What is a divorce?
A divorce is the legal termination of a marriage. This is usually ordered by a judge or other similar legal authority. People can choose to remarry once a divorce has been finalized.
Why do couples get divorced?
There are many reasons why spouses opt to file for divorce. They may no longer be able to get along with one another or may have fallen out of love with one another. One or both partners may have romantic feelings for someone else or committed acts of adultery during the marriage.
A partner can also ask for a divorce if their spouse has been excessively cruel or exhibited vicious behavior toward themself or any minor children who are currently living in the marital home. If a partner has been incarcerated for a misdemeanor or felony, or been declared mentally incompetent, their spouse can ask for a divorce. Other common reasons (also referred to as grounds) for divorce include desertion, separation (both voluntary and involuntary) and mutual consent.
Do I need a reason to file for divorce?
There are two types of divorce in Maryland as of this writing: limited divorce and absolute divorce. A person doesn’t need to supply a reason for seeking a limited divorce. It may be a viable option if a couple plans to file for absolute divorce later, and needs some time to determine their alimony, child support and child visitation. Limited divorce does not end a marriage.
Absolute divorce will dissolve the marital union. Partners can’t file for an absolute divorce and then decide to change their minds. One or more of the reasons listed above are usually provided if one or both people request an absolute divorce.
What are the steps involved in getting a divorce?
A couple will typically need to be separated from each other for at least 12 consecutive months before a divorce petition can be filed. Partners cannot continue to live together or engage in sexual intercourse with one another during that time. The petition will be filed in the respective court in the county where the person filing the petition (also known as the plaintiff) lives in.
The other party in the marriage (also referred to as the defendant) will be served with the divorce papers. This may be done by a member of local law enforcement. If that person currently lives in the state of Maryland, they have 30 days to respond to the initial complaint. That time is extended to 60 days if they live in a different state or 90 days if they reside in another nation.
Information should be exchanged between each spouse before the time limit for submitting a response has expired. Some couples may even develop a marital settlement agreement before the divorce petition has been filed. Mediation may be necessary to help partners iron out some of the important details, such as which parent will be the legal and physical guardian of their children, for example.
The case can go to trial if the matters are not decided or agreed upon by both partners. Each side can represent themself or enlist the aid of legal counsel to act on their behalf. Evidence, testimony and witnesses will be presented as necessary during the court proceedings. The judge presiding over the case will evaluate all information that was provided before making a decision.
After a decision has been made, one or both parties may make an appeal if they so choose. Alimony, child custody, living agreements, child visitation and other important aspects must have been determined before an appeal can be made. The person making the appeal will usually be asked to give reasons as to why they object to the decision that was handed down by the judge.
What will happen to my children?
Some couples make their own decisions regarding child custody and visitation. If they cannot agree on those matters, the judge will make those determinations for them. Living conditions, the annual income of each spouse and other aspects will be taken into consideration. The judge will prioritize the best interests of the affected children before making any decisions.
An agreement should be included in writing that stipulates which parent will have physical and legal custody of the couple’s children. There should also be a child visitation schedule. Visitation can occur at the parents’ homes or at a neutral location, such as a community center or day care facility, for example. Visitation may be staggered or supervised if necessary.
How long does it take on average for a divorce to be granted?
It can take anywhere from around a month to four months on average for a divorce to be finalized in Maryland. They can take more time if the case goes to trial or if the couple cannot decide on child custody, child visitation or alimony. Things can take even longer if one party appeals the decision that was made or if the defendant contests the divorce. It’s not uncommon in those instances for cases to drag out six months to a year or more.
If you have children with your former partner, it’s important to keep their best interests in mind when working on child visitation or child custody arrangements. They should be first and foremost in your mind. Alimony schedules should also be fair and reasonable, based on each party’s needs and income levels. No spouse should be given a grossly unfair advantage over the other.
Divorce can be confusing. If you have questions or aren’t sure where to start, give us a call. You can set up a free consultation with one of our trained professionals. They will sit down and listen to what you have to say. We will provide recommendations for future actions and can represent you during divorce proceedings if you wish.
Our ultimate goal is to help you get back on your feet again. This won’t happen overnight. If you want things to improve, you have to put in the time and effort to make the necessary changes. Setting goals and sticking with them can make the process less painful. You’ll probably be so focused on the tasks at hand that you’ll be back to loving life again before you know it.