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Maryland Divorce Laws

The Maryland divorce laws are unique to those people who wish to terminate their marriage.

We are providing the important divorce laws in Maryland online as an easy reference guide to help you while you are completing your divorce.

Residency Requirements: In order to file for a divorce in Maryland, you or your spouse must meet the strict residency requirements. These requirements permit the court to have jurisdiction of your case, resulting in allowing you to use their judicial system. These requirements are only a concern for spouses who have recently relocated or plan to relocate in the near future. They are as follows:

There is a 1 year requirement if the grounds for the divorce occurred outside the state of Maryland, otherwise if either spouse is a resident of the state of Maryland, he or she may file in the county in which either spouse resides. If you are filing for divorce under the grounds of insanity, the residency requirement is increased to 2 years.

The divorce is typically filed with in county in which the filing spouse lives. (Maryland Code - Family Law Chapter - Section: 7-103)

No-Fault Grounds: Most uncontested divorce cases are filed according to a "no-fault" ground. We are using the term "no-fault" in a generic fashion by labeling all grounds that do not actually declare a "fault" as "no-fault". In the state of Maryland the "no-fault" grounds are as follows:

(1) Mutual Consent (no minor children with signed Marital Settlement Agreement) or (2) voluntary separation, if: (i) the parties voluntarily have lived separate and apart without cohabitation for 12 months without interruption before the filing of the application for divorce; and (ii) there is no reasonable expectation of reconciliation; (Maryland Code - Family Law Chapter - Section: 7-103)

Filing Party Name: The Plaintiff. This is the spouse who is recognized as the initiator of the divorce and is the one who actually files the Bill for Divorce with the county court.

Non-Filing Party Name: The Defendant. This spouse plays a lesser role in an uncontested divorce versus a contested divorce. He or she will be required to sign and/or respond in a timely fashion to the documents filed by his or her spouse.

Family Law or Domestic Relations Court: In the Circuit Court for __________, Maryland. All divorce cases in the state of Maryland are facilitated through this court for that particular county.

Clerk's Name: All correspondence with a Maryland clerk of the court should formally address him or her as follows: Office of the Clerk of the County Circuit Court.

Property and Debt Division: Maryland is considered an "equitable distribution" state. If you and your spouse are unable to come to an agreement on how the marital property will be divided, the court shall use a three step process. First, it will determine what property is marital. Second, it will put a value on the marital property. Third, it will divide the marital property in an equitable fashion, which is not necessarily equal, but rather what is considered to be fair.

The court shall determine the amount and the method of payment of a monetary award, or the terms of the transfer of the interest in property after considering each of the following factors: (A) the contributions, monetary and nonmonetary, of each party to the well-being of the family; (B) the value of all property interests of each party; (C) the economic circumstances of each party at the time the award is to be made; (D) the circumstances that contributed to the estrangement of the parties; (E) the duration of the marriage; (F) the age of each party; (G) the physical and mental condition of each party; (H) how and when specific marital property or interest in property described was acquired, including the effort expended by each party in accumulating the marital property or the interest in property described in subsection (a)(2) of this section, or both; (I) the contribution by either party of property to the acquisition of real property held by the parties as tenants by the entirety; (J) any award of alimony and any award or other provision that the court has made with respect to family use personal property or the family home; and (K) any other factor that the court considers necessary or appropriate to consider in order to arrive at a fair and equitable monetary award or transfer of an interest in property or both. (Maryland Code - Family Law Chapter - Section: 8-202, 8-203, 8-205)

Spousal Support, Maintenance, or Alimony: Determining the amount of spousal support, if any, is not as objective as determining child support. Spousal support, whether permanent or temporary, is typically decided on a case-by-case basis, because it is very likely that unique circumstances and factors regarding the marriage and the property award will play a significant role in allowing the court to arrive at the appropriate amount.

The court shall determine the amount of and the period for an award of alimony. The court may award alimony for a period beginning from the filing of the pleading that requests alimony. At the conclusion of the period of the award of alimony, no further alimony shall accrue. In making the determination, the court shall consider all the factors necessary for a fair and equitable award, including: (A) the ability of the party seeking alimony to be wholly or partly self-supporting; (B) the time necessary for the party seeking alimony to gain sufficient education or training to enable that party to find suitable employment; (C) the standard of living that the parties established during their marriage; (D) the duration of the marriage; (E) the contributions, monetary and nonmonetary, of each party to the well-being of the family; (F) the circumstances that contributed to the estrangement of the parties; (G) the age of each party; (H) the physical and mental condition of each party; (I) the ability of the party from whom alimony is sought to meet that party's needs while meeting the needs of the party seeking alimony; (J) any agreement between the parties; (K) the financial needs and financial resources of each party, including: (L) whether the award would cause a spouse who is a resident of a related institution and from whom alimony is sought to become eligible for medical assistance earlier than would otherwise occur.

The court may award alimony for an indefinite period, if the court finds that: (A) due to age, illness, infirmity, or disability, the party seeking alimony cannot reasonably be expected to make substantial progress toward becoming self-supporting; or (B) even after the party seeking alimony will have made as much progress toward becoming self-supporting as can reasonably be expected, the respective standards of living of the parties will be unconscionably disparate. (Maryland Code - Family Law Chapter - Section: 11-106)

Changing Name: In granting a decree of absolute divorce, the court shall change the name of a party to either the name given the party at birth or any other former name the party wishes to use if: (1) the party took a new name on marriage and no longer wishes to use it; (2) the party asks for the change of name; and (3) the purpose of the party is not illegal, fraudulent, or immoral. (Maryland Code - Family Law Chapter - Section: 7-105)

Custody and Visitation: Shared or joint child custody has become more and more popular with the Maryland courts. If you and your spouse request to have joint or shared "legal" custody, it will almost always be granted. As for joint or shared "physical" custody, the court will examine this a bit more closely to determine if it is a realistic choice that would result in an arrangement that is best for the children.

Custody, whether joint or sole, will be awarded to either the mother or the father or both with the best interest of the children in mind. There are no specific factors stated which would be automatically considered by the court, but the typical factors are, but not limited to; age, health, parents contributing roles, child's wishes etc..

When the court grants an annulment or a limited or absolute divorce, regardless of how the family home or family use personal property is titled, owned, or leased, the court may: (i) decide that 1 of the parties shall have the sole possession and use of that property; or (ii) divide the possession and use of the property between the parties.

In awarding the possession and use of the family home and family use personal property, the court shall consider each of the following factors: 1) the best interests of any child; (2) the interest of each party in continuing: (i) to use the family use personal property or any part of it, or to occupy or use the family home or any part of it as a dwelling place; or (ii) to use the family use personal property or any part of it, or to occupy or use the family home or any part of it for the production of income; and (3) any hardship imposed on the party whose interest in the family home or family use personal property is infringed on by an order issued under �� 8-207 through 8-213 of this subtitle.

The court may order or decree that either or both of the parties pay all or any part of: (1) any mortgage payments or rent; (2) any indebtedness that is related to the property; (3) the cost of maintenance, insurance, assessments, and taxes; or (4) any similar expenses in connection with the property.

An order giving a party the sole possession and use of the family home under subsection (a) of this section does not affect the right of the other party to claim the family home as that party's principal residence for tax purposes. (Maryland Code - Family Law Chapter - Section: 5-203, 8-207, 8-208, 9-101)

Determining Child Support: The basis for determining a monthly support amount is best achieved by referring to the Maryland child support worksheet. The worksheet utilizes the child support guidelines that are defined by state law. The court will use this same worksheet as a building block for determining the support obligation, that is if you and your spouse are unable to come to an agreement on this issue.

In determining whether the application of the guidelines would be unjust or inappropriate in a particular case, the court may consider:

1. the terms of any existing separation or property settlement agreement or court order, including any provisions for payment of mortgages or marital debts, payment of college education expenses, the terms of any use and possession order or right to occupy to the family home under an agreement, any direct payments made for the benefit of the children required by agreement or order, or any other financial considerations set out in an existing separation or property settlement agreement or court order; and

2. the presence in the household of either parent of other children to whom that parent owes a duty of support and the expenses for whom that parent is directly contributing. (Maryland Code - Family Law Chapter - Section: 8-206, 12-101, 12-201, 12-202, 12-203)

Copyright Notice: These Maryland divorce laws above are copyrighted by 3 Step Solutions, LLC. This abbreviated and revised version of the state laws has been compiled from applicable state laws and unauthorized reproduction in any fashion is prohibited. Violation of this copyright notice may result in immediate legal action.

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