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If you have come to the decision to get a divorce in Maryland, chances are you have already gone through a substantial amount of stress. Now that you’re at this point, you want to move forward with the divorce with as little difficulty as possible. Fortunately, getting a divorce in Maryland can be a straightforward process, and you may be able to do so without a divorce attorney. To begin, you simply need to fill out the appropriate Maryland divorce papers and submit them to your county clerk. Using the online service CompleteCase.com to prepare your Maryland divorce papers can make the process even easier, ensuring you use the right documents and fill them out correctly.
We’ve gathered the following information to help you understand how a Maryland divorce works and provide the insight on how to get started.
In Maryland, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the divorce rate in 2011 was 2.9 for every 1,000 residents. This rate places Maryland in the middle of divorce rates in the United States. The rate of divorce in the state has remained fairly consistent over the past 20 years, with a high of 3.4 in 1990.
Maryland has two types of divorce – an “absolute divorce” and a “limited divorce”. Each type of divorce deals with all the issues you would expect, including property division, child custody, child support and alimony. The only difference is that the limited divorce leaves the couple still legally married. In most states, this limited divorce is referred to as a “legal separation”.
Maryland requires that either you or your spouse have lived in the state for a period of one year.
The state allows both fault-based divorces and no-fault divorces. In a fault-based divorce, you must provide grounds for why the marriage must end. Maryland recognizes fault and no fault grounds for divorce. No-fault grounds includes (1) 12–month separation, when the parties have lived separate and apart without cohabitation for 12 months without interruption before the filing of the application for divorce; and (2) Mutual Consent, when the parties have no minor children, all issues of property, debt and spousal support have been agreed and both parties attend the final hearing.
The State of Maryland recognizes adultery, cruelty, excessively vicious conduct toward the complaining party or a minor child of the complaining party, insanity, willful desertion for one year and conviction of a felony as fault grounds for a divorce.
If you need assistance coming to terms about divorce issues, Maryland divorce mediation is often the least expensive route, especially compared to a drawn out legal battle with divorce attorneys.
Unlike many states, Maryland is fairly restrictive on its allowance of a no-fault divorce. You and your spouse must have been living separately for one year before you can seek a no-fault divorce or qualify for mutual consent as the filing ground. Otherwise you will need to seek a fault-based divorce.
The specific Maryland divorce papers you fill out will vary based on your individual circumstances, but there are several forms that are required in any absolute divorce. These include the “Complaint for Absolute Divorce” and the “Civil Domestic Case Information Report”.
The Maryland Courts website has a page devoted to Family Law Forms, where you can find a wide variety of legal forms to use in your divorce. The forms mentioned above can be found on this page, as well as a number of other forms, some of them related to divorce, some of them not related to divorce. If you are doing this all on your own, it is best to contact the county clerk, or visit in person, to determine which divorce forms apply to your specific circumstances. Failure to submit the right forms, or filling out forms incorrectly can all result in delays or additional fees for your divorce.
If you find all of these forms overwhelming or confusing, understand that this is normal. Unless you have been through the divorce process or have legal training, the wide variety of divorce papers and requirements are enough to confuse anybody. Many people find it is easier to get their Maryland divorce papers online from CompleteCase.com. Our service helps you determine which forms you need to fill out, and assists to complete the forms correctly. Getting assistance can save you a lot of hassle and help you avoid costly delays.
After you have completed your divorce papers online or otherwise, it is time to submit them to your local county clerk. Remember, you will want to file in either the county where you or your spouse currently resides. It is best to call ahead to verify with the clerk that you are have the appropriate documentation,, including several copies of the documents and an acceptable form of payment for the state filing fee.
It is important that you only sign statements and affidavits in front of a notary public. Note that many courts have notaries available on site so make sure to inquire ahead of time to ensure your divorce papers can be accepted by the clerk. Once you have paid the filing fee, the clerk will stamp your documents and inform you of your next steps.
To complete the filing process, you will need to serve copies of your divorce documents, along with a “Writ of Summons” to your spouse. The court will need proof that you have served your spouse before it will finalize the divorce.
Maryland allows you to serve your spouse in a number of different ways:
Anyone 18 or older that is not involved in the divorce.
County Sheriff – Will charge a fee.
Private Process Server – Will also charge a fee, usually more than the sheriff. The benefit of this option is that the private process server will usually make several attempts to serve your spouse, whereas the sheriff will usually only make a single attempt.
By Mail – You will need to use a mailing option that requires your spouse to sign for the papers, giving you the proof of delivery that you need to file with the court. Maryland requires that someone other than you, the plaintiff in the divorce, mail the divorce papers.
When you receive proof from the server that the divorce papers have been delivered you then file the receipt with the court. When all papers have been filed, it can take between 30 to 90 days for the divorce to be finalized.
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It's great to have an option like this when dealing with an amicable, uncomplicated divorce - no need for attorneys when there's nothing to hash out.
By Deborah Sharp, USA TODAY
Couples can find a mate, fill out a bridal registry and plan a honeymoon on the computer. Now they can also divorce online.
A Web site started last year by a Seattle attorney gives the unhappily wed in Washington, California, Florida and New York the option of dissolving their marriages online. Texas is next, and several other states are being considered.
The site is the latest twist in a do-it-yourself trend. Changing trends in the USA Average age of first marriage Divorce year male female Divorced Americans Divorces granted 1970 23.2 20.8 4.3 million 0.7 million 2000 26.8 25.1 19.9 million 1.2 million Sources: U.S. Census; National Center for Health Statistics
No national figures exist on self-representation. But some experts estimate that as many as half of 1.2 million couples divorcing annually in the USA do so without a lawyer representing at least one of the parties.
The Web site, www.completecase.com, differs from the many self-help sites offering advice, referrals or downloads of documents needed to file for divorce in a particular state.
For $249, the Web site prompts couples with questions on everything from dividing financial assets to deciding where the kids celebrate birthdays. The software then uses their answers to fill out the documents that a couple can download and submit to a court.
Requirements vary by locale as to whether a couple must show up in court or can mail in or fax their divorce filing. But in all cases, a judge must still sign the order ending a marriage.
Randy Finney, a family law attorney for 11 years and the founder of the Web site, says it was designed for uncontested divorces. It's not for couples with convoluted finances or for those fighting over child custody and who gets the dog.
"The decision to get a divorce comes way before the decision about how to get a divorce," says Finney, 35, who is happily married. "I don't think anyone takes their wedding vows so frivolously that they're going to get a divorce just because they can do it for $249."
Not everyone is thrilled with the notion of cyber-divorce.
Judges and lawyers fret that couples who use the Web site may believe they've had legal counsel when they haven't. And leaders in the movement to save marriages complain that point-and-click divorce further undermines the institution's supposed sanctity.
"I can only think of one use of the Internet that's worse and that's pornography," says Dennis Rainey, executive director of FamilyLife, a religious group based in Little Rock. "We're trying to do all we can to call people to keep their wedding vows."
FamilyLife has joined with 30 other organizations since 1999 in drawing 175,000 spouses nationwide to "I Still Do" ceremonies that affirm marriage.
Despite the marriage celebrations, about one-fifth of American men and women have been divorced at least once.
A study released last month by the U.S. Census shows about 90% of Americans will marry at some point. For men, 54% married just once. For women, 60%. Serial marriage is rare: Only 3% of Americans have married three times or more; 13% have married twice.
Finney estimates his Web site has helped 1,000 couples unhitch. Stacey Kiss of Seattle is among those who traveled to virtual Splitsville. The self-described "Internet junkie" says it took her and her husband of seven years about three hours one night to click through the Web site's detailed questions.
"We never got along on anything through our entire marriage, but we still managed to come to an agreement," says Kiss, 36, a hospital business-services manager. "Why drag it out and make it complicated?"
She says the online split was cheaper and easier than her first, traditional divorce. Now single, Kiss says she's comfortable with dot-com divorce, but she draws the line at cyber-dating.
"I like surfing the Web," she says, "but not for men."
Ernesto Gomez and his wife Blanca had been planning to get a divorce for three years. They had already separated and worked out custody and child support for their two kids. But they had stalled on filing because they didn't want to deal with the hassle and expense. Hiring a lawyer, they were told, would cost at least $1,500. Using a free service offered by the court would involve numerous meetings spread out over several weeks.
So when Gomez heard an ad on the radio for a service called completecase.com that would let him fill out the paperwork online for just $249, he decided to give it a try. Four days after he logged onto the site, he had the papers completed and filed in court. "CompleteCase gives you step-by-step instructions. You can't miss anything," says Gomez, a distribution-center manager in Miami.
Gomez is not the only one turning to the Internet to simplify the process. Other services, like divorcewizards. com and divorcesyourself.com also offer quickie online divorce kits, usually for $300 or less. No lawyer is involved unless a client chooses to pay extra for a consultation by phone or e-mail.
Brian Lee, president of legalzoom.com says his site has handled more than 30,000 divorces since its launch in 2001. Though people still have to convey their forms to the court, the process of filling out the paperwork can take less than an hour, thanks to simple online questionnaires that hand-hold customers through the process.
Online divorce is not an option if the couple can't agree on the terms. Even when they can, not everyone thinks it's a good idea. "Instant divorce is the last thing we need," says Mike McManus, president of the marriage advocacy group Marriage Savers. Instead of a divorce, McManus says, couples often just need time to cool off before working out their differences.
Still, such services are spreading. Utah and California offer do-it-yourself sites that let you fill the forms out online (for $20 at utcourts.gov/how to; free at www.courtinfo.ca.gov/selfhelp) Traffic on the California site rose from 6,800 page views in May 2002 to nearly 17,000 in May 2003. --By Anita Hamilton
The Los Angeles Times; Los Angeles, Calif.; Nov 19, 2001; MARTIN MILLER;
Abstract: Californians can legally split from their spouses over the Web site http://www.completecase.com and never have to set foot in a courthouse or lawyer's office. Legal papers can be completed within anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours, depending on the complexity of the split, according to Randolph Finney, a Seattle-based family law attorney who founded the site.
For Californians, once the judge signs the documents, they are "legally binding and enforceable," says Finney, but per state law the divorce doesn't become finalized for six months.
Full Text: (Copyright, The Times Mirror Company; Los Angeles Times 2001 All rights reserved)
The circle of online life is now complete. You can date online; you can marry online; and now you can divorce online.
Californians can legally split from their spouses over the Web site http://www.completecase.com and never have to set foot in a courthouse or lawyer's office. Legal papers can be completed within anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours, depending on the complexity of the split, according to Randolph Finney, a Seattle-based family law attorney who founded the site.
For a flat fee of $249, the site walks divorcing couples step-by- step through such issues as community property and calculating child support payments. When the online form is completed, the applicant simply signs the papers and mails them to the courthouse.
But it's not for everyone. It works only for those couples who are parting amicably and filing for an uncontested divorce. "If you can't agree on who gets the kids, our site is not for you," says Finney, a married 35-year-old.
The site debuted earlier this year, but only to residents of Washington state. Last month, California was added, and soon Florida, New York and Oregon are expected to be added. So far, the site has helped process hundreds of divorces, says Finney.
The site has drawn critics who denounce the online divorce as yet another blow to society's bedrock institutions. The very ease of the process, some contend, makes family and marriage as disposable as an old appliance. Indeed, a similar site in England was recently condemned by the pope as immoral because it made divorce too easy.
Naturally, Finney disagrees. "I think our Web site has the opposite effect," he said. "If you're going to get divorced, let's do it in a civil manner. I really don't believe having something available that makes it easier and costs less money is going to encourage divorce."
The inspiration for the project came from his law practice, where he primarily handles divorces. It took about a year to get the site up and running. "On almost a daily basis, I would get clients who said they needed a divorce but didn't have the money or the patience with the legal process to pursue it," he said. "These people are really stuck between a rock and a hard place."
For Californians, once the judge signs the documents, they are "legally binding and enforceable," says Finney, but per state law the divorce doesn't become finalized for six months. "It isn't quite as fast as a Las Vegas divorce," he says.
Your case registration has been submitted successfully.
The next step in completing your divorce petition is to pay the case processing fee.
After your payment is processed, your personal login will be accessible. Logging in will allow you to answer the additional questions required to complete your divorce.
When completing the online questionnaire, help and explanations are provided for each question. Should you have any questions during the process, you may call our support line to speak with a divorce specialist.
We provide a 100% guarantee that the forms provided by CompleteCase.com will be accepted by the court. If the forms are not accepted due to the fault of CompleteCase.com, we will make any changes requested by the court or judge (without charge), or a refund will be issued. Verification of any denial or rejection may be requested.
Based on the information provided you are not qualified to use CompleteCase.com to complete your divorce online at this time.
We recommend contacting a licensed Family Law attorney to help you with your situation.