How to File for Divorce in Maryland
Divorce processes vary significantly from state to state. If you want to file for divorce in Maryland, you will need to follow the state's procedure in order to obtain your divorce as quickly and easily as possible. This guide will give you step-by-step guidance on filing for divorce so that you can understand the entire process.
1. Make Sure You're Eligible
Maryland's residency requirements are somewhat more complex than those in other states, so it is important to make sure you are eligible if you plan to file for divorce in Maryland. Whether you can file largely depends on where the grounds for divorce took place.
If the grounds for divorce took place in Maryland and at least one of you lives in the state, you may file for divorce in the county where you or your spouse lives. However, if the grounds happened elsewhere, you need to be a resident for one year before you can file for divorce in Maryland.
2. Complete the Divorce Forms
If you are eligible to file for divorce in Maryland, the next step is to fill out paperwork. The complaint for divorce is the document that begins legal divorce proceedings in the state, and it will need to be filled out carefully and completely.
You must include the grounds for your divorce (typically, the grounds used in Maryland are the no-fault grounds of a one-year mutual and voluntary separation) as well as what you are requesting from the court. This may include child custody or support, alimony, a name change, or any other requests that you believe are reasonable.
3. File the Forms
After completing the forms, you can file for divorce in Maryland by going to the courthouse in the county where you or your spouse is located, and paying an appropriate filing fee (set by each county). The clerk will stamp and file your divorce forms, and the legal divorce process will begin.
4. Serve Your Spouse
After you file for divorce in Maryland, you must give your spouse official notice of the divorce. This process is known as “serving” and will usually be done by the sheriff's office for a nominal fee. Your spouse will be given the papers in person at his or her place of business or at home.
5. Settlement or Trial
Most of the time, couples who file for divorce in Maryland do not pursue their case all the way to trial. Instead, they settle out of court and develop an agreement for the divorce that works for both people. In order to settle, you will need to agree on all issues that are disputed in your divorce—and you may need help.
If you cannot come to a settlement on your own, hiring lawyers or a mediator to help you negotiate may save you time and money rather than going to a trial. The time from when you file for divorce in Maryland to the time a full divorce trial is complete can be over a year—and in that year, your divorce will not be final. Because of this, most couples try everything they can to avoid a lengthy trial process.