Divorce – State FAQ – Maryland
Residency requirements, venue and procedures
Q: How long must I have lived in Maryland prior to filing for divorce in an Maryland court?
A: If the grounds for divorce occurred outside of the State of Maryland, at least one of the parties to the divorce must have resided in Maryland for at least one year immediately prior to the filing of the action. If the grounds for divorce occurred in-state, then the filing party must be a resident of the state.
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 Maryland, proper venue for the divorce action is the Circuit 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 Bill of Divorce, while the title of the order granting the divorce is referred to as the Decree 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 Maryland. You must use one or more of these reasons to justify your divorce.
Q: What are the recognized grounds for divorce in Maryland?
A: The courts in Maryland will grant an absolute divorce on the following grounds:
2. Deliberate desertion for one year with no reasonable expectation of reconciliation;
3. Voluntarily living separate and apart without cohabitation for one year with no reasonable expectation of reconciliation;
4. Conviction of a felony;
5. Living separate and apart for two years without cohabitation;
6. Insanity of one of the parties; and,
7. Excessive cruelty or vicious conduct.
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 payer 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 tendency 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: Alimony may be awarded to either spouse. In making a determination as to the amount and period of alimony, the court may consider the factors listed in the Divorce Information section of the Maryland Divorce Main Page.
Q: On what basis does the court decide how marital property is divided?
A: Maryland is a solaced “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. Factors the court will consider in distributing the marital property between the parties include:
1. The contribution of each party to the family’s well-being;
2. The value of each party’s property interests;
3. The economic circumstances of each party;
4. The duration of the marriage;
5. The age, physical and mental condition of each party; and,
6. Any other factor the court deems relevant and just.
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: 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 after considering the totality of the circumstances.
Q: Can grandparents be granted visitation rights?
A: Yes. Grandparents can be granted visitation of a minor child as long as it is in the best interest of the child to do so.
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: Maryland has enacted child support guidelines which establish the presumptive correct amount of child support. If the court determines that application of the guidelines would be unjust or inappropriate, the court shall make a written finding on the record stating the reasons for deviating from the guidelines and stating what the amount would have been under the guidelines.