How long must I live in Maryland or DC to file for a divorce?

When the grounds for divorce occurred in Maryland, just must be currently living in Maryland at the time you file the divorce paperwork. If the grounds for divorce occurred outside Maryland, then one of the parties had to live in Maryland for at least six months before filing a divorce complaint.

In DC a resident can file for divorce in DC if either party has been a resident of DC for six months before the date you file the divorce papers with the court.

Will my divorce be granted right away?

No typically a divorce is not granted right away. The Court procedures for conducting a contested divorce takes approximately 9-12 months, which means that the combined time until the divorce will conclude can be as long as two years from the date the parties separated.

If parties can resolve all marital issues and property by agreement, the parties can then proceed with an "uncontested" divorce. The Court procedure for this is simple, quick (often less than 90 days) and relatively inexpensive.

When should I contact a Maryland or DC divorce attorney?

A party should contact a Maryland and Divorce Attorney when you seriously considering getting a divorce and you want to know your options to protect yourself prior to filing

A party should also contact a divorce lawyer if you have been served with a copy of a complaint for absolute divorce.

Are there exceptions to a one-year separation requirement?

Yes, a one-year separation is the only "no fault" grounds for divorce in Maryland.

Yes, if there is a Divorce where the parties agree on the grounds for the actual divorce. Furthermore, if the parties can resolve all the issues relating to the marriage through a marriage settlement agreement. Parties can file under a mutual consent divorce.

There are also exceptions to get being separated for one year if you can prove those set of circumstances (ie: abuse, cruel and unusual treatment).

How do I go about serving my spouse in Maryland or DC?

Once the complaint has been filed with the court, the court clerk will issue a "Writ of Summons" along with a copy of the complaint. Both documents must be served on the other spouse.

"Service of process" means that the other spouse receives a copy of the divorce paperwork. By Delivering these documents your spouse will be provided the required notice that the divorce has been filed in the courts.

Under Maryland law, the responding spouse may be served by receiving a copy of the complaint and the writ of summons from the following:

  • any person over the age of 18, other the other spouse
  • the county sheriff where the defendant lives or works (the sheriff will charge a fee for this service), or
  • a private process server, that will charge a fee.

If any of the above methods of service are unsuccessful, then a party may need to ask the Court to serve the other spouse by certified mail, return receipt requested. This means that the post office will require that the other spouse sign for the copy and the serving spouse will receive proof of delivery with the return of the receipt, which is the green card.

Where do I file for a Divorce in MD and DC?

In Maryland a Divorce Complaint is filed in the Circuit Court for the County that has jurisdiction for the matter.

In DC, a Divorce Complaint is filed in the Superior Court for the District of Columbia.

Do I need a family law attorney for my divorce?

A contested case is expensive, stressful and time consuming. You certainly need legal assistance in conducting and presenting all the evidence needed to both obtain the divorce and resolve all the issues relating to any children as well as marital property.

However, there is another option. The parties can resolve all the issues relating to the marriage through a marital settlement agreement. They can decide not only issues relating to custody and child access, but also alimony, marital property, the marital home, and any other significant issue. That can result in a real time saving for the couple, as well as avoid a lot of unnecessary stress and expense. A lawyer can help you draft an agreement, and this method is relatively inexpensive.

What is collaborative practice?

A style of divorce that offers a spouse and partner the support, protection, and guidance form a lawyer and other selected professionals to guide them through the process without having to go use the court to litigate the process.

Child Custody

What is child custody?

In the state of Maryland and DC the law favor a joint custody arrangement between the parents of the child.

Parties with legal custody (decision-making authority) make short and long-term decisions about education, health, religion, care, welfare and other important areas. Physical custody (child access/visitation) refers to where children live and how much time they spend with each parent.

What factors do the courts take into consideration when deciding on child custody?

The Court must consider the unique facts and circumstances of each case in deciding what type of custody arrangement would serve the child's best interest.

The court must also look at the parents' ability to communicate and reach shared joint decisions.

Here are some factors judges consider, based on Maryland case law:

  • the fitness of each parent
  • the character and reputation of each parent
  • what each parent wants regarding custody and and agreements they have made
  • the possibility of maintaining family relationships
  • the child's preference (if old enough and mature enough to form an opinion)
  • the material opportunities each parent can offer affecting the child's future
  • the age, health, and sex of the child
  • the residences of each parent, including opportunities for visitation and geographic proximity of the parental homes
  • the length of the child's separation from the parent, and
  • whether either parent has voluntarily abandonment or surrendered the child. (Montgomery County v. Sanders, 38 Md. App. 406 (1978))