Divorce – State FAQ – Maine
Residency requirements, venue and procedures
Q: How long must I have lived in Maine prior to filing for divorce in an Maine court?
A: Maine requires that at least one of the parties to the action for divorce be a resident of the state or, the plaintiff must have in good faith resided in Maine for a period of at least six months prior to the filing of the complaint.
Q: What are the terms used to identify the parties in a divorce proceeding?
A: The party filing the action is called the Plaintiff, while the other party to the divorce is referred to as the Defendant.
Q: What is “venue,” and what is the proper venue for a divorce case?
A: “Venue” refers to which type of court the case is filed in. In Maine, proper venue for the divorce action is the District Court.
Q: What is the title of the document initiating the action for divorce? The order granting the divorce?
A: The title of the document initiating the divorce proceeding is a Complaint for Divorce, while the title of the order granting the divorce is referred to as the Judgment of Divorce.
Grounds for divorce
Q: What is meant by “grounds for divorce”?
A: A “ground” for divorce is a “reason” for divorce. A set of judicially recognized reasons for divorce exist in Maine. You must use one or more of these reasons to justify your divorce.
Q: What are the recognized grounds for divorce in Maine?
A: A divorce may be granted in the State of Maine based upon the following grounds:
3. Extreme cruelty;
4. Utter desertion for a period of three consecutive years immediately prior to the commencement of the action;
6. Cruel and abusive treatment;
7. Mental illness and confinement to a mental institution for a period of seven years; and,
8. Irreconcilable differences is the no-fault grounds for divorce in the State of Maine.
Q: What does the term “spousal support” (or, “alimony”) mean?
A: “Spousal support” (sometimes called “alimony”) is money paid by one spouse to the other due to the payee spouse’s loss of the benefit of the payor spouse’s income due to the divorce.
Q: Is spousal support available while the divorce is pending in court, or only after the divorce has become final?
A: The court may order that one spouse support the other during the pendancy of the divorce action and/or after the divorce has become final. Support awarded pending the final decree of divorce is not to extend beyond the period of time necessary for the prosecution of the divorce action.
Q: What factors will the court consider when determining how much alimony to award to a party?
A: For a full explanation of the types of alimony available in Maine and the factors considered in awarding alimony, please click the following link and view the Maine Divorce Information section of the Maine Divorce Main Page.
Q: On what basis does the court decide how marital property is divided?
A: Maine is a so-called “equitable distribution” state. This means that the division of property and debts between the divorcing parties should be fair and equitable, but not necessarily equal. The court will consider the following factors:
1. The contribution of each spouse to the acquisition of the marital property, including the contribution of a spouse as a homemaker;
2. The value of the property set aside to each spouse; and,
3. The economic circumstances of each spouse at the time the division of property is to take effect.
Q: Is the “separate property” of one spouse subject to being divided?
A: The question here is whether property “belonging to” one of the parties should be included in the marital estate for purposes of an equitable division. Generally, separate property acquired before the marriage or by gift or inheritance during the marriage may be excluded from the marital estate if neither the property nor its income has been used for the common benefit of the parties during their marriage.
Q: What if the parties occasionally use an item of separate property (for example, silver table utensils inherited by the wife) for the benefit of both parties?
A: The property may be subject to division. Where the parties regularly use property acquired by one party before marriage for the common benefit of the parties, it is more likely to be available for consideration in dividing property. The frequency of use may be considered by the court in making the decision.
Child custody and visitation
Q: What is child custody and visitation?
A: “Child custody” refers to which parent will have legal custody of the child(ren), i.e. with whom the child(ren) will live. “Visitation” is the topic of the non custodial parent’s ability to visit/spend time with the child(ren).
Q: Can grandparents be granted visitation rights?
A: Yes. Grandparents may be granted visitation rights if it is within the best interests of the child and that there is a sufficient existing relationship with the child, or that sufficient efforts have been made to establish a relationship with the child.
Q: If the parents cannot agree on child custody and visitation issues, on what basis will the court decide?
A: The court may award custody to either parent, regardless of sex, subject to the best interests of the child. In determining the child’s best interests, the court shall consider the factors listed in the Maine Divorce Information section on the Maine Divorce Main Page.
Q: What is “child support”?
A: Child support is money paid by the non custodial parent to the custodial parent in order to meet the needs of the child(ren).
Q: To what should the parties look for guidance regarding amount of child support to be paid? What standard will the court use if the parties cannot agree?
A: The State of Maine has established child support guidelines which establish a presumptively correct amount of child support to be paid. The court may deviate form these guidelines upon a finding that the application of the guidelines would result in an inequitable or unjust result. Some of the criteria that the court may use to justify a deviation form the child support guidelines include the ten items listed in the Maine Divorce Information section on the Maine Divorce Main Page.