Although the result of a divorce is the same in all states—the marriage between two people is legally over—the requirements to obtain a divorce can vary greatly by state. What’s more, the procedures for filing for divorce can vary depending on the county within the state. No matter the grounds, if you are seeking to end your marriage, it is a stressful time. You can alleviate some of the stress by taking the time to understand the procedures for filing in your state and county before initiating divorce proceedings. In Baltimore, Maryland, there are two types of divorce; limited and absolute. A limited divorce is basically a legal separation, a stop gap measure used by couples that do not yet have the grounds for absolute divorce, but who need some sort of immediate legal order pertaining to issues like custody or finances. Most couples will want to file for absolute divorce, which is a permanent dissolution of marriage.
Meet All Requirements to File for Divorce in Maryland
Before initiating absolute divorce proceedings in a Baltimore County divorce court, make sure you qualify for one of the seven grounds for divorce recognized by Maryland statute. The Grounds for Absolute Divorce are:
- One-year separation. This is a no-fault ground for divorce, which can only be sought after the couple has lived apart for one year.
- Mutual consent. The other no-fault basis, which may be granted if the couple has a written settlement agreement resolving all issues related to alimony, property and children.
- Actual or Constructive Desertion. Choose desertion if your spouse either physically left the marriage or because of persistently cruel and vicious treatment, constructively left the marriage. The desertion must have occurred at least 12 months before you file the complaint.
- Criminal Conviction of a Felony or Misdemeanor. You may choose this option if your spouse has served 12 months or more of at least a three-year criminal sentence.
- Cruelty/Excessively Vicious Conduct. This option will be granted if your spouse’s cruel and excessively vicious conduct against you and/or your minor child has made it impossible to continue the marriage.
- Insanity. Insanity is grounds for divorce if your spouse was or has been committed to a mental institution for at least three years.
Additionally, you must meet residency requirements for filing. Either you or your spouse must be a resident of Maryland for at least one year before you file.
Filing for Divorce in Baltimore County Divorce Court
In Maryland, a divorce is initiated by filing a Complaint for Absolute Divorce in the circuit court county where you live or in the county where your spouse lives or works. The Circuit Court for Baltimore County in Towson, Maryland is where residents of Baltimore County should go to start the divorce process. You can obtain all necessary Baltimore County divorce forms, including the Complaint for Absolute Divorce, on the Maryland Courts website. Depending on what you are asking for in the divorce, you will need to include additional forms with your complaint. For example, if you are seeking child support, alimony or property to be divided, you must include a General Financial Statement.
You also must pay a filing fee with the complaint. As of October 2018, the Baltimore County divorce filing fee is $165. The fee must be paid to the Circuit Court clerk before the court opens your case. If you can’t afford the filing fees, you may request a waiver by filing a Request for Waiver of Prepaid Costs form with your divorce complaint.
What Happens After Filing for Divorce in Baltimore, Maryland
After filing the complaint, the Circuit Court clerk will issue a Writ of Summons and give you a copy of the complaint, both of which you need to serve on your spouse within 60 days. You cannot just give the forms to your spouse; instead, service in Maryland can be done through a third party over the age of 18, the county sheriff, or certified U.S. Mail with a return receipt with restricted delivery (this must be mailed by a third party). You must submit an affidavit of service to the court.
After service, your spouse will file an Answer to the complaint and you both must submit financial statements. Once each side’s papers are filed and served, the court will set a scheduling conference to put dates and deadlines on the calendar, including a trial date. Following the hearing and the resolution of all issues, the court will issue an Absolute Divorce Decree, which fully dissolves the marriage.