MARYLAND DIVORCE 101
STEP 1: Residency?
**In Maryland if the grounds for divorce occurred outside of Maryland, one of the spouses must have lived in Maryland for at least one year prior to filing for divorce**
The divorce may be filed for in a county where either spouse resides, or where the spouse being sued works.
STEP 2: Grounds for Divorce
1. There are 2 types of divorce in Maryland: A limited divorce and an absolute divorce.
2. A limited divorce specifies certain rights and obligations of the parties, but does not provide for final division of property, including such things as pension and retirement funds, and does not permit remarriage.
3. An absolute divorce terminates the marriage and determines all rights and obligations of the parties, including final division of property. A limited divorce may be granted on the following grounds:
Cruelty of treatment toward a spouse or a minor child,
Excessively vicious conduct,
STEP 3: The Separation Agreement
This document, known as a settlement or separation agreement, fixes the rights and responsibilities of the two parties between each other. It is a binding contract between the two parties, which can generally be enforced by appropriate court action. Generally, once an agreement between the parties is validly executed, it cannot be modified. An exception to this exists in matters concerning child custody and child support; the court always retains jurisdiction over these issues and can modify an agreement or prior court order if circumstances have changed and modification is in the child’s best interest.
STEP 4: Alimony
Alimony is payment for support of a spouse. Under the law of Maryland, either party may claim alimony from the other. The fact that the party seeking alimony may be guilty of some ground for divorce does not prevent an award of alimony to that party. Courts are required to consider many factors in determining the award and amount of alimony.
STEP 5: Marital Property
Marital property is defined as all property acquired by either or both parties during their marriage. It does not include property acquired prior to the marriage, property acquired by inheritance or gift from a third party or property excluded by valid agreement or property traceable to any of these sources. Real estate titled in both names is marital property no matter who owned it before the marriage. Whether or not alimony is awarded, a court may still rule on the distribution of marital property.
It is important to bear in mind that the court does not have the power to change the title to property, except for the marital home, pensions and retirement funds, but may adjust the rights of the parties by giving a monetary award.
STEP 6: Child Support / Custody
Courts have always given the highest priority to the needs of children in divorce proceedings. Each party has a responsibility for the support of a minor child or children. Child support guidelines are used by the court to determine the amount of child support. Child support awards are primarily based on the gross incomes of the parties and the overnights that each child spends with a parent in a year.
Maryland courts award custody of the minor children to one or both parties according to what is in the best interest of the children. If the physical custody is awarded to one party, visitation rights will generally be granted to the other party. Long term decision making power regarding the child, or legal custody, may be awarded to either party separately or to the parties jointly.
The divorce procedure can be a stressful and emotional process, please contact the law office of Adam Habibi for a free consultation and make steps to solve this process in a smooth and organized manner.