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Maine Divorce Laws
Residency and Filing Requirements:In order to file for a divorce in Maine, residency requirements must be met for the court to accept the case. If the court discovers it does not have jurisdictional rights to hear the case it will not be accepted or it will eventually be dismissed. The requirements are as follows:
A person seeking a divorce may file a complaint for divorce in the district ourt if: A. The plaintiff has resided in good faith in this State for 6 months prior to the commencement of the action; B. The plaintiff is a resident of this State and the parties were married in this State; C. The plaintiff is a resident of this State and the parties resided in this state when the cause of divorce accrued; or D. The defendant is a resident of this State. The divorce may be filed in either county in which the parties reside.
The right to file a complaint or bring a petition may not be denied a person for failure to meet a residency requirement if the person is a member of the Armed Forces of the United States on active duty stationed in this State or the spouse of that member or a parent of a child of that member. The member is deemed to be a resident either of the county in which the military installation, or other place at which the member has been stationed, is located or of the county in which the member has sojourned. (Maine Revised Statutes - Title 4 - Sections: 155 and Title 19-A - Section 902)
Grounds for Filing:The Complaint for Divorce must declare the appropriate Maine grounds upon which the divorce is being sought. The appropriate lawful ground will be that which the parties agree upon and can substantiate, or that which the filing spouse desires to prove to the court. The divorce grounds are as follows:
A divorce may be granted for one of the following causes:
A. Irreconcilable marital differences;
A. Adultery; B. Impotence; C. Extreme cruelty; D. Utter desertion continued for 3 consecutive years prior to the commencement of the action; E. Gross and confirmed habits of intoxication from the use of liquor or drugs; F. Nonsupport, when one spouse has sufficient ability to provide for the other spouse and grossly, wantonly or cruelly refuses or neglects to provide suitable maintenance for the complaining spouse; G. Cruel and abusive treatment; H. Mental illness requiring confinement in a mental institution for at least 7 consecutive years prior to the commencement of the action. (Maine Revised Statutes - Title 19A - Sections: 902)
Filing Spouse Title:Plaintiff. The Plaintiff is the spouse who initiates the filing procedure with the family law or domestic relations court.
Non-Filing Spouse Title:Defendant. The Defendant is the spouse who does not file the initial divorce papers, but rather receives them by service.
Court Name:State of Maine, _____________ Court, ___________ County. This is the Maine court where the divorce will be filed. The court will assign a case number and have jurisdictional rights to facilitate and grant the orders concerning, but not limited to: property and debt division, support, custody, and visitation. The name of the court is clearly represented at the top of all documents that are filed.
Primary Documents:Complaint for Divorce and Judgment of Divorce. These are the essential documents needed to start and finalize a divorce according to Maine law. There are anywhere from ten to twenty other documents that may be required throughout the filing process. A few other documents that are typically filed during the process are: Confidential Family Matter Summary Sheet, Affidavit Concerning Child Custody, Financial Statement, Entry of Appearance, and Marital Settlement Agreement.
Court Clerk's Title:District Clerk's Office. The clerk or the clerk's assistants will be the people managing your paperwork with the court. The clerk's office will keep the parties and the lawyers informed throughout the process in regards to additional paperwork that is needed, further requirements, and hearing dates and times.
Property Distribution:Since Maine is an "equitable distribution" state, the marital property shall be divided in an equitable fashion. Equitable does not mean equal, but rather what is fair. The court will encourage the parties to reach a settlement on property and debt issues otherwise the court will declare the property award.
In a proceeding for a divorce, the court shall set apart to each spouse the spouse's property and shall divide the marital property in proportions the court considers just after considering all relevant factors, including: A. The contribution of each spouse to the acquisition of the marital property, including the contribution of a spouse as homemaker; B. The value of the property set apart to each spouse; and C. The economic circumstances of each spouse at the time the division of property is to become effective, including the desirability of awarding the family home or the right to live in the home for reasonable periods to the spouse having custody of the children.
"Marital property" means all property acquired by either spouse subsequent to the marriage, except: A. Property acquired by gift, bequest, devise or descent; B. Property acquired in exchange for property acquired prior to the marriage or in exchange for property acquired by gift, bequest, devise or descent; C. Property acquired by a spouse after a decree of legal separation; D. Property excluded by valid agreement of the parties; and E. The increase in value of property acquired prior to the marriage and the increase in value of a spouse's nonmarital property. (Maine Revised Statutes - Title 19A - Sections: 953)
Restoration or Name Change:Upon the request of either spouse to change that person's own name, the court, when entering judgment for divorce: 1. Former name. Shall change the name of that spouse to a former name requested; or 2. Any other name requested. (Maine Revised Statutes - Title 19A - Sections: 1051)
Spousal Support:Not all cases involve support from one spouse to the other. The obligation of one spouse to support the other financially for a temporary or permanent basis is decided on a case-by-case basis as agreed to by the parties or at the court's discretion.
If the parties can not agree, the court shall consider the following factors when determining an award of spousal support: A. The length of the marriage; B. The ability of each party to pay; C. The age of each party; D. The employment history and employment potential of each party; E. The income history and income potential of each party; F. The education and training of each party; G. The provisions for retirement and health insurance benefits of each party; H. The tax consequences of the division of marital property, including the tax consequences of the sale of the marital home, if applicable; I. The health and disabilities of each party; J. The tax consequences of a spousal support award; K. The contributions of either party as homemaker; L. The contributions of either party to the education or earning potential of the other party; M. Economic misconduct by either party resulting in the diminution of marital property or income; N. The standard of living of the parties during the marriage; O. The ability of the party seeking support to become self-supporting within a reasonable period of time; P. The effect of the following on a party's need for spousal support or a party's ability to pay spousal support; Q. Any other factors the court considers appropriate. (Maine Revised Statutes - Title 19A - Sections: 851, 951)
Counseling or Mediation Requirements:If one party alleges that there are irreconcilable marital differences and the opposing party denies that allegation, the court upon its own motion or upon motion of either party may continue the case and require both parties to receive counseling by a qualified professional counselor to be selected either by agreement of the parties or by the court. The counselor shall give a written report of the counseling to the court and to both parties. The failure or refusal of the party who denies irreconcilable marital differences to submit to counseling without good reason is prima facie evidence that the marital differences are irreconcilable. (Maine Revised Statutes - Title 19A - Sections: 251, 902)
Child Custody:When minor children are involved in a divorce, the Maine courts will do everything possible to help lessen the emotional trauma the children may be experiencing. If the parents cannot come to an agreement regarding the issues involving the children, the court will establish the custody order at its discretion.
If the parents are unable to agree on a custody arrangement, the court, in making an award of parental rights and responsibilities with respect to a child, shall apply the standard of the best interest of the child. In making decisions regarding the child's residence and parent-child contact, the court shall consider as primary the safety and well-being of the child. In applying this standard, the court shall consider the following factors: A. The age of the child; B. The relationship of the child with the child's parents and any other persons who may significantly affect the child's welfare; C. The preference of the child, if old enough to express a meaningful preference; D. The duration and adequacy of the child's current living arrangements and the desirability of maintaining continuity; E. The stability of any proposed living arrangements for the child; F. The motivation of the parties involved and their capacities to give the child love, affection and guidance; G. The child's adjustment to the child's present home, school and community; H. The capacity of each parent to allow and encourage frequent and continuing contact between the child and the other parent, including physical access; I. The capacity of each parent to cooperate or to learn to cooperate in child care; J. Methods for assisting parental cooperation and resolving disputes and each parent's willingness to use those methods; K. The effect on the child if one parent has sole authority over the child's upbringing; L. The existence of domestic abuse between the parents, in the past or currently, and how that abuse affects: M. The existence of any history of child abuse by a parent; N. All other factors having a reasonable bearing on the physical and psychological well-being of the child; O. A parent's prior willful misuse of the protection from abuse process P. If the child is under one year of age, whether the child is being breast-fed; and Q. The existence of a parent's conviction for a sex offense or a sexually violent offense. (Maine Revised Statutes - Title 19A - Sections: 1501, 1653)
Child Support:Maine child support guidelines are based on the Income Shares Model for calculating child support. The monthly support amount determined by applying the guidelines is divided proportionally according to each parent’s income. These two support amounts are then offset to establish which parent will pay the other parent for support of the child. All income is typically verified by examining past W-2's and child support worksheets are available at the courthouse.
After the court or hearing officer determines the annual gross income of both parties, the 2 incomes must be added together to provide a combined annual gross income and applied to the child support table to determine the basic support entitlement for each child. Criteria that may justify deviation from the support guidelines are as follows: A. The application of section 2006, subsection 5, paragraph D or D-1 would be unjust, inequitable or not in the child's best interest; B. The number of children for whom support is being determined is greater than 6; C. The interrelation of the total support obligation established under the support guidelines for child support, the division of property and an award of spousal support made in the same proceeding for which a parental support obligation is being determined; D. The financial resources of each child; E. The financial resources and needs of a party, including nonrecurring income not included in the definition of gross income; F. The standard of living each child would have enjoyed had the marital relationship continued; G. The physical and emotional conditions of each child; H. The educational needs of each child; I. Inflation with relation to the cost of living; J. Available income and financial contributions of the domestic associate or current spouse of each party; K. The existence of other persons who are actually financially dependent on either party, including, but not limited to, elderly, disabled or infirm relatives, or adult children pursuing post-secondary education. If the primary care provider is legally responsible for another minor child who resides in the household and if the computation of a theoretical support obligation on behalf of the primary care provider would result in a significantly greater parental support obligation on the part of the non-primary care provider, that factor may be considered; L. The tax consequences if the obligor is awarded any tax benefits. In determining the allocation of tax exemptions for children, the court may consider which party will have the greatest benefit from receiving the allocation; N. The fact that income at a reasonable rate of return may be imputed to non-income-producing assets with an aggregate fair market value of $10,000 or more, other than an ordinary residence or other asset from which each child derives a substantial benefit; O. The existence of special circumstances regarding a child 12 years of age or older, for the child's best interest, requires that the primary residential care provider continue to provide for employment-related day care; P. An obligor party's substantial financial obligation regarding the costs of transportation of each child for purposes of parent and child contact. To be considered substantial, the transportation costs must exceed 15% of the yearly support obligation; and Q. A finding by the court or hearing officer that the application of the support guidelines would be unjust, inappropriate or not in the child's best interest. (Maine Revised Statutes - Title 19A - Sections: 2001, 2009)
Copyright Notice: The above synopsis of Maine divorce laws is original material which is owned and copyrighted by Divorce Source, Inc. This material has been adapted from applicable state laws and unauthorized reproduction is prohibited. Violation of this notice will result in immediate legal action.
Maine requires the petitioner to list the grounds for divorce in the divorce petition. Fault grounds include adultery, impotence, extreme cruelty, desertion, drug and alcohol abuse, failure of one spouse to support the other adequately, confinement in a mental institution for at least seven years prior to action, and abuse. Spouses can also file on no-fault grounds based on irreconcilable differences but the court can order counseling if the non-filing spouse argues against this claim.
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"A Plain English Guide to Protecting Your Children"
Author: Mary L. Boland, Attorney at Law
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