The complexity and length of time for your divorce depends primarily on whether you have a written agreement that resolves all of the issues pertaining to your marriage and divorce including, but not limited to, division of marital assets, alimony (or lack thereof), child custody and child support (if you have a child or children with your spouse), and division of retirement and pension accounts to the extent that they were accumulated during your marriage.
Maryland has passed laws that allow married couples to file for divorce while they live together provided that they meet the requirements of obtaining a divorce under Mutual Consent. This significantly cuts down the attorney’s fees, litigation costs, and the length of time necessary to finalize your divorce. For further discussion of Mutual Consent and its requirements please see https://www.kamkarilaw.com/mutual-consent-maryland/ If you have a written agreement and can meet the requirements of Mutual Consent you can expect to finalize your divorce in a matter of weeks in Maryland. Without an agreement, the length of time to finalize your divorce will depend on how many unresolved issues remain pending between you and your spouse and the grounds for divorce. Keep in mind that you do not have to file for divorce before you can start negotiating, reaching and/or signing an agreement with your spouse.
In Maryland, the legal process of obtaining a divorce starts with one of the parties filing a complaint for divorce (depending on your case you may have to file a financial statement with the court as well). The circuit courts in Maryland also have an Information Report that should be filled out and filed with the court along with the complaint for divorce. After the proper filing of the complaint for divorce, the court issues a writ of summons. The party who filed for divorce, the plaintiff, is then required to serve the other party with the complaint for divorce and the accompanying documents and the writ of summon that is issued by the court. There are rules and regulations regarding the service of process that should be strictly adhered to including, but not limited to, the requirement that the plaintiff cannot be the person who serves the defendant spouse. Upon completion of service of process on the defendant, s/he will have to file an answer to the complaint for divorce (and file their own Information Report and financial statement if required). Depending on where the defendant was served, in Maryland, another U.S. State, or a foreign country, there are different time tables for the defendant to file their answer with the Court. But if the defendant fails to file a timely answer they could be subject to a default order and/or default judgment which means that the court will make decisions without the defendant’s input and/or participation in litigation.
In addition to the service of the complaint for divorce and writ of summons, the plaintiff can serve the defendant with “discovery,” which are various legal tools to obtain documents and information from the defendant and third parties. However, discovery does not have to be served along with the complaint for divorce and writ of summons and it can be done at later stages of litigation so long as it is within the deadlines set by the court at your Scheduling Hearing. The defendant is also entitled to conduct discovery once they are served with the court documents, regardless of the whether the plaintiff serves the defendant with discovery or not. There are many discovery tools such as interrogatories, request for production of documents, request for admissions, depositions, depositions duces tecum, etc that we utilize to collect information and documents regarding the case. These discovery tools are not available without first starting a case in Maryland courts.
Depending on the pending issues (if you do not have an agreement), you can expect to have a few or several hearings and trials if those issues are not resolved by agreement during the pendency of your case. In many cases, the parties settle their unresolved issues during the pendency of their litigation. If they are not resolved by agreement, then you will have to appear in court, offer evidence and witnesses, and try to persuade the court to rule in your favor. Even if all the issues are resolved by agreement, depending on the grounds for divorce, at least one party or both have to appear for their final divorce hearing before the court enters a judgment for divorce if you prove to the court’s satisfaction that you meet all the elements of obtaining divorce in Maryland. And please be mindful of the fact that the courts in Maryland are unlikely to enter a judgment of divorce without first having resolved any child custody, visitation, and child support issues.
Have a Strong Advocate on Your Side!
A. Shane Kamkari, Esq.