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Maryland Divorce Laws
Residency and Filing Requirements:In order to file for a divorce in Maryland, 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:
There is a 1 year requirement if the grounds for the divorce occurred outside the state of Maryland, otherwise if either spouse is a resident of the state of Maryland, he or she may file in the county in which either spouse resides. If you are filing for divorce under the grounds of insanity, the residency requirement is increased to 2 years. (Maryland Code - Family Law Chapter - Section: 7-103)
Grounds for Filing:The Bill for Divorce must declare the appropriate Maryland 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:
The court may decree an absolute divorce on the following grounds:
(1) adultery; (2) desertion, if: (i) the desertion has continued for 12 months without interruption before the filing of the application for divorce; (ii) the desertion is deliberate and final; and (iii) there is no reasonable expectation of reconciliation; (3) voluntary separation, if: (i) the parties voluntarily have lived separate and apart without cohabitation for 12 months without interruption before the filing of the application for divorce; and (ii) there is no reasonable expectation of reconciliation; (4) conviction of a felony or misdemeanor in any state or in any court of the United States if before the filing of the application for divorce the defendant has: (i) been sentenced to serve at least 3 years or an indeterminate sentence in a penal institution; and (ii) served 12 months of the sentence; (5) 2-year separation, when the parties have lived separate and apart without cohabitation for 2 years without interruption before the filing of the application for divorce; (6) insanity if: (i) the insane spouse has been confined in a mental institution, hospital, or other similar institution for at least 3 years before the filing of the application for divorce; (7) cruelty of treatment toward the complaining party or a minor child of the complaining party, if there is no reasonable expectation of reconciliation; or (8) excessively vicious conduct toward the complaining party or a minor child of the complaining party, if there is no reasonable expectation of reconciliation. (Maryland Code - Family Law Chapter - Section: 7-103)
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:In the Circuit Court for __________, Maryland. This is the Maryland 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:Bill for Divorce and Decree of Divorce. These are the essential documents needed to start and finalize a divorce according to Maryland 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: Civil - Domestic Case Information Report, Certificate of Service (for Complaint) (dom rel 58), Marital Settlement Agreement, Financial Statement (Plaintiff) (dom rel 31), Answer to Complaint (dom rel 50), and Request for Hearing (dom rel 59).
Court Clerk's Title:Office of the Clerk of the County Circuit Court. 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 Maryland 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.
Subject to the provisions of subsection (b) of this section, after the court determines which property is marital property, and the value of the marital property, the court may transfer ownership of an interest in property described in Paragraph (2) of this Subsection, grant a monetary award, or both, as an adjustment of the equities and rights of the parties concerning marital property, whether or not alimony is awarded.
The court may transfer ownership of an interest in: (i) a pension, retirement, profit sharing, or deferred compensation plan, from one party to either or both parties; and (ii) subject to the consent of any lienholders, family use personal property, from one or both parties to either or both parties.
The court shall determine the amount and the method of payment of a monetary award, or the terms of the transfer of the interest in property after considering each of the following factors: (1) the contributions, monetary and nonmonetary, of each party to the well-being of the family; (2) the value of all property interests of each party; (3) the economic circumstances of each party at the time the award is to be made; (4) the circumstances that contributed to the estrangement of the parties; (5) the duration of the marriage; (6) the age of each party; (7) the physical and mental condition of each party; (8) how and when specific marital property or interest in property described was acquired, including the effort expended by each party in accumulating the marital property or the interest in property described in subsection (a)(2) of this section, or both; (9) the contribution by either party of property to the acquisition of real property held by the parties as tenants by the entirety; (10) any award of alimony and any award or other provision that the court has made with respect to family use personal property or the family home; and (11) any other factor that the court considers necessary or appropriate to consider in order to arrive at a fair and equitable monetary award or transfer of an interest in property or both. (Maryland Code - Family Law Chapter - Section: 8-202, 8-203, 8-205)
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.
The court shall determine the amount of and the period for an award of alimony. The court may award alimony for a period beginning from the filing of the pleading that requests alimony. At the conclusion of the period of the award of alimony, no further alimony shall accrue. In making the determination, the court shall consider all the factors necessary for a fair and equitable award, including: (1) the ability of the party seeking alimony to be wholly or partly self-supporting; (2) the time necessary for the party seeking alimony to gain sufficient education or training to enable that party to find suitable employment; (3) the standard of living that the parties established during their marriage; (4) the duration of the marriage; (5) the contributions, monetary and nonmonetary, of each party to the well-being of the family; (6) the circumstances that contributed to the estrangement of the parties; (7) the age of each party; (8) the physical and mental condition of each party; (9) the ability of the party from whom alimony is sought to meet that party's needs while meeting the needs of the party seeking alimony; (10) any agreement between the parties; (11) the financial needs and financial resources of each party, including: (12) whether the award would cause a spouse who is a resident of a related institution as defined in 19-301 of the Health - General Article and from whom alimony is sought to become eligible for medical assistance earlier than would otherwise occur.
The court may award alimony for an indefinite period, if the court finds that: (1) due to age, illness, infirmity, or disability, the party seeking alimony cannot reasonably be expected to make substantial progress toward becoming self-supporting; or (2) even after the party seeking alimony will have made as much progress toward becoming self-supporting as can reasonably be expected, the respective standards of living of the parties will be unconscionably disparate. (Maryland Code - Family Law Chapter - Section: 11-106)
Restoration or Name Change:In granting a decree of absolute divorce, the court shall change the name of a party to either the name given the party at birth or any other former name the party wishes to use if: (1) the party took a new name on marriage and no longer wishes to use it; (2) the party asks for the change of name; and (3) the purpose of the party is not illegal, fraudulent, or immoral. (Maryland Code - Family Law Chapter - Section: 7-105)
Child Custody:Custody, whether joint or sole, will be awarded to either the mother or the father or both with the best interest of the children in mind. There are no specific factors stated which would be automatically considered by the court, but the typical factors are, but not limited to; age, health, parents contributing roles, child's wishes etc..
When the court grants an annulment or a limited or absolute divorce, regardless of how the family home or family use personal property is titled, owned, or leased, the court may: (i) decide that 1 of the parties shall have the sole possession and use of that property; or (ii) divide the possession and use of the property between the parties.
In awarding the possession and use of the family home and family use personal property, the court shall consider each of the following factors: 1) the best interests of any child; (2) the interest of each party in continuing: (i) to use the family use personal property or any part of it, or to occupy or use the family home or any part of it as a dwelling place; or (ii) to use the family use personal property or any part of it, or to occupy or use the family home or any part of it for the production of income; and (3) any hardship imposed on the party whose interest in the family home or family use personal property is infringed on by an order issued under 8-207 through 8-213 of this subtitle.
The court may order or decree that either or both of the parties pay all or any part of: (1) any mortgage payments or rent; (2) any indebtedness that is related to the property; (3) the cost of maintenance, insurance, assessments, and taxes; or (4) any similar expenses in connection with the property.
An order giving a party the sole possession and use of the family home under Subsection (a) of this Section does not affect the right of the other party to claim the family home as that party's principal residence for tax purposes. (Maryland Code - Family Law Chapter - Section: 5-203, 8-207, 8-208, 9-101)
Child Support:Maryland 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.
In determining whether the application of the guidelines would be unjust or inappropriate in a particular case, the court may consider:
1. the terms of any existing separation or property settlement agreement or court order, including any provisions for payment of mortgages or marital debts, payment of college education expenses, the terms of any use and possession order or right to occupy to the family home under an agreement, any direct payments made for the benefit of the children required by agreement or order, or any other financial considerations set out in an existing separation or property settlement agreement or court order; and
2. the presence in the household of either parent of other children to whom that parent owes a duty of support and the expenses for whom that parent is directly contributing. (Maryland Code - Family Law Chapter - Section: 8-206, 12-101, 12-201, 12-202, 12-203)
Copyright Notice: The above synopsis of Maryland 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.
The Maryland courts will always determine child custody based on the best interests of the children.
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"A Plain English Guide to Protecting Your Children"
Author: Mary L. Boland, Attorney at Law
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