If you and your spouse are getting divorced in Maryland, and you reach a settlement agreement on all the significant issues related to your separation — such as property division, child custody, visitation, child support, and spousal support (alimony) — you can get an uncontested divorce.
If you are the plaintiff, or the spouse who filed for divorce, you’ll have to attend a short hearing where a judge will review your settlement agreement, but you will not have to go through a time-consuming, costly trial. If you and your spouse can work out any disagreements without having to litigate those issues in court, you can save precious time and money.
What Is an Uncontested Divorce?
In Maryland, an uncontested divorce is one where you and your spouse agree on all the major elements of the divorce, meaning a judge won’t need to decide any of these issues for you. If you and your spouse cannot agree on certain key issues related to your divorce, then the divorce is contested, and any disputes between you will have to be resolved in court.
It is not uncommon for couples to begin the divorce process with disagreements over certain issues. Still, the parties can iron out these disputes with the help of a mediator or divorce attorney so the couple can avoid going to trial. In some cases, when couples agree to all the terms of the divorce from the outset, they may be able to obtain a “mutual consent” divorce, which is a quick and inexpensive type of uncontested divorce.
Requirements for an Mutual Consent Uncontested Divorce
To obtain an uncontested divorce in Maryland, you and your spouse must follow these basic steps. While you aren’t required to hire an attorney, doing so can make the process much smoother. A divorce attorney can also ensure that your parenting and property rights are protected as the settlement agreement is being drafted.
- Settlement Agreement – Before you file for divorce, you and your spouse must create a settlement agreement that addresses all the major issues related to your separation. This document should cover how you plan to divide your marital assets and who will pay alimony (if applicable). It should also address child support and custody if you have minor children. You should have an attorney review the document to ensure it is legally sound. Your attorney can also help you negotiate with your spouse and their legal counsel if you are having difficulty agreeing on certain issues.
- File for Divorce – Once your settlement agreement has been prepared, you will need to fill out your divorce forms. If you are seeking a mutual consent divorce, you must fill out and file a Complaint for Absolute Divorce. When you get to the section that asks you to cite your grounds for divorce, you will check the “mutual consent” box. You’ll also need to submit numerous other forms, including child support forms if child support is part of your settlement agreement and a Civil Domestic Information Report. Your attorney will help you ensure that all the necessary forms are included in your filing and that your paperwork is properly filled out. You will then file your complaint with the Maryland Circuit Court for your county and pay your filing fee (you can request a waiver if you can’t afford the fee). The court will issue a summons, and your spouse must be served with copies of the divorce paperwork. Your spouse will have their own paperwork to complete and file with the Court. This includes their Answer to your Complaint. Additionally, some Courts ask you both to submit a Joint Request to Schedule the Divorce Hearing.
- Attend Hearing – The spouse who filed for divorce must show up for a scheduled hearing on the uncontested divorce. Many Circuit Courts are still holding these hearings remotely. If you are the defendant, or the spouse who was served divorce papers, you don’t have to appear in court. The hearing for an uncontested divorce should be very quick. If you’re the plaintiff, you’ll need to answer a few questions about your Complaint for Absolute Divorce. The judge will also go over the settlement agreement and ensure that any sections addressing minor children are in the child’s best interests. Once the settlement agreement has been approved, it will be incorporated into the divorce decree. Barring any issues, you can generally expect your uncontested divorce to be finalized within a few weeks of the hearing.
If you and your spouse agree on all the key issues associated with your divorce and want to avoid the stress of a trial, then a mutual consent divorce may be right for you. You can avoid a lengthy court battle by resolving disagreements and negotiating with your spouse outside of court.
Contact a Maryland Divorce Attorney
Even in an uncontested divorce, it’s a good idea to hire an experienced divorce attorney to represent your interests and protect your rights. Your lawyer will offer you valuable legal advice as you work on a separation agreement and guide you through every step in the divorce process. Call (301) 417-9222 to set up a consultation with a Maryland divorce lawyer at The McKeon Law Firm. We proudly serve clients in our Gaithersburg and Bethesda office locations.