At Waldman, Grossfeld, Appel & Baer, we work with individuals and families in all matters related to divorce and family law. We understand that deciding to separate or divorce can be daunting, confusing and emotionally draining both for the individual and for their family. We provide trustworthy and confidential legal representation to help you obtain the best outcome, through meditation, settlement or trial.
What Are The Requirements for Filing for Divorce in Maryland?
No couple starts out their marriage hoping it will end in divorce, and coming to terms that a relationship is ending is incredibly difficult. Unfortunately, approximately half of all married couples in the United States will experience a divorce at some point. The process is stressful and emotionally painful for both the individual and their family. During this emotionally-charged time, it is very important to make rational choices, as these decisions will have long-term consequences.
To file for divorce in the state of Maryland, at least one spouse must have been a Maryland resident for at least six months prior to filing. In addition, the spouse who files for divorce must show there are “fault grounds” for the divorce. An experienced Maryland attorney can help you determine if you have sufficient grounds to file for divorce. Fault grounds for divorce in Maryland include:
Commitment to a mental institution
Conviction of a felony or misdemeanor involving incarceration of at least one year.
Sometimes a couple simply no longer desire to be married – this is referred to as a “no fault” divorce. Some states recognize “irreconcilable differences” as grounds for divorce, but this term is not used in Maryland. In the state of Maryland, a couple seeking a no fault, uncontested divorce based on “mutual consent” must submit a written agreement to the court resolving all issues relating to finances, division of property and custody and support of any minor children.
Not surprisingly, it can be difficult to reach an agreement on all points relating to a divorce. When there is at least one issue in which the parties are in disagreement, this is referred to as a contested divorce. If a couple cannot fully agree on terms relating to custody, alimony, child support, attorney’s fees or the division of property, the divorce is considered to be contested. At Waldman, Grossfeld, Appel & Baer, our attorneys are experienced in the nuances of Maryland divorce law and will aggressively advocate for you in divorce court. In a contested divorce, any terms that cannot be agreed to by the two parties will be decided by a divorce court judge.
What Does The Divorce Process Involve?
There are two types of divorce in Maryland. The first is a limited divorce, which is also called a legal separation. The second is an absolute divorce, which terminates a legal marriage.
Although a limited divorce does not fully dissolve the marriage, this option may be preferable to some couples. A legal separation can provide some benefits in terms of taxes or health insurance, it can be an acceptable solution for those who practice a religion that does not accept absolute divorce and it may also be a good option if there is a chance of reconciliation in the future.
An absolute divorce may be contested or uncontested. The process for an uncontested divorce is the most straightforward, but the paperwork can still be time consuming and confusing. An experienced divorce attorney can save you the headache of dealing with the details of this task. Here are the typical steps for an uncontested divorce in Maryland:
The party who is requesting the divorce files a Complaint for Absolute Divorce and submits the forms to the country circuit court in which one of the parties lives or works.
The court issues a Writ of Summons.
The Writ of Summons and Complaint are “served” or delivered to the other party.
The party who was served files an Affidavit of Service with the court.
The party who was served has 30 days (or 60 days if they now live out of state) to file an Answer to the Complaint in which they will admit to or deny allegations made in the Complaint.
The court schedules a date for the divorce hearing. The party requesting the divorce is required to attend in order to answer questions about the Complaint, but generally the defendant is not required to attend.
Approximately three weeks following an uncontested divorce hearing, both parties will receive a stamped and dated Judgement of Absolute Divorce in the mail.
A contested divorce follows the first four steps outlined above, but because the parties are unable to agree or compromise, they must rely upon a divorce court judge to settle the dispute. In addition, when the defendant answers the Complaint, they may defend against allegations made in the Complaint or file counterclaims. Before a contested divorce goes to trial, there is a process called financial discovery as well as a number of conferences and filings. During financial discovery, both parties must reveal their full list of assets, which prevents either party from trying to hide assets in an effort to avoid splitting them. Contested divorces can be very lengthy and very costly compared to uncontested divorces. Sometimes, during the course of a contested divorce, both parties will finally reach an agreement on unresolved points. The resulting Settlement is a mutually binding agreement that takes the divorce out of court.
How is Property Divided in a Maryland Divorce?
Maryland classifies property into two categories when determining how to divide it up in a divorce: marital property and non-marital property. In general, property acquired during a marriage (vehicles, houses, jewelry, furniture, retirement plans and pensions, etc.) is considered marital property. The only exception is property gifted specifically to one spouse, such as inheritance or a personal gift of value. Property acquired before the marriage is considered non-marital property and is considered to belong to the spouse who acquired it. In the case of a contested divorce, in which the parties cannot reach an agreement on how to divide property, the court will determine what property is marital vs. non-marital and will then divide the marital property equitably according to Maryland’s Marital Property Act.
If I Have a Prenuptial Agreement Can My Divorce be Contested?
A prenuptial agreement outlines a division of property in the event of a divorce. This agreement goes into effect when a couple marries and is enforced in Maryland in a manner similar to that of any other contract. In order for the court to throw out a prenuptial agreement, the spouse who is challenging the agreement will have to show that it was signed under duress or coercion, or that there was fraud or incompetence involved.
How Can I Prevent My Divorce from Going to Trial?
The uncertainty and cost associated with a contested divorce that goes to trial can be extremely stressful. Generally, couples who are divorcing want to move on with their lives as quickly as possible. Some want the speed and lower cost associated with an uncontested divorce, but find they just can’t agree on everything up front. In the United States, more than 90% of divorce cases settle prior to going to trial – either by one party offering a settlement that the other accepts or through mediation. At Waldman, Grossfeld, Appel & Baer, we understand alternative dispute resolution and often facilitate mediation sessions in which both parties and their attorneys meet to discuss any remaining points of dispute. Each divorce is unique, and the solutions that work for one couple or family, may not work for another. It may take a few sessions for the group to reach a compromise that is acceptable to everyone involved. This process requires a little patience and the ability to be on civil terms with your spouse, but it can save you thousands of dollars and enable you to move forward with your life much sooner.
Waldman, Grossfeld Appel & Baer attorney and partner, Marc Baer has been mediating family law matters for over 20 years. He received training at the Harvard Law School and has been recognized by Thomson Reuters Super Lawyers® as being a leading attorney in the field of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). Marc has also been trained in the area of collaborative law, and provides representation for clients who seek to work collaboratively to resolve their cases. As a trained and certified Parent Coordinator, Marc also works with parents to reduce the effects conflict on the their child.
What is a Collaborative Divorce?
Similar to mediation, collaborative law is another approach that can be used to prevent a divorce from going to trial. Collaborative law is similar to mediation, except the attorneys guide and drive, rather than facilitate, the discussion and process. In a collaborative divorce, each spouse is represented by an attorney and all four individuals (both spouses and both attorneys) meet and negotiate together. Both collaborative divorce and mediation offer advantages, and the decision of which approach to pursue is really dependent on the circumstances of the case and the availability and individual preferences of each party. A collaborative divorce is less expensive and more efficient than litigation, but generally a little less so than mediation. Collaboration can provide structure when dealing with a spouse who is very disorganized and can also be helpful when a spouse is overbearing or antagonistic.
What is Arbitration?
According to the American Bar Association, “Arbitration is a private process where disputing parties agree that one or several individuals can make a decision about the dispute after receiving evidence and hearing arguments. Arbitration is different from mediation because the neutral arbitrator has the authority to make a decision about the dispute.”
Why Work with the Divorce Attorneys at Waldman, Grossfeld, Appel & Baer?
In addition to the emotional pain of a marriage that has ended, the financial toll can be tremendous. Spouses can lose their home, a large portion of their retirement savings and their salary. The divorce attorneys at Waldman, Grossfeld, Appel & Baer provide expert advice and access to valuation experts to assist with the division of property. We will help you negotiate a fair and amicable agreement with your spouse, but we will also aggressively fight to protect your best interests. We are experienced litigators, and have litigated hundreds of Maryland divorce trials.
Our divorce lawyers serve Baltimore and the surrounding areas including Pasadena, Rosedale, Reisterstown, Cambridge, Essex, Glen Burnie, Middle River, Perry Hall, Severna Park, Towson, Owings Mills, Westminster, Annapolis, Columbia, White Marsh, Ellicott City, Easton, Bel Air and more. Call 443-712-2529 or contact us today online for a consultation.
We offer compassionate and aggressive divorce legal representation. Call 443-712-2529 today.