In Maryland, marriage has traditionally been considered as a pious institution and the divorce laws have always been framed with the objective of maintaining the sanctity of the marriage. Going back in history, one can clearly see that the courts in Maryland granted divorce only where the fault was involved on the part of one of the spouses or separation of a particular period of time was shown. At one point, the non-mutual separation was allowed as a ground for divorce, the required period of separation was five years.
With the passage of time, the period of separation required to be shown has been significantly reduced but it is popular public opinion that even today proving this separation period is quite difficult. The new statute enacted in 2018 provides grounds for divorce while at the same time protecting the minor children. This statute indicates that the parties intending to dissolve bonds of matrimony may file for dissolve bonds of matrimony without showing the required separation period if their separation is mutual and they have entered into a written agreement. This written agreement should primarily focus on safeguarding the best interests of the children. Some important clauses that an agreement of this nature should contain are how important decisions involving the child will be taken and by whom, how the parties would divide their time with the children and how the parties plan to meet the educational, emotional and monetary needs of the children. This agreement should also contain clauses pertaining to the division of marital property; alimony / spousal support, if applicable; and child custody, access, and support, if the couple shares minor children
For filing a ending of the marriage are all variations in Maryland, one should have strong grounds to do so. Further, the cause for the dissolve bonds of matrimony must have occurred in Maryland or one of the parties to the dissolution of marriage should reside in Maryland for one year before such filing. In a No-Fault divorce, there is no ground for divorce. Maryland law requires proof of 2 years of separation without interruption. To prove separation one has to show that the parties did not cohabit with each other and there is no expectation of reconciliation. The law also requires that the parties intended the separation to be permanent with the intention of ending the marriage. In most cases, the parties sign a divorce settlement agreement to prove that the separation was voluntary.
Once this important step of signing the dissolve bonds of matrimony settlement agreement is done, one of the parties may initiate the dissolve bonds of matrimony process. The party who begins the process by filing a complaint is legally called the Plaintiff and the party against whom the complaint is filed is the Defendant. The contents of the complaint include the personal details of the parties such as their names, addresses, employment details, dates of birth, names, and ages of children if any and lastly the grounds of the divorce. For a No-Fault divorce, the ground is 2-year separation. At the end of the complaint, the plaintiff clearly states the relief requested as prayer.
After filing the complaint, the Plaintiff serves the Defendant spouse the complaint. Such complaint is generally served on the other party by using the certified mail or private server.
A No-Fault divorce complaint is filed in a package that includes a summons which is the court’s order to provide a reply to the Plaintiff’s Complaint and a civil domestic information report filed by the Plaintiff and another blank civil domestic information report. After sending the package to the defendant spouse, the Plaintiff obtains the Affidavit of Service, which is proof that the package has been received by the Defendant and he/ she has thus been notified of the dissolution of marriage process.
If the defendant is a resident of Maryland, he/she should file an answer within 30 days of receiving the summons. In cases where the defendant is not a resident of Maryland, the Defendant should file an answer to the complaint of dissolve bonds of matrimony within 90 days from the date of receiving the summons. The contents of the answer the complaint includes the Defendant spouse’s admission or denial of the grounds for divorce set out in the complaint of divorce by the Plaintiff.
In some cases, the defendant fails to file a timely answer to the complaint for divorce. If such an answer is not received, the Plaintiff should take all necessary steps to locate the spouse who is missing.
Steps to search for the missing spouse includes sending the documents by certified mail to the last known address of the missing spouse, sending letters about the missing spouse to all his/her friends and relatives, neighbors, employers, and colleagues. If there is a need, one may even hire a private investigator to find the missing spouse. The plaintiff may also take efforts to search the missing spouse by searching through telephone directories to access any contact number that would lead to the missing spouse.
Other techniques that would help the plaintiff in searching for the missing spouse would be motor vehicle administration search, military service locator or contacting the Child Support Enforcement Agency.
Even if these steps do not lead to the identification of the missing spouse, the Plaintiff should try to serve by publication. After all these efforts, if the Plaintiff is unable to find the missing spouse, then the Plaintiff may request the grant of divorce for default and an uncontested divorce hearing date is set.
In such a hearing, the Defendant’s presence does not make any difference. At times both parties jointly file for an uncontested divorce hearing. In such hearings, a family law master hears the case. While the presence of the Plaintiff in such hearings in mandatory, the presence of the Defendant is not compulsory. At the end of the hearing, the divorce decree that is awarded is based entirely on the opinions of the family law master. The divorce decree so granted is signed and mailed to both parties in some time.
Important forms that the parties need to submit for the uncontested divorce hearing are as follows:
The absolute divorce report
- A copy of the marriage certificate
- Child Support Guidelines
- Witness Identification Information
- Divorce Settlement Agreement
- Submission to Judgment, which waives the right of appeal
- Basic Forms
In cases involving children, additional documents need to be submitted.
Difference between fault and no-fault divorces in Maryland
When a divorce involves grounds for divorce, it is considered a fault divorce. The various grounds for divorce include cruelty, desertion, conviction of certain crimes, insanity, adultery, and excessively vicious conduct.
Grounds for absolute divorce in Maryland
(a) The court may decree an absolute divorce on the following grounds:
(2) desertion, if:
(i) the desertion has continued for 12 months without interruption before the filing of the application for divorce;
(ii) the desertion is deliberate and final; and
(iii) there is no reasonable expectation of reconciliation;
(3) conviction of a felony or misdemeanor in any state or in any court of the United States if before the filing of the application for divorce the defendant has:
(i) been sentenced to serve at least 3 years or an indeterminate sentence in a penal institution; and
(ii) served 12 months of the sentence;
(4) 12-month separation, when the parties have lived separate and apart without cohabitation for 12 months without interruption before the filing of the application for divorce;
(5) insanity if:
(i) the insane spouse has been confined in a mental institution, hospital, or other similar institution for at least 3 years before the filing of the application for divorce;
(ii) the court determines from the testimony of at least 2 physicians who are competent in psychiatry that the insanity is incurable and there is no hope of recovery; and
(iii) 1 of the parties has been a resident of this State for at least 2 years before the filing of the application for divorce;
(6) the cruelty of treatment toward the complaining party or a minor child of the complaining party, if there is no reasonable expectation of reconciliation;
(7) excessively vicious conduct toward the complaining party or a minor child of the complaining party, if there is no reasonable expectation of reconciliation; or
(8) mutual consent, if:
(i) the parties execute and submit to the court a written settlement agreement signed by both parties that resolves all issues relating to:
- the distribution of property, including the relief provided in §§ 8-205 and 8-208 of this article; and
- the care, custody, access, and support of minor or dependent children;
(ii) the parties attach to the settlement agreement a completed child support guidelines worksheet if the settlement agreement provides for the payment of child support;
(iii) neither party files a pleading to set aside the settlement agreement prior to the divorce hearing required under the Maryland Rules; and
(iv) after reviewing the settlement agreement, the court is satisfied that any terms of the agreement relating to minor or dependent children are in the best interests of those children.
For divorce cases in Maryland, adultery is generally proven by circumstantial evidence, there is no need for proof of the commission of the act. Circumstantial evidence that is proof of adultery includes proof that the act of adultery was committed and there existed an opportunity to commit it.
Under Maryland law, if a spouse leaves the marital home for a continuous period of 12 months and if it can be proved that the desertion was willful with no possibility of reconciliation, then the divorce can be filed on the ground of desertion.
In the context of divorce in Maryland being without cohabitation means living separate and apart and not being involved in a sexual relationship with the other party.
In some cases, deserting the marriage can be justified. In circumstances where the acts of one party contributed to the act of desertion by the other party, there is legal justification for deserting the marriage. This situation is termed as constructive desertion under Maryland law. Acts that may compel one party to desert the marriage include acts that cause fear to life and self-respect of the other party. For any act to be considered constructive desertion, the spouse causing fear to the other spouse must repeatedly indulge in behavior that is harmful to the life of the threatened spouse. In cases involving constructive desertion, the spouse who leaves the marital home out of fear for life contends that the other spouse has caused the desertion.
Maryland law states both physical and mental abuse is considered cruelty for the purpose of dissolution of marriage. Mental abuse includes verbal and physical abuse. Recent cases have extended the meaning of mental torture to include acts of isolating one party from his/her known circle, all types of controlling behavior is considered mental cruelty and is considered a valid ground for divorce in Maryland. All acts of violence and any other act that is aimed at disturbing the peace of the spouse is considered violence and may form a ground for divorce.
If you need the help of a Maryland No Fault Divorce Lawyer for a Maryland no fault divorce, call us at 888-437-7747. Our Maryland no fault divorce attorneys are here to help you. C