When interviewing top divorce lawyers in Maryland, it’s a good idea for you to understand the process. Your Maryland divorce lawyer should spend time with you explaining the process, and here’s a quick overview of the divorce and family law process in Maryland. Whether you and your spouse lived in Bethesda, Rockville, Chevy Chase, Silver Spring, Olney or Gaithersburg, or anywhere else throughout the state of Maryland the divorce process is similar.
Maryland Divorce Lawyers
Divorces in the State of Maryland are filed and heard in the county circuit courts. There are 24 Circuit Courts in the State of Maryland where you can file your divorce:
Carroll County, Baltimore County, Baltimore City, Harford County, Cecil County, Kent County, Queen Anne’s County, Caroline County, Talbot County, Wicomico County, Worcester County, Somerset County, Dorchester County, St. Mary’s County, Calvert County, Charles County, Prince George’s County, Anne Arundel County, Howard County, Montgomery County, Frederick County, Washington County, Garrett County and Allegany County. In general, the Maryland divorce lawyer will file your divorce case in the county where either you or your spouse resides, or where either of you are regularly employed or own a business. This is a general statement, and of course, you should review the matter with your Maryland divorce lawyer in order to fully understand the law.
If you reside in Rockville, Bethesda, Chevy Chase, Olney, or Gaithersburg, then your divorce lawyer will likely file divorce in Montgomery County, Maryland.
In general, your divorce lawyer in Maryland will file one of two types of divorce cases:
In an uncontested divorce in Montgomery County Maryland, both parties agree that differences have arisen that will prevent you from cohabitating, that there is no hope of reconciliation, and that both parties intend to end the marriage. A written Separation Agreement typically must be provided detailing custody and support for any minor children and the division of property. In an uncontested divorce case, the Plaintiff needs to appear in court with a witness to testify his or her grounds for divorce.
In a contested divorce, the parties do not agree on one or more terms of the divorce. These terms can include property division, alimony, child custody or support, or attorney’s fees. In a contested divorce, the Plaintiff must file a complaint with the circuit court, stating the parties, the grounds, and the relief desired. In order to file for divorce in the State of Maryland, the Plaintiff must be a resident of the state for at least 1 year; the defendant does not need to be a resident of the State. In Maryland, you can file for either absolute divorce or limited divorce. Absolute divorce means the divorce is permanent, permits remarriage, and terminates property claims. Limited divorce serves only to legalize a separation and provide for support. There are several grounds in Maryland under which you can file for divorce and you should review these with your Maryland divorce lawyer.
There is no minimum duration to file for limited divorce under the grounds of voluntary separation or desertion.
Separation, whether voluntary or involuntary, can be defined as “living separate and apart”. In Maryland, you cannot be living separate and apart under the same roof. It is important that the grounds listed for divorce are correctly listed for jurisdiction of the court in which you are filing. If the grounds are not stated correctly your Maryland divorce case could be dismissed. Once divorce is filed for, the Plaintiff can move from the State of Maryland, and either party can apply to restore their name to their former or maiden name. The court clerk’s office will manage the paperwork and keep both parties and lawyers informed throughout the process regarding hearing dates and times, and any additional paperwork needed. Additional paperwork depends on the unique circumstances surrounding each individual divorce. The divorce process can take up to three for uncontested divorces, and up to 18 months for contested divorces. The divorce will be finalized when the judge signs the final decree.
The State of Maryland has set criteria for unique circumstances surrounding individual divorces; including property division, spousal support, and child support.
Property is considered to be any assets, debts, retirement benefits, pensions, stock options, and insurance benefits owned by an individual. If a property settlement cannot be reached, the court will find and value all property, distinguish between separate and marital property and declare a property award. Marital property, including the marital home and any pension or retirement accounts, is divided based on the following factors:
• Contribution to the value of any marital or separate property
• Contribution to the earning power and education of the other
• Duration of the marriage
• Occupation, vocational skills, and employability of the spouses
• Opportunity of each for further acquisition of property
• Separate property and debt owned by each spouse
• Age and health
• Income and other financial conditions
• Tax consequences
The court will grant either temporary or indefinite alimony on a case-by-case basis. Indefinite alimony is far less common than temporary alimony, but both are granted based on the needs and resources of each party. The court will consider the following when considering alimony:
Income, pension and retirement plans, education and the opportunity for additional education, length of the marriage, age and health of each spouse, children, separate and marital property, standard of living, all contributions made by one party to the other, fault, and tax consequences. Alimony can only be granted by the court at the time of divorce.
Child support is decided on a case-by-case basis and is calculated as a percent of the income of the parent obligated to pay the support. Adjustments can then be made based on the needs of the children, as well as all financial earnings and needs of each parent, the number of children, and the amount of time each parent spends with the children.
Child custody in Maryland is determined based on the best interests of the child or children. Parental rights doctrines state that in order for custody to be awarded to someone other than a parent, it must be proved that the parent is unfit. Otherwise, courts prefer not to move children if they are doing well in their current environment. Judge’s will often take into consideration who the child wants to live with before making a decision on which parent gets custody of the child, although custody is not always granted based on who the child prefers to live with. Once custody is granted, visitation rights can be determined by the parents and approved by the court.