Divorce Law in Maryland
Divorce Law refers to the legal termination of a marriage and often involves working through several complicated issues. Are you facing a costly divorce in Maryland? Does your estranged spouse have an attorney? Usually, couples going through a divorce are unable to compromise on most items and reach an agreement on their own. Thus, many couples go through mediation or the court system to resolve their case.
Issues Involved in Maryland Divorce Law
There are many complicated issues that you need to settle during the divorce process. Many of these elicit strong emotions from one party or the other, resulting in volatility.
One of the most challenging issues in the divorce law process is dividing property, debts and assets. In many states, like Maryland, anything you and your spouse purchased over your marriage is subject to division. This includes things such as real estate, bank accounts, cars, stocks, etc. Some states split marital property evenly, while others go along an equitable split. In the latter, the judge weighs the contribution each spouse made to the marriage and uses that information to decide the disposition property, which may not equate to a perfect 50/50 division of your property, debt, and other assets.
Both parents are responsible for paying for the care of their children. There is a child support guideline that helps determine how much each parent should contribute based on their income and the amount of time they spend with the children. Child support pays for things such as healthcare, food, clothing and other basic needs.
According to Maryland’s Department of Human Services, Maryland uses an income shares model for its child support guidelines. The guidelines consider the income of both parents, the number of children, health insurance costs, daycare costs, and any extraordinary medical expenses. Child support can be paid online through Child Support Administration (CSA) in Maryland’s Department of Human Services. CSA can enforce payment through income withholding, tax refund intercept, driver’s license suspension, property liens, and passport denial. Additionally, the court can issue a warrant for your arrest if you miss a court date regarding your payment delinquency.
Alimony, or spousal support, can vary dramatically depending on the marriage, and Maryland divorce law court looks at multiple factors when determining the amount and length of alimony, including:
- A spouse’s need and the other spouse’s ability to pay
- The age and health of each spouse
- The length of the marriage
- Each spouse’s earning capacity and level of education
- The division of property
- Parental responsibility of the children
- Sole investments and assets of either spouse
Maryland law allows for pendente lite, rehabilitative, and indefinite alimony. Pendente lite is designed to maintain the status quo during the divorce proceedings. Rehabilitative alimony is generally awarded for between 3-10 years, and is designed to support job training and education. Indefinite alimony is awarded when the standard of living of one spouse is unconscionably disparate from the other spouse, due to age or illness.
Child Custody and Visitation
Child custody is perhaps the most emotional issue during a divorce that involves children. The most important thing to keep in mind is that the court bases all decisions on what is in the best interest of the child. Keeping this in mind may help navigate the rough waters of custody.
A number of factors determine the best interests of the child in Maryland, including the fitness of the primary caregiver, and the character and reputation of each parent. Additionally, the age, health, and gender of the child, the child’s preferences, and maintaining family relationships with the child are also considered. Maryland law dictates that a parent’s disability is only relevant to a custody decision if the disability affects the best interest of the child.
Generally, Maryland courts award joint legal custody giving both parents the legal right to make decisions for the children, such as education, medical care and religious practices. Legal custody has nothing to do with physical custody or visitation. Joint custody does not mean both parents split time with the child evenly, just as sole legal custody does not bar the non-custodial parent from visiting the child.
The Process of Going Through Divorce Law in Maryland
Are you leaning towards getting a divorce from your partner? If so, it is important to understand the necessary steps of the Maryland divorce law process.
Step 1: File the Divorce Law Petition
The divorce law process begins when one spouse files a legal petition to terminate the marriage. The petition must include:
- A legal reason for divorce (grounds for divorce)
- A statement that shows at least one spouse meets the state’s residency requirements for divorce
- Other statutory information your state requires
Most states offer the option for filing a no-fault divorce, which does not require a legal reason for the divorce.
The Maryland Courts allow no-fault divorce if the couple mutually consents to the divorce, or has been voluntarily separated for at least 12 months.
Step 2: Request Temporary Orders
The divorce law process in Maryland can take several months, and in some cases, spouses cannot wait that long for judgments, but temporary orders can be requested and approved for a multitude of reasons, including:
- Child custody
- Child support
- Spousal support
- Property restraining orders
- Status quo orders
Request temporary orders as quickly as possible so you are not absent the resources or protection that you need.
Step 3: Serve Your Spouse and Wait for Their Response
If you are the one who files a petition for divorce, you must have your spouse served with their divorce law papers and then file a proof of service with the courts. If your spouse accepts service, then they need to fill out an affidavit to that effect. However, in many cases, the petitioner must hire a process server or sheriff to formally serve the petition on the other spouse. It is this third-party who then records the proof of service.
Step 4: Try To Come to an Agreement
The best outcome for anyone going through this process is to have an uncontested divorce, meaning both spouses agree on all issues.
This can be reached between both partners or with the help of a mediator. Not only will this save each spouse money, but there will typically be a lot less animosity.
Step 5: Go To Court
If you and your spouse are unable to reach an agreement, then the case continues before a Maryland judge. While there is some benefit to having a judge hand down orders, it may also be a detriment as there is little to no control of the agreement by the parties. In Maryland, Circuit Courts handle family law cases including divorce and child custody. The Circuit Courts are divided into 8 Judicial Circuits with a court in each of the 23 counties and the City of Baltimore.
Step 6: Receive the Judgement of Divorce
The divorce law trial will end with the official judgment of divorce, ending the marriage. This final dissolution of marriage sets out the details about property and debt division, child custody and all relevant issues between the couple.
Work With an Experienced Maryland Divorce Law Attorney
If you are going through a divorce and are unable to reach an agreement with your partner, you should hire an experienced Maryland divorce law attorney. A lawyer will fight for you and make sure you get what is yours. We can even help you connect with an attorney across Maryland state lines.
Submit a request online or call us today at (866) 345-6784 to get in touch with an experienced lawyer in your area!