Family law issues such as custody battles and divorces can be stressful and challenging experiences. Often, the emotions of married couples are intense, and situations can become fraught. Disagreements about splitting time with the children, what will happen with the family home, and more are bound to happen.
Family law matters do not have to be emotionally driven. The Maryland family law team at Parker, Pallett, Slezak & Russell, LLC provides compassionate legal aid to our clients during this difficult time. One of our Maryland family law attorneys will work with you from the very start of your divorce and see it through to the end, keeping your best interests in mind.
Maryland’s Old Divorce Rules
Before divorce changes were made in the summer of 2023, a couple wanting to divorce had two options: absolute divorce and limited divorce. In the latter, a couple could pursue a limited separation and settle alimony, child custody, and similar issues without dividing marital property or fully divorcing. This process was intended to give married couples a way of testing if a divorce was the right option for them and then deciding to convert it into an absolute divorce or terminate the limited divorce.
An absolute divorce is what most people think of when they hear the word divorce. Under the old rules, to qualify for an absolute divorce in the state of Maryland, a spouse should be able to prove that one of the following six conditions had occurred:
- Unusual, cruel, and abusive treatment towards the children or spouse
- An incarceration or felony conviction for a misdemeanor
- A 12-month separation
A judge would grant the divorce once any of the above conditions had been proven. Divorce was often difficult to obtain for many people and led to several hurdles for couples who wanted to separate. This left couples with only one alternative, which was to request a mutual divorce, where both spouses consented to the dissolution of their marriage.
What Is the New Law for Divorce in Maryland?
Recent changes have been made to the divorce rules in Maryland. Now only one option exists for a divorce, and that is absolute divorce. Couples no longer need to prove fault grounds for divorce, rather there are now two things that a spouse must do:
- Six-month separation requires couples to live apart and separately, even if they are living in the same home
- Irreconcilable differences must be expressed in their request for termination of the marriage
Absolute divorce still remains in Maryland if both spouses agree and wish to have the marriage dissolved; however, these new rules make obtaining a divorce much easier for a single spouse than before. These new rules remove fault-based divorce, but this does not mean that fault will not be considered during the divorce proceedings. A judge may still consider fault when determining property distribution, alimony arrangements, and child support or custody.
How Long Will a Divorce Take in Maryland?
There are many elements that go into Maryland divorce proceedings, including the complexity of the case, the capability of the spouses to agree, and the circumstances of the divorce. Cases involving children and issues regarding custody or asset division can take about one year to be finalized. If spouses disagree on several issues regarding custody or asset division, then the divorce proceedings can take longer.
No-fault divorces that are not contested can be completed in as little as six months. An uncontested divorce requires mutual consent where both spouses draft a written agreement regarding child support and custody as well as asset division in advance. How quickly these agreements can be reached will determine the duration of the divorce proceedings.
The process can be expedited if the married couple tries alternative resolutions such as mediation, resolving outstanding issues with legal counsel, and mitigating any disputes without bitterness. When these steps are followed, the duration of a legal separation can be significantly shorter than normal for a Maryland divorce. Our family law attorneys can provide you with all available avenues for divorce acceleration.
Choosing a Qualified Divorce Lawyer in Maryland
Divorce is generally an incredibly stressful time in a married couple’s lives. The divorce rate was at its lowest in 2021 at 1.6 divorces per 1,000 Maryland residents. With divorce being a common occurrence, it is important that couples consider many factors when choosing their Maryland divorce attorneys.
A divorcing spouse must consider whether their lawyer has experience handling local divorce cases similar to their own. Laws regarding child or spousal support, child custody arrangements, fault grounds, and property division are specific to Maryland and different from many other states, so a Maryland law firm must have experience with local laws.
An attorney’s success record and divorce litigation approach should also be factored in. For instance, a couple wanting to complete an amicable separation will benefit most from a lawyer skilled at settlement negotiation and eliminating any unnecessary conflict.
You should assess the lawyer’s methods and personality and decide if they mesh well with your own views. You should feel comfortable discussing potentially sensitive information with your attorney and be able to work closely with them. While you will likely work directly with an attorney, you should feel comfortable working with the support staff for any necessary interactions.
You should evaluate the expenses of working with a divorce attorney, as divorce costs can vary from hundreds to thousands of dollars. These costs should be evaluated carefully, accounting for all expenses associated with various divorce approaches.
Frequently Asked Questions
What can cause a delay in a Maryland divorce?
Many factors can hinder the Maryland divorce process. If communication between the spouses breaks down, one of the parties relocates out of the state, or if complexities arise during the division of property, the divorce can become delayed. To work towards a quicker resolution with minimal delays, it is critical that spouses maintain an open line of communication.
How long does a Maryland divorce take if both spouses agree?
In Maryland, a divorce can generally take between 30 and 120 days starting from the point of the Marital Separation Agreement to the finalization of the divorce. This timeframe also depends on the availability of a judge and the capacity of the local court.
Is there a waiting period for divorce in Maryland?
Parties that wish to be divorced must prove they are both current Maryland residents. Once this requirement is fulfilled, they may be granted an absolute divorce if both parties agree to it. Maryland has no compulsory waiting period before filing for the dissolution of a marriage.
Our Law Firm Can Help With Your Divorce
Family law matters can be a struggle for divorcing couples, especially when dealing with relocation custody cases. A family law attorney can help you navigate these unstable waters to find a legal custody resolution that works for your entire family. No one wants to drag out a divorce case any longer than they have to, and one of our Maryland divorce lawyers at Parker, Pallett, Slezak & Russell, LLC will work tirelessly to help your divorce proceedings be finalized as quickly as possible.
Contact our family law firm for a free case evaluation today.