Understanding Maryland Divorce Laws: A Comprehensive Guide for Residents of Towson
Divorce is defined as the legal process of ending a marriage. It involves dividing property, paying support to spouses, and determining child support. If you currently live in Towson, Maryland, and are considering divorcing someone, your local divorce laws must be at your fingertips.
Maryland divorce laws differ due to several factors like grounds of divorce, residency requirements, and property division.
Suppose you are considering divorcing your significant other or need help navigating the laws concerning alimony, child support and property division. In that case, this article will equip you with everything you need to know.
Grounds for Divorce
In Maryland, you can file for divorce without proving that your significant other is in the wrong for dissolving the marriage, making it a no-fault state. However, sometimes faults are recognized as grounds for divorce. These include:
- Joint decision: This is the easiest way to get a divorce. If the couple jointly decides to get a divorce and draw up a contract, this will fasten up the divorce process and make issues like child custody and property division easier.
- Separation: If a couple has not been continuously living together for 12 months without getting back together, they can file for divorce.
- Adultery: If your spouse engaged in the act of adultery, then you can legally file for divorce.
- Desertion: If your significant other has disappeared or left you for over 12 years, you can divorce them.
- Cruel conduct: If your husband or wife is cruel to you, you can end the marriage.
Other than these grounds for divorce, Maryland recognizes the city grounds of divorce, which vary from one city to another. Specifically to Baltimore, city grounds for divorce include:
- Voluntary separation for a year
- Convicting a felony, given a sentence of at least three years, and served for twelve months
Other cities may have contrasting grounds for divorce. It is essential to discuss this with an experienced divorce lawyer and determine which grounds of divorce apply to you.
It is challenging to file fault-based divorces as it can be difficult to prove fault. That’s why filing for divorce based on a joint decision is better, as it will make the overall process smoother.
To file for a divorce in Maryland, one person from a couple should meet the residency requirements set by the state. This ensures that the state has jurisdiction to hear the case and make a judicial decision.
Residency requirements include that at least one member of the couple should have lived in the state for at least six months. However, if you are filing for divorce on the grounds of mutual consent, then they must have lived there for more than 12 months.
This requirement should be completed before submitting the claim for divorce. If neither of the spouses has lived in the state for more than six months, they should consider filing a divorce in another state.
How To File for Divorce in Maryland
The first step of divorce in Maryland is filing a divorce complaint in a proper court. In Maryland, divorce cases are dealt with in the Circuit Court in the county that either party resides in. The complaint should state the following: the name and address of both parties, the marriage date, and the grounds for divorce.
After the complaint is filed, it must be given to the other spouse in a way approved by state law. It can be done in 3 ways, including a private process server, a sheriff’s duty, or by certified mail.
Once this is done, discovery begins. Discovery involves sharing documents and knowledge essential for the divorce process, like financial statements, e.g., bank statements and tax returns, and documents concerning child custody and visits.
Following the discovery process, the involved parties may start with the settlement negotiations or develop another dispute resolution. If both spouses reach a consensus on all issues related to the case, they may submit their consensus to the court for approval. If they get the approval, it becomes part of the divorce order.
If a consensus is not reached, then the case goes to trial. After it goes to trial it is each party for themselves will provide evidence and argue for their side. Subsequently, the judge will have to resolve property division and child support.
Divorce is a long and complicated process that can take several months, depending on the case’s complexity or the court’s program.
An issue that comes up during the divorce process is property division. It can particularly become complicated when both spouses have important assets and debts. According to Maryland laws, the property is grouped into marital and separate property. Marital property is the property that is acquired after marriage, while separate property is the property that is acquired before marriage.
The court can only divide marital property but not separate property. Several elements are considered when dividing marital property, like how long the marriage was, age, health and income of both parties, how much they contributed to acquiring said property, and the property’s value.
In Maryland, the courts aim to divide the property fairly and respectfully as they are an equitable distribution state. The court will be sensitive to your particular state and ensure that your property division will be done reasonably, making all parties happy.
When dividing marital property, the court also considers each party’s fault in the marriage’s ending. For example, if one party has committed adultery or has cruel conduct, the other party will automatically receive a more significant share.
Court orders in the property division may include the transfer of ownership to one of the spouses, the sale of the property and proceeds to be divided between them. Property division can have financial and emotional impacts that harm the divorce process.
Another issue that needs to be dealt with during a divorce is child custody. Child custody refers to the court’s decision regarding where and with which the child/children will live.
In Maryland, child custody is put into two groups, namely, legal and physical custody. Legal custody involves making crucial decisions for the child’s well-being, i.e., education, religion, and healthcare. Physical custody involves being physically present for the child and ensuring they are well cared for.
The child’s best interest is put in the forefront when determining who to give custody to. Their best interest is determined by the following:
- The child’s age and health
- The relationship between the child and either parent
- The capability of either parent to be able to provide for the child
- The child’s preference
The court can order two court arrangements, sole and joint custody. Sole custody is where only one parent gets custody, while joint custody is where both parents do. Joint custody is further grouped into two, joint legal custody and joint physical custody.
If the parents cannot reach a consensus on custody, then a custody evaluator or a guardian ad litem is called to counsel the court. Meditation might be ordered by the court to the parents to solve custody issues.
Alimony refers to paying the other spouse after the divorce so that they can be financially stable. It can be temporary or permanent, based on the situation.
According to Maryland laws, the court has to look into several components to determine alimony, including how long the marriage was, the age, health and income of each party, the standards of living in the marriage, and the contributions of each.
For example, if one party has a minor or disabled child under their care, they may receive an upper hand in alimony. This goes the same for a spouse with a disability.
Alimony is given in the following ways:
- Rehabilitative alimony: This is where alimony is awarded for making the other partner financially independent. During the time alimony is awarded, the other partner is expected to pursue education or any type of training to sustain themselves in the future.
- Indefinite alimony: This occurs in a situation where the other partner cannot provide themselves due to age or a disability. This alimony is given forever until the court orders otherwise.
- Reimbursement alimony: This type is paid to reimburse the other partner’s contribution to their career or education.
- Alimony pendent life: This is provided during the divorce process to support the other partner while awaiting divorce.
The only way the court can change alimony is because of a change in the financial situation of the receiving party.
Instead of a divorce, the couple may consider legally separating instead. This involves a court statement allowing them to live separately while still married legally. This may be a better choice for couples who just need time and space away from each other, and divorce seems like a big step to make. This also means they can reconcile in the future if need be.
Legal separation is beneficial because it allows each spouse to work on themselves separately. It further allows the couple to work on the relationship without the struggles of living together. Indeed, distance can make the heart go fonder.
The first step in getting a legal separation is filing a petition for a limited divorce. Parties should include the grounds for legal separation, which can be one of the grounds for divorce mentioned above.
If the court grants the limited divorce, the couple will go through the same process of divorce, i.e. division of property and child support. However, they cannot marry someone else unless they get a divorce.
Legal separation is usually one step away from a divorce. Couples who have been legally separated for over a year can easily file for a divorce without having to prove any other grounds for divorce. The process does not happen automatically, and the couple has to go through the divorce process again.
Apart from divorce, annulment is another legal way to end a marriage. However, unlike divorce, it legally declares that the marriage never took place in the first place.
However, only in certain situations is where an annulment can take place. These are:
- Fraud: This is where one party hides information so that the other marries them.
- Coercion: This is where one party was forced to marry.
- Bigamy: This is where one party is already married to someone else.
- Consanguinity: This is when both parties are closely related by blood, so they cannot legally marry.
- Incapacity: This is where one or both parties were not mentally stable to enter into marriage due to being intoxicated or having any mental illness.
It is important to note that annulments have no property division, as any property acquired and debts incurred are null and void. This is because the judge will treat the marriage as if it never occurred.
Annulment procedures can be complicated. The procedure involves the party involved seeking the annulment and proving any of the grounds for annulment in court. This is done by evidence and testimony presentation in court.
Do not just get up and decide to get an annulment. You need to think about it critically and consult with an experienced family attorney. They will bring out the benefits and challenges of getting an annulment and suggest other legal options specific to your case.
Contact The Divorce Lawyers in Towson, MD at Lebovitz Law Today
In conclusion, going through the never-ending divorce process can be tolling to you emotionally, financially and physically. To file for a divorce, you must fulfil some requirements and undergo a few legal processes. Understanding Maryland’s divorce laws will make it easier.
Reach out to Lebovitz Law if you are considering divorcing your spouse. It is a respected family law firm based in Townson, Maryland, with substantial experience in dealing with divorce cases. We will hold your hand throughout the process and give you all the support and information you need.
Whether you are dealing with property division, alimony, or child support, our experienced family attorney will provide the proper guidance and protect your legal interests. What are you waiting for? Contact them!