Filing for Divorce in Maryland
People going through divorce can feel overwhelmed by the process and not know where to begin. For Maryland residents considering divorce, it may be helpful to learn about the different options that are available and what steps they can take to begin the divorce process.
Limited vs. Absolute Divorce in Maryland
There are two types of divorce in Maryland: limited and absolute. An absolute divorce dissolves the marriage permanently. Once an absolute divorce is finalized, the ex-spouses are free to remarry and will no longer inherit from one another. Jointly owned property will be split between the two spouses during absolute divorce, and the divorce decree may provide permanent provisions for alimony as well as child custody and child support.
Limited divorce, sometimes referred to as legal separation, is a court-supervised separation that is less permanent than absolute divorce. Spouses are not able to remarry after a limited divorce, and their property rights with regard to one another do not necessarily change. Limited divorce can involve temporary decisions about the use and possession of shared property, as well as other issues like child support, child custody and alimony.
Limited divorce is not required as a prerequisite to absolute divorce in Maryland, but it is one way of satisfying the separation requirement that applies to most divorces under Maryland law.
Maryland Divorce Requirements
Maryland laws allow people to file for divorce in the state if either of the spouses has lived in Maryland for at least one year or if the grounds for the divorce occurred in Maryland. People seeking a divorce in Maryland must file the divorce petition in a county in which they live or where their spouses live, work or own a business.
Generally speaking, spouses in Maryland must be separated for a period of at least 12 months before their divorce will be finalized. Under Maryland law, the separation process is relatively informal and does not require spouses to file papers to be considered separated. Instead, they need only demonstrate that, from the date of separation until the divorce is final, they:
- Have not lived at the same residence together, and
- Have not engaged in sexual intercourse with one another
There is no separation requirement for divorce cases involving adultery or cruel treatment.
Finding an Attorney
Once a person decides to divorce and verifies that he or she meets Maryland’s divorce requirements, the first step is to find an attorney. Friends and relatives are often a good source of referrals for qualified attorneys, and state bar associations can also provide lists of attorneys who handle divorce cases.
When searching for a divorce attorney, it can be helpful to schedule in-person consultations with several attorneys in order to find the best fit. By meeting with a number of lawyers face-to-face, a person can get an idea of each attorney’s personality and style and see if it matches with the person’s goals and approach.
Information for the Consultation
People can prepare for the consultation by gathering as much information as possible so the attorney can get a clear picture of the situation. People should bring financial information regarding proof of assets, debts, income and expenses, such as tax returns, pay stubs, deeds, titles, bank account statements, credit card statements and other investment account statements.
During a consultation with a divorce lawyer, people should ask a number of questions, such as:
- What are the attorney’s rates?
- How does the attorney bill customers?
- How frequently does the attorney communicate with clients?
- How many divorce cases has the attorney handled?
- What does the attorney think the outcome to the case will be?
- What is the attorney’s philosophy regarding litigation versus alternative dispute resolution?
The more information that a person can provide for an attorney during the initial consultation, the more accurate the attorney’s assessment of the case will be. Likewise, the more information a person can gather from the lawyer during the consultation, the better idea a person has about whether that lawyer will be a good advocate for him or her during the divorce process.