Filing For Divorce 101: Where Do I Even Start?

filing for divorce in maryland

When it comes to divorce filing, there are few things more daunting than simply starting the process. In many cases, people would rather stay miserably married to the wrong person rather than go through the hassle of figuring it out. Fortunately, divorce paperwork is not as complex as you might think, especially when you enlist the help of a trusted attorney.

What to Bring to a Divorce Consultation

Let’s assume that you have gone to the trouble of scheduling an appointment with a Maryland divorce attorney. They will likely ask you to bring an assortment of papers that will both establish the validity of your marriage and the grounds for its dissolution. This may include:

  • Marriage certificate
  • Any motions you have already filed or that have been filed against you
  • Your last tax return
  • Pay stubs for the last three months
  • In Maryland, you must be living separate and apart from your spouse for 12 months before a divorce can be granted. If you and your spouse are already living apart, please bring address information for both of you.
  • You may be eligible for a divorce without being separated for 12 months if there are “fault grounds” for the divorce such as adultery, insanity and commitment to a mental institution, cruelty, or vicious or violent conduct. If there is evidence of any of these fault grounds, you will want to bring that to your initial consultation as well.

You will also want to bring a list of questions you might have about the divorce process. As you think about them between now and your initial consultation, jot them down in a notebook and bring the notebook with you.

What You Need to Do to File

To start divorce proceedings, the plaintiff spouse (the one filing for divorce) needs to file a “Complaint for Absolute Divorce” and “Civil Domestic Case Information Report” forms with the circuit court in the county where they live. There is a fee associated with filing this paperwork, but it may be waived if the plaintiff spouse also files a fee waiver form. Once the paperwork has been accepted by the court, the clerk will issue a “Writ of Summons” and a copy of the complaint which will be given, or served, to the defendant spouse.

Once the defendant spouse has received divorce paperwork they will have up to 90 days to file their Answer; depending on where they live, in-state versus out of state. In addition to filing an Answer, you may choose to file a Counter Complaint. The answer simply admits to or denies any statements in the initial complaint, a counter complain gives the defendant a chance to state grounds that are different from what the plaintiff provided.

How Long does it Take to File for Divorce?

In Maryland, most divorces take 6 to 12 months to be finalized. It all depends on how contested the divorce will be. No one should navigate this process alone. A qualified divorce attorney can offer help and advice when you need it most. Call Jaimee C. McDowell today to discuss your case.