What is an Uncontested Divorce?
An uncontested divorce is a marriage dissolution where both parties agree on how property and other assets are divided. There are usually no issues or disagreements regarding child support, child visitation or alimony. Most couples who agree to an uncontested divorce work together in preparing a settlement agreement. They may cooperate all by themselves or enlist the assistance of legal counsel or veteran mediators.
This agreement should be presented during the divorce proceedings. A judge will review the documents and take them into consideration when deciding whether or not to grant the divorce request. They will also want to confirm that one side does not have an unfair advantage over the other according to the terms contained in the paperwork.
What Types of Divorce are there in Maryland?
There are two primary kinds of divorce in the state of Maryland: limited divorce and absolute divorce. Limited divorce is a temporary arrangement. It can be used to identify which party will be responsible for paying spousal support or child support and a visitation schedule for the couple’s children. Limited divorce does not effectively end a marriage.
Absolute divorce is final. Once an absolute divorce has been given, the marriage in question will be effectively terminated. Couples can’t go back and change their minds once the decision has been made by a judge in a court of law.
How Can I File for Divorce?
The divorce process begins when a complaint is filed. The complaint must be filed in the person’s respective county circuit court. A Civil Domestic Information Report, child support worksheets (if one partner will be paying child support) and copies of each person’s financial statements should be included. If the person who is making the complaint cannot afford the filing fee, they can attach a waiver to have that fee excluded with their documentation.
A summons will be issued by the court clerk after the petition has been filed. A case file and case number will be generated. The filing fee will also be collected (unless the waiver for that fee was included). The plaintiff in the case will be the person who filed for the uncontested divorce.
The other party (noted as the defendant in the case) will be served with copies of the paperwork. A copy of the marital settlement agreement, the complaint and the writ of summons are typically included in the documentation. This is usually handled by a sheriff or a private process server. The person who has asked for the divorce will never serve their former partner with that information directly. Proof of service, including the method that was used, should then be sent to the court.
People living in the state of Maryland who were served with a divorce request must respond within 30 days. That deadline is extended to 60 days if they live in another state. People have up to 90 days if they are currently living outside of the United States.
The residency requirement for divorce in Maryland can depend on where the grounds for that request happened. If the reason happened in the state, only the petitioner needs to live in Maryland when making the divorce request. If the grounds happened outside of the state, one or both partners must have lived in Maryland for a minimum of 6 months before the petition was filed.
Grounds are reasons that the state could reasonably consider for the divorce request. Separation, abuse, cruelty, desertion and adultery are common causes for many divorce requests. Those faults must be proven, and the person who is accused of them may decide to question or contest those reasons.
Couples in an uncontested divorce may be better off filing for a mutual consent divorce. This option is only available in Maryland if the couple has agreed to all important matters. If there are any aspects that are still undecided, partners will have to wait until they’ve been living separately for one year before they can apply for divorce.
An uncontested divorce is also known as a no-fault divorce. There are certain requirements for a no-fault divorce in the state of Maryland, these include:
- A written marital settlement agreement must have been prepared and presented.
- Both parties have mutually agreed to the divorce.
- The couple must have been living in separate homes for at least 12 months before the complaint was filed. They cannot have engaged in sexual intercourse with one another, and the separation length cannot have been interrupted.
The settlement agreement should specify items such as:
- Who will pay alimony and the amount that will be paid?
- How child support and child visitation will be handled?
- How money and other marital assets will be divided?
- What will happen to retirement savings, health insurance and other important items?
A mediator may be called in to help partners decide how such matters should be handled. They can help parties resolve disputes. They can also help people choose who will live in the marital home or retain possession of the family vehicle(s).
The court will schedule a hearing after they have received the defendant’s answer to the complaint for absolute divorce. In most uncontested divorces, the defendant usually agrees to the terms. There may be instances where the defendant has issues with certain conditions. In those instances, they should be prepared to supply testimony and witnesses to support their position.
At an uncontested divorce hearing, only the defendant is required to attend. The plaintiff may be present if they so choose. Questions will be asked of the defendant by the judge who is presiding over the matter.
If the divorce request is granted, the judge will sign the judgment of absolute divorce. This document will then be stamped by the respective county clerk of court. Once that happens, the divorce will be official. Copies of the final paperwork will be mailed to both parties, who should receive them in about three weeks after the last divorce hearing.
Communication is essential in an absolute divorce, even if you no longer like your former partner. It’s important to decide what will happen in terms of alimony, child support and visitation, asset division and other associated items as soon as possible. We are here to help. Contact us to schedule a consultation. Our experienced professionals will listen to your concerns and advise as to possible next steps. Divorce may be a bump in the road, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t have the better and brighter future that you rightfully deserve.