Step 1: Decide why you want to get divorced.
One of the first things you should do is to consider your reasons or grounds for contemplating divorce. If your partner has been physically or verbally abusive toward you or any minor children who are currently living in your home, you may have a legitimate concern that could make a judge more sympathetic toward your case.
Other reasons that people usually give for filing for divorce include separation, desertion, abandonment, adultery, incarceration, and insanity. Couples can also mutually decide to seek the end of their marriage if they so choose. Partners can file for a limited divorce or an absolute divorce. Limited divorces are temporary. They are often used so that people can determine child support, child visitation and alimony. An absolute divorce will dissolve a marital union.
Step 2: File the Complaint for Absolute Divorce.
If you decide that you want an absolute divorce, you can file a complaint for absolute divorce. It is always better to consult with a lawyer. You can download the paperwork or pick up a copy of the form at the courthouse in the county where you live. You’ll usually be asked to provide grounds for the divorce along with other information on the form.
Step 3: Prepare your Marital Settlement Agreement, Financial Statement for Alimony or Child Support and the Property Settlement Agreement as needed.
It’s a good idea to have your paperwork in order before the request is filed with the court. Couples can work together on their Property Settlement Agreement, Marital Settlement Agreement and Financial Statement for Alimony or Child Support. Partners can also develop an effective child visitation schedule. These documents probably won’t be perfect the first time that you work on them. It may take a few days or weeks to iron out all of the details, depending upon the state of mind each of you have.
Step 4: Submit all completed forms to the respective local court.
All completed documents should be given to the clerk at the Circuit county clerk in the county that you live in. They may give them a quick overview to ensure that everything was filled out completely and no important information or attachments were missed. You can also pay any respective filing fees or request a fee waiver at that time. The filing fee will only be assessed if your motion was filed. It can take quite a few days before you’ll know whether or not your particular motion was granted or denied.
It’s a good idea to make copies of all paperwork. You should retain a set for your records. The person who will be served will also receive a copy of all relevant documents that pertain to the divorce request.
Step 5: Request a Writ of Summons.
You can ask the clerk for a Writ of Summons. This will allow the other party (also referred to as the defendant) to be served with the divorce paperwork. If the person lives in the state of Maryland, the writ will be valid for 30 days. You can request a Writ of Summons for 60 days if the defendant lives in another state or a Writ of Summons for 90 days if the respondent resides outside the United States.
Divorce papers may be served by the county sheriff, process server or any adult (except you) who is currently 18 years of age or older. This paperwork is suppose to be hand-delivered, so it must be delivered to the defendant in person. It cannot be left at their doorstep or in their mailbox if the person in question is not at home at that time. They can also be sent as restricted mail, certified mail or mail that will ask for a return receipt.
Step 6: The party that was served with divorce papers must fill out and return the Affidavit of Service.
The Affidavit of Service can be completed and returned to either the process server or via return mail, depending on how those papers were delivered to them. The respondent has 30, 60 or 90 days to reply, based on where they live. The county clerk will receive and file the Affidavit of Service as needed.
Step 7: A hearing may be scheduled, depending on the respondent’s answer.
Both the respondent and the petitioner’s information will be evaluated to determine if a court hearing is necessary. If so, the defendant and the plaintiff will be required to appear at the divorce proceedings. Each side may provide witnesses, evidence and testimony to assert their claims. Parties can represent themselves or hire legal counsel to act on their behalf.
Certain paperwork must be provided during the hearing. You should have a copy of the marriage license, the Marital Settlement or Property Settlement Agreement, the Child Support Guidelines and copies of any prior child support agreements. You may also be asked to supply the Joint State of Parties Concerning Marital and Non-Marital Property document, your last 2 tax returns and your last 3 pay stubs from your current or most recent employer.
Step 8: If the respondent does not reply, you can make a Request for Default.
If the defendant does not respond after the maximum amount of time has elapsed, a default judgment of default may be issued in favor of the plaintiff. The plaintiff must specifically ask for a Default if they so choose. The respondent may not be able to dispute the divorce request or present their case if they reply after the time limit has passed. They would also be unable to appeal any verdict made by the judge. A signed copy of the default order would be mailed to the respondent in those instances.
Step 9: The judge will decide whether to grant the divorce.
All information that was presented during the proceedings will be reviewed by the judge. They will then determine whether to approve or deny the divorce request. Each party will be informed of the decision. The divorce will be listed in a Judgment of Divorce form. This document tells the state that the two parties are now no longer married and that the divorce has been given.
Step 10: A divorce decree may be appealed.
If a divorce was granted, it can be appealed. The side that appeals the decision is usually asked to provide reasons as to why they disagree with the divorce decree. Both sides may be brought back to court so that the appeal can be heard and evaluated.
Divorce can be intimidating. It’s not easy to end a marriage, even if both parties agree that it’s the best option. It will forever change personal relationships and it can take people a long time to recover from the financial, mental and emotional stress that is often associated with divorce.
If you have questions or concerns, we’re here to help. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation. Our trained professionals will listen to what you have to say and provide recommendations for possible next steps. We can even represent you in court if you wish. Our main goal is to get you back on track again. This won’t happen right away. It will take concentrated effort to improve your situation. If you’re willing to do the work, you’ll probably find yourself enjoying life before you realize it.