How to File an Uncontested Divorce In Maryland.
Are you filing for divorce in Maryland? Every state has different filing procedures and requirements. Hear from Divorceify professional, attorney and Mediator, Cary Jacobson about the details and procedural aspects of filing an uncontested divorce in Maryland. This article originally appeared on the Jacobson Family Law blog.
Filing for an uncontested divorce in Maryland can be confusing, especially for people who are not familiar with the legal requirements and rules. Here are a few tips on how to file an uncontested divorce in Maryland.
Important Key Terms
An uncontested divorce in Maryland is one where you and your spouse have agreed to all terms, including, but not limited to: physical custody, legal custody, and child support, if you have children, as well as alimony, property division and possibly attorneys’ fees. In an uncontested divorce, you are not asking a Judge to decide any of these issues for you.
The spouse that files for the uncontested divorce is called the “Plaintiff” and the other spouse is called the “Defendant”.
There are two types of divorce in Maryland: a limited divorce and an absolute divorce. A limited divorce is also known as a “legal separation”; however, it does not terminate your legal marriage. An absolute divorce is a final legal divorce that ends your marriage.
Grounds for Divorce
In Maryland, it has recently become easier to obtain an uncontested divorce. If you and your spouse have a signed Marital Settlement Agreement (also known as a Separation Agreement) that resolves all issues from your marriage, you may obtain an uncontested divorce on the ground of mutual consent. The courts no longer require you and your spouse to live separate and apart for 12 months before you can file for your divorce.
Who can file for an Uncontested Divorce in Maryland?
If the ground for divorce occurred in Maryland, one spouse must be currently living in Maryland at the time the divorce is filed. If the ground for divorce occurred outside Maryland, you or your spouse must have lived in Maryland for at least 6 months before filing your divorce complaint.
Filing the Complaint
The Plaintiff must file a Complaint for Absolute Divorce along with a Civil Domestic Case Information Report in the circuit court for the county where s/he resides or where the Defendant lives or works. These forms can be found at the Maryland Court website. Once these documents have been filed, the court will issue a Writ of Summons.
Service of Complaint
A copy of the Writ of Summons, Complaint and the Marital Settlement Agreement, if applicable, must be “served” on the Defendant. In Maryland, the Defendant can be served by:
- any person over the age of 18 other than the Plaintiff;
- leaving a copy of the summons, complaint, and all other papers filed with it at the individual’s dwelling house or usual place of abode with a resident of suitable age and discretion; or
- U.S. certified mail, restricted delivery, return receipt requested, showing to whom it was delivered, date, address of delivery.
Upon service being completed, you must file an Affidavit of Service with the court.
Answer to the Complaint
If the Defendant is served within the State of Maryland, s/he will have 30 days to file an Answer to the Complaint. An out-of-state Defendant has 60 days and a Defendant that lives outside of the United States has 90 days to file an Answer. The Answer to the Complaint for Divorce will allow the Defendant to admit or deny the allegations within the Complaint. This form may also be found on the Maryland Court website.
Uncontested Divorce Hearing
Once the court has received the Defendant’s Answer to the Complaint for Absolute Divorce, the uncontested divorce hearing will be scheduled. The Plaintiff is required to attend the uncontested divorce hearing, but in most cases the Defendant does not need to appear. The uncontested divorce hearing takes approximately 10 minutes and the Plaintiff will be asked questions about the contents of their Complaint for Absolute Divorce.
However, typically, you are not officially divorced at the end of the uncontested divorce hearing. The official date of your divorce will be after a Judge signs your Judgment of Absolute Divorce and the Clerk of Court in your county stamps it. You will typically receive your final, stamped, Judgment of Absolute Divorce within approximately three weeks from your uncontested divorce hearing.
Reasons to Hire an Attorney for your Uncontested Divorce in Maryland
While the steps to filing an uncontested divorce are fairly simple, hiring an attorney to handle your uncontested divorce can save you time, help you avoid mistakes and reduce the stress in doing it yourself.