How to Divorce in Maryland

Three Parts:Taking Care of Preliminary IssuesFiling for DivorceFinalizing Your Divorce

Divorce is potentially a long, complicated, and confusing process for all parties involved. However, pursuing a divorce without regard to who is at fault can speed up the process and eliminate some of the complications. If you think that you can come to an agreement on custody, support, and division of assets, it might pay off for you and your spouse to learn more about the process of a no-fault divorce in Maryland.

Part 1
Taking Care of Preliminary Issues

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    Be sure this is what you want. Divorce is a serious legal proceeding that dissolves the marriage contract between two people. Most of the obligations, rights, and privileges that arose from that contract are permanently terminated. All divorces, even uncontested divorces, cost significant amounts of time and money. Therefore, a divorce proceeding is not something to enter into lightly. Have a serious and frank discussion with your spouse to make sure that a divorce is something you really want.
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    Make sure you want a no-fault divorce. Traditionally, fault had to be attributed to one of the spouses in order for a divorce to be granted. These grounds for divorce included adultery, cruelty, abandonment, criminality, or insanity. In Maryland today, these are all viable grounds for divorce, and if you can prove any one of them, you may get a more favorable division of property and/or custody than if you were to file on no-fault grounds.[1] However, you also have to option or pursuing a no fault divorce, which dissolves the marriage contract without assigning fault to either party. This usually makes for a quicker process.[2]
    • In order to prove any of these allegations for a divorce based on fault, you would need to introduce evidence of them. Therefore, if you intend to pursue a divorce which assigns fault to one party, you should use the services of an attorney.
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    Make sure that you qualify. In order to qualify for divorce, you need to have been a resident of Maryland for one year prior to filing, and will need to affirm as much on the form you submit with the court. You must have maintained residence continuously for the year. For instance, if you were a resident of Maryland for six months, established residency in Georgia for another six months, and then established residency in Maryland for another six months, you would not have qualified.[3][4]
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    Decide that you qualify for an absolute divorce. Maryland has two types of divorce, absolute divorce, and limited divorce. An absolute divorce is what most people think of when they think of a divorce. A limited divorce is very similar to what in other states is called a legal separation.[5]
    • In an absolute divorce the marriage contract is fully dissolved, common property is divided, alimony is assigned, and custody, support, and visitation arrangements are hammered out. In order to qualify for an absolute divorce, you need to have been separated without sexual contact from your spouse continuously for one year.[6][7]
    • In contrast, a limited divorce does not require a year of separation. Separation without sexual relations for any length of time is sufficient. Property remains undivided, but visitation and custody arrangements are settled temporarily.[8][9]
    • If you file for a limited divorce with the intention of obtaining an absolute divorce later, you must understand that you are still legally married while the limited divorce is in effect. You may not have sexual relations with someone else without it technically constituting adultery. If your spouse can prove that you did, they can file for a divorce assigning fault to you, which could entitle them to a more favorable divorce settlement.[10]

Part 2
Filing for Divorce

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    Find the proper forms. A list of all types of forms relating to Maryland family law is available at The divorce forms themselves are available in the second section from the top. Based on your circumstances, you could also need to fill out several financial forms, including:
    • The Joint Statement of Marital Property (DR33).
    • Financial Statement (DR30 or DR31).
    • Child Support Guidelines Worksheets (DR34 or DR35).
    • You may want to have documents like W-2s, insurance policies, deeds to real estate, car titles, and bills for tuition, medical bills, and childcare available to fill out the forms more quickly and accurately.
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    Meet with your spouse. Once you've found and printed the forms, you need to meet with you spouse and fill them out. In the alternative, if you and your spouse are not comfortable meeting, fill out what you can and send the partially filled out forms to your spouse so they can fill them out. This is a very important step, as this is when you will discover what issues, if any, are contested.
    • If you find that you and your spouse are in disagreement about many major issues, you need to seriously consider enlisting the services of a mediator, and failing that, a competent attorney. For help choosing a divorce lawyer, read this great wikiHow article: Resolving these issues oftentimes requires more than simply stating a case, it requires introducing evidence. The procedures for submitting evidence can require more knowledge than a layman will possess.
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    Fill out the Civil Domestic Case Information Report. The Civil Domestic Case Information Report (DCIR) is a form which describes the rough outlines of your case for the court. It tells the names and addresses of the parties, whether they will need the services of an interpreter or the accommodation of a disability, and the names and addresses of any attorneys involved in the case.[11] It also lets the court know which issues, if any, are contested before the court. This is why you need to fill it out last.
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    Decide where you want to file. For administrative purposes, it's probably best to file in the county where your spouse (the defendant, or respondent) resides. If for some reason you can't do that, file in your county.
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    File the forms. The spouse that initiated the divorce (the plaintiff, or petitioner) will have to file all the above forms and pay the filing fee (check with your county clerk's office as it differs by locality). For a copy of state filing fees, look at the information contained at, on the Maryland State Courts website. The clerk will then give you a completed Writ of Summons. Hold onto this, because you need it for the next step.
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    Serve your spouse. You need to serve your spouse, or furnish them copies, with all the forms you filed with the court. In addition, your spouse needs to sign and complete the Writ of Summons and send it back to you. You need to have a disinterested third party personally hand-deliver the forms to your spouse. After successful delivery, the person that did the "serving" will have to fill out the Affidavit of Service form (CCDR55).[12] Make sure that you get the completed Affidavit of Service form (CCDR55).
    • There are people called process servers who, for a fee, serve court papers professionally. If you can afford it, you should enlist the help of a process server. That way, your spouse can't say that the person who served them wasn't a "disinterested third party."
    • If you cannot find your spouse, or your spouse is in another state, ask the judge about alternatives. They will usually allow you to execute service through certified mail or through publication. For more information, read this article about how to serve court papers.

Part 3
Finalizing Your Divorce

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    File the remaining documents. Return to the same clerk's office where you filed the original papers and file the Affidavit (CCDR55). This proves to the court that your spouse was served.
    • The Affidavit will ask you to verify the fact that your spouse was served.[13] You will also need to tell the court what documents you served on your spouse and who specifically you served (e.g., the spouse, their attorney, someone at their place of business).[14]
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    Await your spouse's response. Your spouse needs to complete, sign, and file the Civil Domestic Case Information Report (DCIR), the Answer (CCDR50), and Financial Statement (DR30 or DR31). Your spouse should then serve you with copies of the documents that they filed with the court via certified mail. They should fill out the Certificate of Service form (DR58) to show the court that they did so. [15] The answer will ask your spouse for the following:
    • A denial or acceptance of the divorce petition. Your spouse will have an opportunity to deny any or all of the claims you made in your petition for divorce, or he or she will have the opportunity to accept what was said and finalize the divorce.
    • Separate property. Your spouse will have the opportunity to list the property that he or she considers to be separate, and therefore not allocatable upon divorce.
    • A prayer. A prayer is another term for a request. This simply asks the court to believe the statements made in the answer and rule in favor of the spouse filing the answer.
    • A certificate of service. Once your spouse files this answer, he or she will have to give you or your attorney a copy so you can see it and respond to it.
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    Schedule a court hearing. Fill out the Request for Hearing or Proceeding (CCDR59). If you and your spouse have worked out the issues in dispute already, check the box for "uncontested hearing." If you still have issues to resolve, then check the box for "trial on the merits." If for some reason you need to work out an issue of support or custody prior to the trial (usually during a period of separation), check the box for "pendente lite hearing" (pendente lite means "pending litigation" in Latin).[16] You will be given a court hearing date from the clerk's office.[17]
    • If you have enlisted the services of an attorney, they will, of course, take care of this and most other filings. They will also usually request a scheduling hearing.
    • If you need a pendente lite hearing, then you should also request a scheduling hearing. You will need to file a different copy of the same form (just check the box for scheduling hearing) and file it with the clerk.
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    Go to the hearing or trial. The final step in ending your marriage is the divorce hearing. If your divorce is uncontested, the judge will simply look over the uncontested complaint and issue a decree based on it. If the divorce is contested, a judge will hear both sides and decide how to end the marriage, including how to split up property and child custody rights. The judge's decisions will be formalized in the divorce decree and the judge will sign it.
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    Obey the divorce decree. In Maryland, a divorce decree can, and usually will, cover alimony, custody, child support, division of property, and the use of last names.[18] When the judge issues your absolute divorce decree, you will be required to follow it. Disobeying a court order can lead to fines and potential jail time.
    • For example, if you are required to pay $500.00 per month in child support, you will need to do so. If you are required to pay your spouse $500.00 per month in alimony, you will need to do so.

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Categories: Divorce