What Makes Maryland Divorces Take So Long? Any Way to Speed Things Up?

Ever wondered how long a divorce might take? Many people ask themselves the same question when faced with an unhealthy marriage.

Though times vary greatly, divorces can last anywhere from a few months to several years. This guide will help break down the complicated answer to a seemingly simple question. By the end, you know:

How long do divorces usually take? – Basic Considerations

Some Maryland divorces finish in just a few months, while others can draw out for years.

Several factors determine the options available to someone seeking a divorce, including:

Unique Maryland Divorce Timelines: Cooldown Periods and Local Jurisdictions

Like many states, Maryland has a cooldown period: A set amount of time that a couple must wait before filing for a divorce.

In Maryland, many couples filing for divorce must live apart from each other without having sex for 12 months.

This period is not required for those filing an “at fault” divorce, or for those filing certain types of uncontested divorce.

The speed at which your court system works also matters. If a court system is slow, it may take a significant amount of time to even appear in court, pushing the process back.

In Baltimore county, for instance, a contested divorce can take 8-12 months to complete, in addition to the year-long cooldown period.

Length of Contested Divorces Versus Uncontested Divorces

Contested divorcesdivorces in which the parties do not agree and must go to court to solve the disagreements – usually last around 18 months.

This type of divorce can go on for much longer, though. Take Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt: They filed for divorce in 2016, and the divorce still isn't final.

Uncontested divorcesdivorces in which both parties agree on settlements to be reviewed by a judge – take far less time. Sometimes, they’re over in just a few months.

At-fault or No-fault Divorce Timelines

At-fault divorces – when one party claims that the other is fully responsible for the separation – tend to take longer than no-fault divorces, because fault divorces must be proven in court.

Some no-fault divorces – when neither party claims that the other is fully responsible – can be largely completed out of court, if uncontested.

Between the different types of divorces, the possibilities can be overwhelming. Fortunately, you can control some of the timeline in your divorce.

Everyone in a divorce can impact whether a divorce goes smoothly – or is dragged out for months or years.

How to Drag Out a Divorce

The longest divorces are usually either contested or at-fault divorce filings.

Contesting the Divorce Adds Months

If a divorce is contested, it is almost certain that it will take longer. In Baltimore County, contesting a divorce can add 8-12 months to the process – not including the required year-long cooldown period.

First, you’ll need to wait for a scheduled court appearance. Getting a court date can take up to several months, depending on the jurisdiction. (And, best of luck with that in the current Covid-19 court world, especially without a lawyer fighting for your filing!)

Once in court, documenting and verifying marriage facts and assets adds on more time. Longer marriages, or those with more assets, will take longer to process. Marriages that last twenty years will naturally have more items to review and more decisions to be made, than those that only lasted for two.

At-Fault Divorces Take More Time

A fault-based divorce will add on extra time, since guilt must be proven in court.

For instance, one party proving adultery will take more evidence, more time in court, and a more comprehensive case. Because individuals are innocent until proven guilty, one party may need a large amount of evidence to prove the guilt of their spouse.

In a similar situation, if one former spouse doesn’t want a divorce at all, then that process will take the longest of all. They can delay documents, overwhelm attorney offices with expensive evidence piles for the divorcing spouse, and even make scheduling meetings difficult.

How Can I Shorten My Divorce?

Divorces can drag on for years, especially if they stay in court for a long time. Fortunately, there are some ways you can  make your divorce faster.

Specifically, consider avoiding court and qualifying to skip the "cooldown" period if you want the fastest type of divorce.

Avoid Court to Avoid Long Divorces

Often, the way to speed up a divorce is to make decisions before having to make them in court.

That's because court often increases the amount of time spent on a divorce.

First, you’ll need to wait for a scheduled court date, which takes a while... even when we're not in the middle of a pandemic.

Discovery – a period during which assets and liabilities must be documented and confirmed for the court – can take a long time, too.

During an uncontested divorce, though, both parties work together to create a marital settlement agreement for all money, property, and other marital assets. Then, the agreement is sent to a judge and reviewed for fairness.

That way, a judge can effectively "rubber stamp" the agreement, rather than playing referee for a long legal spat.

(For reference, a marital settlement agreement is used for the couple to agree on the division of assets and spousal support together without having a court involved in that decision.)

Not going before a judge does not mean you have to face divorce alone, though.

Even in uncontested divorces, divorce attorneys help their client find the best solution for their specific situation. Attorneys guide clients through uncontested divorces by communicating with the other party and the court to advocate for solutions that are fair for you and your family.

Skip the 12-month Cooldown Requirement for Maryland Divorces

One of the main benefits of an uncontested divorce in Maryland is sometimes skipping the 12-month cooldown period, which is a requirement for contested divorces.

A couple without children who are minors that uses a marital settlement agreement in an uncontested divorce does not have to wait the year for the normal cooldown period.

Many couples decide on a prenuptial agreement before getting married. Deciding how assets and support will be divided and distributed means fewer days spent in post-nuptial divorce proceedings.

A prenuptial agreement allows a couple to negotiate a possible separation before the stress of a divorce. A couple can see a prenuptial agreement as an act of transparency from each party, working together to decide on a fair outcome for both individuals.

(Already married? It isn’t too late to enter into an agreement like a prenuptial – it's just called a postnuptial, instead.)

How Can Divorce Attorneys Can Speed Up Divorces?

By learning about your specific circumstances, a local divorce attorney can offer exact instructions on how to quickly divorce an ex-spouse while avoiding legal minefields you never would have seen coming.

For contested divorces, a retained divorce attorney acts as your legal defender and ally in the system against your ex-spouse.

Divorce lawyers can file motions with courts and support you during hearings. Your attorney also makes sure you get the divorce that you need, as quickly and inexpensively as possible.

However, attorneys help with uncontested divorces, too. They advocate for their client’s wellbeing outside of the courtroom, during mediation and negotiation sessions. They can make sure all paperwork is filed correctly, and that no assets are missing or hiding from consideration – even accidentally.

Even people not looking to get a divorce can find a divorce attorney helpful. For example, prenuptial agreements offer a time of honesty between potential spouses before marriage. Attorneys help individuals find fairness and balance in their relationships through this type of legal agreement, which will offer stability and certainty in the case of an unknown future.

Divorces can take a lot of time or a little, from a few months to several years. Though many circumstances may change the timeline of your divorce, your need for a trustworthy, supportive divorce attorney stays the same.

Our Firm frequently supports clients through their divorces, making the process as efficient and fair as possible. You can schedule a free consultation at your convenience, or simply contact us today to talk about how we can help make your divorce easier and faster.

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