Divorce in Maryland: Everything You Need to Know
Planning a divorce in Maryland? Explore our comprehensive guide covering everything you need to know, from the reasons and types of divorce to the steps, costs, asset division, spousal support, and how it impacts your children.
What are the grounds for divorce in Maryland?
According to the divorce laws in Maryland, there are two grounds for divorce - fault and no-fault.
1. Fault-based divorce grounds in Maryland
As outlined in the Annotated Code of Maryland, Family Law §7-103, the fault grounds for divorce include adultery, desertion, cruelty of treatment, excessively vicious conduct, and confinement in a mental institution for at least 3 years prior to filing for divorce.
2. No-fault divorce grounds in Maryland
The no-fault grounds, per §7-103, allow for divorce when the marriage is irretrievably broken and there is no hope of reconciliation. In order to obtain a no-fault divorce in Maryland, the couple must live separately and apart for 12 months without cohabitation prior to filing the divorce complaint, according to the statute. The court may then grant the divorce on the grounds that there has been an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, as outlined in the law.
How to file for divorce in Maryland?
Filing for divorce in Maryland involves several steps as outlined in the state's family law statutes.
File a complaint for divorce: Submit a complaint for divorce with the circuit court in the county where either party lives, stating the grounds for divorce (adultery, desertion, irretrievable breakdown, etc.) as outlined in Maryland Code, Family Law §7-101.
File accompanying documents: Include accompanying documents, including a Civil Domestic Case Information Report as required by Maryland Rule 2-111.
Serve the defendant: Serve the defendant copies of the complaint and documents either personally or by certified mail, as stated in §7-101.
Defendant's response time: The defendant has 60 days to respond after being served, per the Annotated Code of Maryland.
Request default judgement: If the defendant does not respond within 60 days, the plaintiff can request a default judgement for divorce from the court.
Court hearing: The court will schedule a hearing, and if the grounds for divorce are proven, the court will grant the divorce decree.
Waiting period: Parties must wait 6 months after the divorce decree is entered before remarrying, as outlined in §7-101.
Additional financial issues: Certain financial issues such as alimony, property division, etc., may require additional litigation before the divorce is finalized.
Remember, divorce procedures can vary based on individual circumstances and local court rules. It's worth speaking to a qualified financial advisor to provide additional guidance throughout the process, match with an advisor here.
What is the cost of divorce in Maryland?
According to the Maryland Judiciary, the costs of obtaining a divorce in Maryland can vary significantly depending on the complexity of the case. As outlined on the court's website, the filing fee for a complaint for divorce is $165. However, as explained in the Annotated Code of Maryland, Family Law §7-107, there are additional costs beyond the filing fee, including:
Serving paperwork on the defendant, which could cost around $40-100 for personal service by a private process server, as estimated by divorce attorneys.
Costs for litigation if the divorce is contested, such as attorney fees, which average $250-350 per hour in Maryland, according to a survey by Martindale-Nolo Research.
Mediation for divorce disputes, which can also cost hundreds of dollars per session.
Overall, while the filing fee for divorce in Maryland is $165, total costs including legal fees, serving paperwork, and mediation can amount to several thousands of dollars depending on the complexity of the divorce case. However, for divorces that are uncontested and the parties agree on issues like property division, alimony, and child custody, the costs are significantly lower. Uncontested divorces only require the filing and service fees totaling $200-300 typically. No attorneys or mediation are needed since both spouses agree to the divorce terms, keeping the overall cost much lower compared to contested cases, based on estimates from Maryland divorce lawyers.
How do you split up assets in Maryland?
According to the Annotated Code of Maryland, Family Law §8-205, marital property generally must be divided equitably between the spouses in a divorce. As outlined in the statute, marital property includes:
Houses/real estate purchased during the marriage
Vehicles purchased during the marriage
Bank accounts opened during the marriage
Investments and retirement accounts acquired during marriage
Businesses started during the marriage
Personal property like jewelry, furniture, artwork, etc.
The court will consider factors like each spouse's contributions during the marriage, the value of property, and how long the property was acquired when determining an equitable distribution, as stated in §8-205. The factors include:
Each spouse's monetary and non-monetary contributions
The value of all marital property
Economic circumstances of each spouse
How and when assets were acquired during marriage
This does not necessarily mean an equal 50/50 split. For example, if one spouse made significantly higher contributions to acquiring an asset, they may get a larger share, as explained by Maryland divorce lawyers. The spouses can also come to a mutual agreement on dividing their property through a separation agreement, per §8-201. Overall, Maryland law provides for the fair division of marital assets between spouses in a divorce, either through equitable distribution by the court or a mutually agreed upon separation agreement, as provided in the family law statutes.
How does alimony work in Maryland?
According to the Annotated Code of Maryland, Family Law §11-106, alimony may be awarded in a divorce proceeding in order to provide financial support for a dependent spouse. The types of alimony in Maryland include:
Rehabilitative alimony: temporary payments to help spouses become self-supporting by developing skills or education.
Indefinite alimony: continuous payments with no fixed termination date.
Fixed-term alimony: alimony paid for a set period of time.
Reimbursement alimony: alimony to compensate spouse who supported the other through school.
The court will determine the amount and duration of alimony based on factors like:
Financial needs and resources of each party
Time needed for dependent spouse to gain skills for employment
Standard of living during marriage
Duration of marriage
Age and health of the spouses
Contributions to family well-being
Either spouse may request alimony during the divorce process. Alimony usually ends when the dependent spouse remarries or either spouse passes away, per §11-108. Overall, Maryland courts can award different types of alimony on a case-by-case basis considering the needs and resources of each spouse.
What happens to children during a divorce in Maryland?
According to the annotated code of Maryland, Family Law §8-103, the court determines child custody based on the best interests of the child when parents cannot agree on custody arrangements. The court looks at factors like the fitness of parents, relationship with the child, potential for maintaining natural family relations, material opportunities affecting the child, and preference of the child if old enough. As explained in §8-104, there are two types of custody in Maryland:
Legal custody: Legal custody refers to decision-making authority for a child. This can be sole legal custody to one parent or joint legal custody.
Physical custody: Physical custody refers to where the child primarily resides. This can be sole physical custody, where the child resides mostly with one parent. Or joint physical custody, where the child splits time between homes.
In many Maryland divorces, parents have joint legal custody while one parent has primary physical custody, per divorce attorneys. The court also determines a visitation schedule for the non-custodial parent. Parents must put the child's best interests first during a divorce transition. Counseling and mediation can assist in establishing new custody arrangements and support the child's well-being. Overall, Maryland courts aim to put children's welfare first when determining custody in a divorce.
How to protect your finances when going through a divorce in Maryland?
Going through a divorce can be a stressful and challenging time, especially when it comes to finances. You may have many questions and concerns about how to protect your assets, manage your debts, and plan for your future.
Here are some way you can protect your money when going through a divorce:
Organize your finances: before filing for divorce, gather all relevant financial information and documents, such as tax returns, bank statements, credit card bills, and retirement accounts. Make a list of all assets and liabilities, both marital and non-marital. This will help you and your spouse negotiate a fair distribution of property and debts.
Consider mediation: mediation is a process where you and your spouse work with a neutral third party to resolve issues related to your divorce, such as property division, alimony, child custody, and child support. Mediation can be less time-consuming, less expensive, and less stressful than going to court. It can also help you maintain a cooperative relationship with your spouse after the divorce.
Think about Social Security: if you have been married for at least 10 years, you may be eligible to receive Social Security benefits based on your ex-spouse’s record. This can provide valuable income during retirement, especially if your ex-spouse earned more than you. However, certain criteria must be met to qualify for this benefit.
Seek professional help: divorce can significantly impact your financial situation. Consider consulting with a financial advisor specializing in divorce to help you navigate these changes and plan for your future. A financial advisor can help you assess your current financial status, create a post-divorce budget, and develop a long-term financial plan that aligns with your needs and goals.
Charlie Barton is a writer at Unbiased. He has been writing about personal finance and investing since 2017, with extensive knowledge of platforms and products. Charlie has a first-class degree from the London School of Economics.