to be made,
  • the circumstances that contributed to the estrangement of the parties,
  • the duration of the marriage,
  • the age of each party,
  • each party’s physical and mental condition,
  • how and when specific marital property was acquired, including the effort expended by each party in accumulating the marital property,
  • the contribution by either party to the acquisition of real property held by the parties as tenants by the entirety,
  • any award of alimony or other provision the court made with respect to family use of personal property or the family home, and
  • any other factor that the court considers necessary or appropriate.

Alimony in Maryland

According to Maryland alimony law, the court may award alimony if the party seeking alimony (1) cannot reasonably be expected to become self-supporting due to age, illness, or disability, or (2) will have an unconscionably lower standard of living after making as much progress toward becoming self-supporting as can reasonably be expected.

The judge may make a “fair and equitable” award of alimony, after considering the following factors:

  • the ability of the party seeking alimony to be wholly or partly self-supporting,
  • the time necessary for the party seeking alimony to gain sufficient education or training to enable that party to find suitable employment,
  • the standard of living established during their marriage,
  • the duration of the marriage,
  • each party’s contributions, monetary and nonmonetary, to the family,
  • the circumstances that contributed to the estrangement of the parties,
  • each party’s age,
  • each party’s physical and mental condition,
  • the ability of the party paying alimony to meet his or her needs while paying alimony,
  • any agreement between the parties,
  • each party’s financial needs and resources, and
  • if the party from whom alimony is sought is a resident of a certain type of residential health care facility, whether that party would become eligible for medical assistance earlier than would otherwise occur.

Child Custody in Maryland

If you and your spouse have any minor children, there will have to be a custody determination. This basically comes down to figuring out how the children’s time will be divided between the parents, and how decisions will be made. If you and your spouse can reach an agreement on custody, it will probably be accepted by the judge, unless it is determined not to be in the child’s best interest. If you cannot reach a custody agreement, the judge will decide the issue. Maryland child custody law provides no guidelines for determining custody, which leaves the matter to the discretion of the judge.

Child Support in Maryland

A decision must also be made about how the children will be financially supported. This almost always comes down to one parent paying money to the other. Child support is determined by taking into account the needs of the child, and each parent’s relative ability to meet those needs. This is determined by reference to the Maryland Child Support Guidelines.

Name Change

Either party may have a former name restored.

LegalZoom’s Uncontested Divorce service is an inexpensive way to file for divorce if you and your spouse agree on most major issues. Otherwise, you can talk to an attorney for advice or help filing for divorce through the LegalZoom personal legal plan.