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Questions & Answers

Maryland Divorce & Custody Actions

How do you start an action for divorce or custody in Maryland? 
An action for divorce or custody is started by the filing of a Complaint in the Circuit Court of the State of Maryland. Thereafter, a Summons issued the Court along with a copy of the Complaint must be served on the Defendant (your spouse or the parent) and an affidavit of service must be filed in court. The Summons may be served by the Sheriff, a private process server, certified mail or by someone over the age of 18 and not a party to the action.

What is a summons? 
A Summons is a legal document which gives notice to the Defendant that an action was started.

What is a complaint? 
The Complaint is a legal document in the action for divorce or custody. It contains the specific details and reasons for the relief requested in the Summons, including your grounds for divorce and /or other requests such as child custody, visitation, child support and maintenance, equitable distribution of marital property, health insurance, life insurance, payment of legal fees and experts' fees, use and possession of the marital residence, orders of protection, etc.

What happens after the Defendant is served with the summons? 
After the Defendant is served with a copy of the Summons and Complaint an answer (or other responsive pleading) must be filed in the Circuit Court within 30 days if the Defendant lives in Maryland and within 60 days if the Defendant lives out of state. If the Defendant fails to file an answer or other responsive pleading within that time period a default judgment may be entered.

Do I have a right to see the Defendant's financial records? 
Yes, once a Complaint is filed you may obtain financial information from the Defendant by a process know as discovery. During discovery each party will be required to provide documentation of income, assets and expenses.

How do I prove my divorce case? 
Whatever ground, or reasons you rely on to file for divorce it will have to be proved. The evidence necessary to prove a certain ground is established by prior cases. There must be a trial or hearing at which at least one witness, in addition to you, will have to testify about your allegations. If the Court find sufficient evidence to support your allegations is will grant you a Judgment of Divorce

What are the grounds for a divorce in Maryland? 
The grounds for an Absolute Divorce in Maryland includes: one (1) year mutual and voluntary separation, two (2) years separation, adultery, desertion for more than one (1) year, imprisonment for three or more years, insanity after 3 years of confinement, cruelty of treatment and excessively vicious conduct.

Am I required to reside in Maryland before I can begin my divorce action? 
If the grounds for the divorce occurred outside of the State of Maryland, a party may not apply for a divorce unless one (1) of the parties has resided in Maryland for at least 1 year before the Complaint is filed.

Who has custody before there is a court order? 
Before there is a court order, both parents are joint guardians of the child. They have equal duties and rights and one parent is not superior to the other.

What is taken into consideration when deciding the best interests of the child? 
Every case will be different, but the court will look into several factors including: the age, sex and health of the parents, the parent's ability to provide for the child, relationship between the parents and the child, lifestyles of the parents and many others. Any factor that affects the life of the child and also the parents can take part in the custody determination.

How is the child support order determined? 
The guidelines for determining child support in Maryland involve each parent's actual income that will be adjusted for child support and alimony already being paid. The expenses for the child are divided proportionately based on each parent's income. Expenses including: health insurance premiums, child care, medical expenses, additional costs such as private school and transportation.

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