Maryland Divorce Basics

Learn the basics of a divorce, or dissolution of marriage, in Maryland.

This article explains how to get a divorce in Maryland. The laws explained here also apply to same-sex couples who were legally married in another state and wish to divorce in Maryland.

Grounds for Divorce

You may ask for a no fault divorce based on irreconcilable differences if you and your spouse agree that your marriage cannot be saved. Alternatively, you may file for divorce based on adultery, your spouse's felony conviction, cruelty, or desertion.  It’s much easier to use no fault divorce procedures, so you’ll probably choose that unless you want to argue for a greater share of property based on fault.  

Residency Requirement and Waiting Period

You may file for divorce in the county where either spouse lives. But if the grounds for divorce occurred outside the state, you must be a state resident for at least one year before you can file for divorce. If both spouses agree to the divorce, the court may enter a decree of divorce after a one year waiting period.

Property Division

Maryland is an equitable distribution state. This means the court will distribute property acquired during the marriage to each spouse in a fair, but not necessarily equal, way. The judge will look at various factors to determine how to divide the property, including the length of the marriage, how the property was acquired and its value, and each spouse's occupation and economic circumstances. "Property" includes personal possessions, real property (your home), and income.  Also, property acquired before marriage or after separation is considered the separate property of the spouse who acquired it. You and your spouse can agree on how to divide your property and enter into a written settlement; if you can’t agree, you may need a judge to divide your property.    

Alimony

Maine courts may award alimony to either spouse. The judge considers the length of the marriage, each spouse's age, mental, physical condition, financial needs, and financial resources when making an alimony order. If one spouse needs education or training to become self-supporting, the judge may order the other spouse to contribute to these costs. Alimony payments end automatically if the recipient spouse remarries or either spouse dies.    To modify a permanent alimony award, the person requesting the modification must show that circumstances have changed so substantially that the current order is no longer appropriate.

Child Support

Child support in Maryland is based on the combined amount of both parents' incomes and continues until the child reaches age 19 or graduates high school. The court may alter the amount of child support to account for health insurance, medical or educational expenses, and child care costs. You can estimate your child support obligation  here. To modify a child support order, you must show that circumstances (financial, medical, or educational) have changed significantly. The  Maryland Department of Human Resources  and Child Support Enforcement Offices ensure parents are meeting their support obligations.

Child Custody

Maryland courts makes custody orders based on the best interests of the child and without taking into consideration the age or sex of either parent. The judge may award sole custody to one parent or joint custody to both parents. Though each situation is unique, judges consider various factors when making a custody determination including the child's relationship with each parent, the parents' character and fitness to raise a child, the preference of the child, and the potential disruption to the child's school or home life. Once an order is in place, it can be modified if both parents agree or if circumstances change. If you wish to move to another state with your child, you must provide written notice to the court and other party at least 90 days before your intended move.

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