Towson Divorce Lawyers
Differences Between a Contested and an Uncontested Divorce
People generally think of the divorce process as a very hostile and stressful process. However, if you and your spouse are able to be civil to one another, an uncontested divorce may be the best option to dissolve your marriage and start a new life.
Couples file for a contested divorce when they cannot agree on key issues, such as:
- Child custody
- Child support, including health and dental insurance for the children
- Spousal health insurance coverage
- Tax issues
- Division of marital property
- Division of other marital assets
- Division of debt
- Life insurance benefits
- Retirement benefits
- Attorneys’ fees
In a contested divorce, because the couple cannot agree, they must go to court and have a judge determine how to resolve these issues. There can be some benefits to a contested divorce. Complete financial discovery makes it much more difficult for a spouse to hide assets to avoid splitting them.
An uncontested divorce is when both spouses agree to get divorced and agree on the terms of the divorce. The essence of an uncontested divorce is the Separation Agreement, also called a Marital Settlement Agreement. This document memorializes the agreement between you and your spouse in regards to the key issues. In addition to the Separation Agreement, there are other technical filing and procedural requirements. In an uncontested divorce, there is no need to determine who is at fault for the split; simply declaring that there has been an adequate continuous period of separation is sufficient.
Requirements for Divorce in Maryland
- Determine the Grounds for Divorce
Whenever anyone seeks a divorce in Maryland, they must give the court a legal reason for the split. If you cannot prove your asserted grounds for divorce, accusing your spouse of any of these actions may result in your being ordered to pay your spouse’s attorneys’ fees. If you elect to file for a contested divorce, there are a number of fault-based grounds available in Maryland, including: adultery, desertion, felony or misdemeanor conviction, insanity, cruelty to a spouse of child and excessively vicious conduct. A better and more frequently used option is to prove that you and your spouse have been separated, continuously and without interruption, for one year prior to filing for divorce.
- Residency Requirements
If the grounds for your divorce occurred within Maryland, then the only residency requirement is that you and your spouse both currently reside in the state. However, if the grounds for divorce occurred in another state, the law requires that you or your spouse have been living in Maryland for at least six months prior to filing.
The party seeking a divorce must file their case in the circuit court located in the county where either they or their spouse lives, is regularly employed or owns a business.
Proceedings in Uncontested and Contested Divorces in Maryland
A contested divorce is commenced by filing a complaint. The complaint certifies that the spouse filing for divorce (the plaintiff) meets the residency requirements, states the date and place of marriage, provides information about any marital children and names the grounds for divorce. The plaintiff can either serve the complaint on their spouse by delivering it, or, if they cannot personally serve the papers, the plaintiff can obtain a court order to publish the service of process in a newspaper. The defendant must then “answer” the complaint by admitting or denying the allegations. In his or her answer, the defendant can also raise any defenses or file counterclaims. There is then a lengthy process of sharing information, called discovery, and then a trial.
The uncontested divorce process is streamlined and simplified. Although the plaintiff must appear in court to testify, the defendant need not appear. The plaintiff must bring a witness to testify as to the grounds of your divorce. Because the issues were resolved in the Agreement, the proceedings are simple, straightforward and relatively stress-free.
Waiting Period for Uncontested Divorce
A contested divorce can feel never-ending and often takes about 12-18 months. That decision can then be appealed. An uncontested divorce, on the other hand, is usually final two to three months after being filed.
Towson Divorce Lawyers at Huesman, Jones & Miles Successfully Handle Uncontested and Contested Divorces
If you are contemplating divorce, our Towson divorce lawyers at Huesman, Jones & Miles are prepared to advise you whether an uncontested divorce is right for you. Whenever possible, we try to minimize the stress that accompanies the contested divorce process by pursuing an uncontested divorce. If you are ready to open the door to a new life, call us at 443-589-0150 or contact us online today. We help you sleep at night.