Do-It-Yourself Divorce in Maryland
If you are looking to file for divorce in Maryland, what procedures does the state require? Is getting a divorce in Maryland easier when done online?
This article will discuss the procedure of getting a DIY divorce in Maryland and the benefits of using an online divorce service.
The type of divorce
First, you will need to establish which type of divorce you will be having.
In Maryland, you can file for an absolute divorce or a limited divorce. Although both cover the same matters, there is a distinct difference.
An absolute divorce is what you would typically think of when hearing the word ‘divorce’. It legally ends your marriage, and you are again ‘single.’ After finalization, you may remarry your ex-spouse or find a new one.
A limited divorce is limited in terms of its capacity to end your marriage legally. It does not legally end your marriage. Instead, it serves to settle vital outstanding issues between you and your spouse, such as child custody and finances.
Maryland does not recognize the term or practice of legal separation. If you and your spouse have lived apart to end your marriage and have not engaged in sexual intercourse with each other, this constitutes separation. Depending on the length of your separation, it may be used to determine a legal reason.
The reason for a divorce, known as legal grounds, often determines which type of divorce you will get. In Maryland, you need to provide at least one reason for filing for divorce.
If you and your spouse are on the same terms and mutually desire to follow through with the divorce process, you may file for a no-fault divorce, which is usually an absolute divorce. In this case, both of you will be required to complete a settlement agreement.
Other reasons contributing to filing for an absolute divorce may include: your spouse has committed adultery, has been imprisoned for committing a crime, or suffers from insanity.
In the case of a limited divorce, separation, cruelty, excessively vicious behavior, and desertion constitute its grounds.
If you are unsure whether or not your grounds are sufficient or what your grounds are classified as do not hesitate to consult with a licensed Maryland attorney.
If you are requesting the divorce, you are known as the plaintiff or petitioner. You will need to complete the Complaint for Absolute Divorce and Civil Domestic Case Information Report.
After completing these documents, you will file them in the circuit court in the county where either you or your spouse lives. Be sure to keep an extra copy for yourself.
Next, the court clerk will issue “Writ of Summons” with a copy of the plaintiff’s complaint. Both of these must be “served” on the defendant, also known as the respondent.
Providing the defendant with a copy of the initial complaint is called “service of process.” Once completed, proof of service must be provided to the court. To “serve” the defendant spouse with these documents, certain conditions need to be met.
The person providing the defendant with these documents should be at least 18 years of age and should be someone other than the plaintiff. The defendant may also receive these documents through the county sheriff where the defendant works or lives or through a private process server (note that both will charge a fee for their services).
If you cannot use the aforementioned methods, you may ask the court’s permission to send the defendant these documents through certified mail. A return receipt will be requested.
In this case, the post office only needs the defendant’s signature, and the plaintiff will receive the proof of delivery with the return receipt, which is a green card.
If you cannot locate your spouse due to them being in the military or jail, you may ask the court’s approval for an alternative method such as publishing the notice of your divorce in the local newspaper.
Once the defendant has received the documents, they must “Answer” them by admitting or denying/agreeing to the statements made by the plaintiff. If the respondent and plaintiff agree on every divorce-related issue, they can get an uncontested divorce.
The defendant has a limited time to “Answer” or respond. In Maryland, they should reply within 30 days, but if they are located outside the state or country, they may have 60 days to 90 days.
Remember to mail all the copies of the filing to the court and inform the court by completing the Certificate of Service section at the end of the Answer or Counter-Complaint form. If you cannot afford the filing fee, you may request a waiver.
In the case of child custody and/or alimony, the judge will depend on your financial statements to make child and spousal support orders. For this reason, you and your spouse must both complete financial statements, including each spouse’s assets, liabilities, income and expenditures, joint property, and debts.
Where to find the papers
You can find all the needed divorce papers mentioned above on the Maryland Courts website, along with other information on the Maryland Courts Family Law Self-Help Center page.
If you prefer to go a 100% DIY path, you can manually fill out all the forms. However, if you have no legal background, it can be pretty challenging.
Another option for completing divorce paperwork is online divorce.
Online divorce or internet divorce is a term used to refer to uncontested divorce forms preparation. It’s an easy, fast, and affordable way to get your documents prepared.
The process is straightforward. First, you will determine your eligibility, i.e., confirm that your divorce is uncontested. Next, you fill out a questionnaire, and then you’ll get completed papers. Just print, sign, and file them with the court.
This option saves a lot of time because you can get ready-to-file papers, usually in two business days. It also saves money because you don’t need to waste money paying legal fees. And, of course, it reduces the stress of divorce paperwork significantly.