As we have explained in previous blogs, in order to file for an absolute divorce you must have a ground on which to file. The grounds for an absolute divorce can be no-fault based, which in Maryland is a separation of one year, or fault based, which in Maryland are adultery, desertion, cruelty of treatment, insanity, incarceration and excessively vicious conduct. Once you have a ground for divorce, and not before, you may actually file for the divorce in the appropriate Maryland Circuit Court. For more information on which county or city to file your Maryland divorce in visit our October 21, 2009 blog.
All divorces in Maryland are filed in Circuit Court, not District Court. The first step in the process is to file the Complaint for Absolute Divorce. The Complaint must contain information as to where you were married to your spouse, how long you have resided in Maryland, what marital property the two of you own, information regarding your children, etc. The Complaint must be filed with a filing fee, which varies by County, and also must be accompanied by a short form financial statement if you are seeking child support or a long form financial statement if you are seeking alimony. If you retain an attorney the Complaint and Financial Statements will be prepared for you. If you are filing pro se, or without an attorney, then the Court can provide you with the appropriate forms.
When the Complaint has been filed the Maryland Circuit Court will issue a writ of summons (depending on the county, it could take 1 day or up to 4 weeks to issue the Writ) to be served upon your spouse with the Complaint. If you are hiring an attorney, the attorney will take care of service for you. If not, then you may consider paying the cost to have your spouse served by a sheriff. When your spouse has been served, the Court must receive evidence that he or she has been served in the form of an Affidavit of Service, either filed by yourself or your attorney, if you have one. Your spouse will then have 30 days if they reside in state or 60 days if they reside out of state to file an Answer to your Complaint. When their Answer is filed the Court will begin setting in the necessary dates for your matter, which may consist of a scheduling conference, or hearing, depending on the circumstances of your case and which County you filed. It is typical for these dates to be set weeks to months in advance. If your spouse does not file an Answer in the time allotted then you may keep the divorce process moving by filing a Request for Order of Default, which asks the Court to set in a hearing without the Answer having been filed.
In some Maryland counties you will receive notices to attend parenting classes, and mediation from the Circuit Court before you attend any court dates, where in others you will sign up for the classes and mediation at your first court date, the scheduling conference. Before you reach the final divorce trial (merits) you will most likely attend parenting classes, mediation, a scheduling conference, a temporary (pendent lite) hearing and a settlement conference (pre-trial conference).
For more information on filing a Maryland Divorce contact an experienced Maryland divorce attorney.