You've Been Served Divorce Papers: What's Next?

What To Do When Served with Divorce Papers in Maryland

There are many reasons why couples decide to seek a divorce. Partners may no longer be in love with one another. One person may be interested in pursuing a romantic relationship with someone else or have experienced cruelty, abuse, or desertion by their former partner. It could just simply be time to move on after realizing that a couple’s differences can’t be reconciled.

People can file for limited or absolute divorce in the state of Maryland. Limited divorce is temporary. It usually lasts for a few weeks or months at the most. A judge can decide alimony, child support, and child visitation, but a limited divorce doesn’t end a marriage. The person filing for a limited divorce must be able to prove that their partner treated them or any children they may have had cruelly, deserted them, or are separated at the time of filing. Couples can choose to get back together after a limited divorce.

Absolute divorce will terminate the marital union. One or both partners can agree to an absolute divorce. Both parties should work together on a settlement agreement to determine child support, child visitation, and alimony (also known as spousal support).

How Can Someone Request a Divorce?

Any adult can file for divorce in the state of Maryland. The process begins by opening a case. The person who makes the initial divorce request is usually required to provide reasons as to why they are asking for the divorce, also known as grounds. Adultery, desertion, separation, cruelty and abuse are some of the common grounds for divorce.

The person asking for a divorce is known as the petitioner. They will need to fill out a Civil Domestic Information Report and a Complaint for Absolute Divorce. The marital settlement agreement should be included if both parties are agreeing to a mutual consent divorce. A financial statement will be necessary if alimony is sought, and a Child Support Guidelines worksheet needs to be attached if child support payments will be made. It’s also a good idea to include a parenting plan and clearly spell out in writing what will happen to all marital assets when necessary.

A filing fee of $165 will be charged for a limited or absolute divorce complaint once all appropriate paperwork has been brought to the county clerk’s office. Three copies of all documentation should be made. A waiver may be requested which could waive that fee.

The next step is for the judge to prepare a writ of summons. This document will inform the defendant that a civil action has been filed and that they are required to appear in court. The person who filed the divorce is the plaintiff, and the person who will be receiving the writ is the defendant. The defendant will then receive those papers by a service of process.

What Should I Do If I’ve Been Served with Divorce Papers?

A process server, such as a sheriff or a third party, will deliver the divorce papers. The documents can either be hand-delivered or sent via certified mail. A return receipt is usually mandated if the divorce paperwork is mailed.

Maryland residents must respond to a divorce complaint in 30 days. If you are currently living in another state, you have up to 60 days to respond. A response is required within 90 days for people who live in another country. Failure to respond to the complaint within the specified time limit may result in a default divorce. This action can be sought by the plaintiff, according to the complaint that was initially filed.

Can I Contest the Divorce?

You can contest the divorce request if you wish. If you choose this option, the case will have a discovery process. Testimony, reports from relevant experts and evidence will be accumulated at that time. Requests for producing documents and interrogatories that are sent to the other party in a divorce case must be answered within 30 days in the state of Maryland.

Discovery usually takes the most time, but it can be very beneficial. Evidence and other information that can support a claim may be vital to your success in the matter. Clients and their legal counsel will pore over documents that can support their claims. All findings must be made readily available to both parties when necessary, during the divorce proceedings.

Both sides can represent themselves or hire attorneys to represent them. Each party will need to appear in court in a contested divorce. In an uncontested divorce, only the plaintiff is required to testify.

If you want to bring up other reasons why the divorce should be granted, you can file a counterclaim for absolute divorce. In that claim, you must supply the court with grounds that the plaintiff has not brought up in their complaint. Be prepared to back up your claims with relevant testimony, expert witnesses, or evidence that can support your position.

For simplicity’s sake, it’s better to prepare a marital settlement agreement before going to court. The document should clearly state how assets are divided, what will happen to insurance policies, who will receive alimony and/or child support and have a child visitation schedule attached if necessary. If these details can’t be worked out, the judge will make those decisions for the couple.

If you’ve been served with divorce papers, contact us today to schedule a free consultation. We’ll sit down with you and listen to what you have to say. Our trained professionals will offer advice and recommend paperwork that should be filled out. We’ll also work on your behalf. Getting you back on your feet again is our top priority.

Divorce can be complicated and stressful. It will forever change family relationships. In-laws, former partners, cousins and children may start viewing you in a different light. A divorce can also affect friendships. One partner or both may move to another city to start over. Even though they’re difficult, they may be a necessary ending.

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