If you’ve decided to leave an unhealthy marriage, then you’ll want to know how to file for a divorce. To give you a hand, our Firm has put together this simple outline to help you navigate the complex divorce process in Maryland.
Broadly speaking, the steps to filing a Maryland divorce are:
- Complete the required forms, making copies for you and your spouse;
- File the forms with the circuit court in your county; and
- Organize further documents for your divorce trial.
Which forms do I need for a Maryland divorce?
To begin: At least one spouse must have lived in Maryland for six months or more to file for divorce here. If that hasn’t happened yet, then you can’t file at all, let alone use these first documents.
If you or your soon-to-be-ex meet that requirement, then you’ll need two basic documents: The Complaint for Absolute Divorce form and the Domestic Case Information Report. These forms give the court a broad overview of your case. Chances are, you’ll submit other documents for the court in addition to these – but these forms are where you’ll start…
The Complaint for Absolute Divorce form
To open a divorce case, you need to complete the Complaint for Absolute Divorce form. Again, this form serves as an overview of the potential divorce, including information about child custody and assets.
You won’t be able to complete the form at the clerk’s desk in one sitting. Even though it’s only five pages, you will need a general understanding of what you want out of the divorce and how you may divide assets and custody with your spouse. We recommend gathering documents and other information you may file before tackling the form.
In addition, you’ll need to know:
- What kind of divorce you are filing: Contested or uncontested, at-fault or no-fault, etc.
- The legal reason for divorcing. This section may cover adultery, year-long separation, domestic abuse, and a larger range of reasons that your attorney can review with you.
- Whether you have a mutual consent agreement, which will need to be attached. Individuals attaching a mutual consent agreement are essentially filing a no-fault divorce.
- Whether you’ll change your name.
- What kind of financial support you seek, if any.
- Any major asset division or custody agreements.
If you are concerned for your safety, you are allowed to not list an address on this form. You or your attorney may also file a motion – that is, make a formal request to the court – to have your records sealed. If you feel the need to limit access to the information in your filing, you or your attorney can ask to seal or otherwise limit inspection of a case record.
The Domestic Case Information Report and related Financial Statements
All Maryland divorce filings are required to include a two-page Domestic Case Information Report to survey the basic information in a case. This document will include contact information and the estimated length of the hearing, among other general information.
Depending on the decisions you make while filling out the Complaint for Absolute Divorce and the Domestic Case Information Report form, you may need to provide additional information.
For example, if you request child support, and you and your spouse’s combined monthly income is below $15,000, then you will need to attach a financial statement. This statement describes your children’s expenses, from healthcare premiums to transportation costs. Each parent must file this form.
On the other hand, parents with a combined monthly income of over $15,000 should complete this financial statement.
How to File Your Divorce Forms in Maryland Court: Fees and Correct Order
Before submitting your divorce documents, call your local courthouse or check their website to see possible filing fees, as well as accepted forms of payment. Filing fees are usually about $200 in Maryland.
If you cannot afford to file, you may complete this waiver to file without fees. The waiver allows you to declare your finances and prove a “financial need” for help filing the divorce.
When calling the court, remember to ask about scheduling and any other questions you may have about filing logistics. Some circumstances may change your plan to file, such as a global pandemic. You can always ask your divorce attorney any of your questions about filing for divorce or the process in general. After correctly filing forms, you will be able to proceed with setting a trial date.
What Divorce Forms to File Next: Joint Statements, Discovery, and Report of Absolute Divorce or Annulment of Marriage
At least ten days before the trial date, you and your spouse must complete and file a Joint Statement. This document lists the your joint property. In addition, each person writes down who they think should get what, and what each valuable property item might be worth.
A court may require this form to be filed more than ten days before the trial, depending on the county.
As a rule, Maryland circuit courts do not have uniform procedures about submittal or timelines, though the forms are usually the same. For instance, Anne Arundel County has a very strict discovery procedure, compared to other courts. An experienced divorce attorney will know the unique aspects of your county’s circuit court, which will help you navigate your divorce proceedings.
By the end of the hearing, you will need to file a Division of Vital Record’s Report of Absolute Divorce or Annulment of Marriage, which you can get from your local court clerk. This form must be filed before the state sends the official divorce decree to you. You will not be legally divorced until this report is filed!
How an Attorney Can Help You File for Divorce
The forms linked above ask you to consider many options. Your choices will determine the course of your divorce, so you should discuss the intricacies of your situation with an attorney. An attorney will help you make the best decisions for you and your family, in addition to actually filing your divorce paperwork.
Most Maryland circuit courts have family law clinics, where you can get free advice and guidance from lawyers, paralegals and other staff. A law clinic can help you with many questions, but its staff cannot represent you in court or fill out the forms for you. Also, law clinics cannot help people who have already have an attorney.
As you can see, the many forms– not to mention the differing practices and tendencies of each court – make the process of filing for divorce extremely complicated. When you dealing with the difficult emotional season of separation, the strain of completing a divorce filing can seem impossible, leaving you in a permanent state of limbo.
Fortunately, you don’t have to do this alone. An expert in divorce law can help lead you to your best options before, during, and after the filing.
Of course, if you still have questions on filing for divorce in Maryland – or other specifics about your situation – please contact us for a free initial consultation. We’re here to help your life get back to normal.