Sometimes, a marriage just doesn’t work out. Two people grow apart. Maybe you’ve become too different in later years. Perhaps there have been little conflicts, but no big blow-up. In many cases, spouses simply realize that they are not in love and don’t make good partners anymore. And that’s OK. These situations are exactly what no-fault and uncontested divorces are for.
No-fault divorces are available in all 50 states, but some have been more difficult to attain than others. If you live in Maryland, you may already be familiar with the rather exacting requirements that were once required to divorce, like 12 months of separation or verified at-fault grounds. As of October 2023, however, Maryland judges may grant a no-fault and uncontested divorce on much more common and achievable grounds.
What Is No-Fault and Uncontested Divorce?
Filing a no-fault and uncontested divorce is the best way to have a divorce without conflict. They are two essential halves to a no-conflict divorce where both spouses agree do separate without the need to accuse or fight. It is also the best way to maintain complete shared control over the terms of your divorce, from the division of assets to child custody.
A no-fault divorce is a divorce that does not have grounds in abuse or betrayal. No accusation is made. While the legal terms “plaintiff” and “defendant” are still used, they do not have meaning because there is no “charge”.
Instead, spouses agree that they are no longer able to live as a married couple, and that is used as the grounds for the divorce. This allows the divorce to be filed and granted without having to provide proof of wrongdoing or evidence of a failed marriage.
An uncontested divorce means that neither spouse fights the divorce itself (ie: refuses to divorce) and spouses plan for minimal disagreements when negotiating terms. An uncontested divorce is one where both spouses willingly participate in divorce proceedings to reach a peaceful household split.
This can be achieved through open communication and compromise, where both parties work together to come up with a mutually agreeable solution. Uncontested divorce also allows for more flexibility and control over the terms of the divorce, as opposed to leaving it up to a judge’s decision.
Maryland Grounds for No-Fault and Uncontested Divorce
When it comes to grounds for divorce (the reason you give for the divorce), Maryland has been traditionally strict. Before 2023, spouses were required to live separately for 12 months or bring at-fault accusations to be granted a divorce. As of October 2023, however, there are two far easier conditions for receiving a no-fault and uncontested divorce.
- “Irreconcilable Differences” – You both agree that you just don’t get along anymore and/or can’t fix the marriage.
- Living separately for 6 months.
Interestingly, the recent legal update also indicates that living two separate lives in the same house qualifies, if it can be proven that you are not living as a married couple. This provides an avenue for spouses in a tight financial situation, for example, to divorce without domicile separation.
Limited Divorces are History
Maryland’s notorious “limited divorces” are also now a thing of the past. You can become legally separated, but now there is only separation and “absolute divorce” based on Maryland’s traditional terms.
How to File an Uncontested Divorce in Maryland
To file an uncontested divorce in Maryland, you will need to first file your petition to divorce. One spouse will file and the other will be served with the paperwork, as per usual. If you have met the no-fault divorce requirements already, you can then submit a complete divorce document including your pre-negotiated split of assets, child custody, etc.
If you have a document that is aligned with Maryland divorce law , the court will grant your no-fault divorce documents and you will be granted a divorce with your desired terms.
Do I Have to Go to Court for an Uncontested Divorce in Maryland?
Yes, but not in the traditional sense. You will likely need to make one appearance to confirm your mutual desire for divorce and reiterate your grounds for an uncontested divorce.
How Long Does It Take for a Maryland Uncontested Divorce?
There is no mandatory waiting period for divorce in Maryland, as exists in other states. If you meet the requirements, then your divorce agreement will be signed by a judge one to four months after it has been submitted, depending on court delays.
If you are divorcing on grounds of separation, you will need to accumulate six months of living separately. However you may already qualify if you have been living separate lives (ex: roommates) in the same home.
Do I Need an Attorney for an Uncontested Divorce in Maryland?
While not required by law, it’s highly recommended to consult with a lawyer to ensure all legal matters are handled properly and prevent any potential problems later on. Even in an uncontested divorce, both parties must follow proper legal procedures and file all necessary paperwork correctly. An attorney can make sure this is done right and minimize the risk of any delays or issues during the process.
The Mutual Consent Divorce Hearing
In Maryland, you can expect exactly one court appearance when you file a no-fault uncontested divorce. This is known as the Mutual Consent Divorce Hearing. The judge will review your eligibility for divorce, the terms of your divorce, and confirm that both spouses want to be divorced. They will also check to ensure that any child custody or support agreements are in the children’s best interests.
Bring your marriage certificate and proof of residency, as you may be asked to show them during the Mutual Consent Divorce Hearing.
If everything is in order and your divorce is in compliance with Maryland law, the judge will sign the papers and you will be legally divorced.
The Benefits of No-Fault and Uncontested Divorce
No-fault and uncontested divorces are increasingly popular because they offer many benefits compared to a traditional high-drama court divorce.
Less Conflict and Stress
In a no-fault divorce, spouses are not obligated to oppose each other. You can negotiate calmly and work together to build a functional divorce settlement. This process requires less conflict and, therefore, generates a lot less divorce stress.
Easier On the Kids
If there are children in your marriage, divorce can be a traumatizing experience. However, if it a quiet and cooperative separation between parents, children are much less likely to experience the divorce as a traumatic period in their live. Instead, it can be a transition where both parents are happier as a result.
Maintain Control Over Your Terms
If your divorce is decided on by a judge, you lose control over critical terms like asset division and child custody. An uncontested divorce gives you the opportunity to negotiate and build ideal terms without the court stepping in.
Uncontested divorces typically take less time and resources because spouses work together an, therefore, can negotiate and separate more quickly.
Privacy from Public Records
Lastly, your private information stays out of public records. Any court proceedings become public record over time, and this can mean the private details of your marriage. An uncontested divorce that doesn’t see the courtroom also keeps most of your marital details safe from public eyes.
Related Resources on Maryland Custody Laws
We offer a wide range of resources dedicated to Maryland divorce. Our firm provides these resources to help families navigate the divorce process and understand Maryland divorce laws, types of divorce, and what to expect. You can find information on qualifying for divorce, common situations, and more. Please note that these resources are free of charge and do not constitute legal advice. Laws can change, and each case is unique, so we recommend consulting with a lawyer to review your specific situation and receive guidance on next steps. Feel free to reach out to us to see if we would be a good fit to represent you during your divorce.
Disclaimer: Maryland divorce laws are subject to change. Therefore, for the most current and applicable information relating to your situation, it’s advisable to consult with your lawyer. The guidance provided here is general in nature and may not accurately reflect the nuances of your personal circumstances or recent modifications in the law.
Pursue a No-Fault, Uncontested Maryland Divorce with Petrelli Previtera Family Law
Looking for assistance with divorce in Maryland? Our legal team is here to help you navigate the process and discuss your options. We can guide you through filing, understand your goals, and explain how the laws may impact your case. At Petrelli Previtera, our dedicated family lawyers in Maryland have supported numerous individuals through challenging family matters. Contact us today for a consultation and let us work towards a brighter future for your family.
If you are looking for a low-conflict divorce in Maryland where you maintain control over your terms, Petrelli Previtera Family Law can help. Our divorce attorneys are versed in Maryland’s recent divorce law changes and can help you build a constructive, beneficial divorce agreement through peaceful negotiations with your spouse. If you have questions about how to pursue an uncontested divorce in Maryland or how the recent legal changes might affect your case, talk to a lawyer or reach out to our legal team