Overview of the Maryland Divorce Process:
A Step-by-Step Summary
To Obtain Forms and Additional Information See MD Divorce Forms Kit
If you want the court to grant you a complete dissolution (ending) of a marriage, you are asking the court to grant you an absolute divorce. After a court issues a Judgment of Absolute Divorce, you can remarry.
There are 10 steps you must follow in order to secure an uncontested divorce in Maryland:
STEP 1 - Complete Complaint for Absolute Divorce, Dom.Rel. 20
STEP 2 - Other Court Documents:
In addition to this form you may also need to complete and attach to the Complaint a:
o Property Settlement Agreement, if you have one;
o Financial Statement for Alimony or Child Support, Dom.Rel.30 or Dom.Rel. 31.
STEP 3 - Filing Your Forms and Waiver of Fees:
o Take the completed documents to the clerk. If you are requesting a waiver of prepayment of fees, Complete: Motion for Waiver of Prepayment of Fees, Dom.Rel. 32 and Financial Statement, Dom.Rel. 30
o Make 2 copies of each form.
File at the Civil Desk in the Circuit Court where you live and resident. In five days you can call the clerk to see if this motion has been granted. If the motion was not granted (was denied) you will have to pay the filing fee. If the motion was granted, you must file that granted motion along with your other forms.
STEP 4 - Service:
Personal service is normally required. If you plan to serve the other party out of state, ask the clerk for a Writ of Summons for 60 days. If you plan to serve the other party out of the United States, ask the clerk for a 90 day Writ of Summons.
Do not attempt to serve the other side until you have a case number and a summons. The court will issue a Writ of Summons which will be sent to your home in 5 - 10 days. You should receive 3 copies of this form; if you do not, then make copies. (Original - service; 1 copy - your records; 1 copy - attach to Affidavit of Service)
It is very important that you do service correctly. If you do not, then the court may dismiss your case.
PUT TOGETHER YOUR SERVICE PACKAGE:
Attach the original copy of the summons to one copy of all of the forms that you filed with the court. (Summons, DCI Report, Complaint, Financial Statement)
CHOOSE ONE OF THE FOLLOWING METHODS:
o Certified Mail, Restricted Delivery, Return Receipt Requested. Any adult over the age of 18, NOT YOU, may take the service package to the post office to mail it as above. Then that person must fill out an Affidavit of Service (Dom. Rel. 56, Certified Mail). Once the post office has returned the green card, check the signature. If the signature is not by the person you sent it to, service has not been completed – try again. If the signature is correct, attach the green card and a copy of the summons to the Affidavit of Service and FILE it at the Civil Desk.
o Sheriff. The Sheriff's office will deliver the service package and complete the Affidavit for a fee somewhere around $30 or $40.
o Private Process by a Process Server. You can check in your phone book or with any local attorney to find a process server. For a fee this person will deliver the service package for you. You must get them to complete an Affidavit of Service (Private Process, Dom.Rel. 55). Then, file the Affidavit of Service with a copy of the summons attached at the Civil Desk.
o Private Process by a Friend. Any adult over the age of 18, but not you, may hand deliver the service package to the opposing party. They may not leave the package on their doorstep, with a roommate or with a relative. The service package must be put in their hand. Then that friend will complete an Affidavit of Service (Private Process, Dom.Rel. 55). You must file the Affidavit of Service along with a copy of the summons at the Civil Desk.
STEP 5 - Return completed Affidavit of Service - Dom.Rel. 54 or Dom.Rel. 55
If service was made by certified mail, return the Affidavit of Service with the green card attached and file with the Clerk. Attach a copy of the Writ of Summons. If service was done by personal service, have the person who served the defendant complete Dom.Rel. 55 and return it to you for filing with the Clerk. If service is to be done by a Sheriff in Maryland, the Clerk will send Summons and Complaint directly to the Sheriff. The Sheriff will return the Affidavit of Service and Writ of Summons directly to the Clerk for filing.
STEP 6 - Request for Default if No Answer Filed:
If your spouse is served: Your spouse should answer within:
in Maryland 30 days after service
in another state 60 days after service
in another country 90 days after service.
If your spouse has not filed an answer by the appropriate time, file a Request for Order of Default, Dom.Rel. 54. You will receive a signed copy of the Default Order in the mail.
STEP 7 - Request for Master's
Hearing or Trial on the Merits:
After you have received an Answer or an Order of Default, file a Request for Master's Hearing, Dom.Rel. 51, or a Request for Trial on the Merits, Dom.Rel. 52, so that a court date will be set. In some counties you will not have to file a Request for a Master’s Hearing; you simply contact the Master directly and set up a date for the hearing. The Master’s fee will vary depending on the county within Maryland. A typical fee is $75.00 for an uncontested Master’s Hearing.
STEP 8 - Marital and Non-marital Property:
If property is an issue you have to complete a Joint Statement of Parties Concerning Marital and Non-marital Property, Dom.Rel. 33, before your court date.
STEP 9 -
Whether or not your spouse answered, send him/her a notice of the date, time and place of the hearing and file a copy of the notice with the Court or bring a copy to the hearing. Request subpoenas from the Clerk for any witnesses or documents needed at the hearing.
When you come to court you should have:
Marriage license (original or certified copy)
Your corroborative witness
At the hearing for Absolute Divorce, you will need a corroborative witness. This is a person who testifies for you and backs up your story. The witness gives his/her testimony based on the facts he/she saw or heard. The one important exception is that your witness can testify to what your spouse (but not you) told him/her.
o The Blue Form (see below)
o Completed Child Support Guidelines
o A copy of any previous child support order
o Your last 3 pay stubs and your last two tax returns
State of Parties Concerning Marital and Non-Marital Property
o Copy of any Separation or Marital Settlement Agreement
Step 10: Judgment of
After your hearing, the court will prepare a Judgment of Divorce. In some counties you may have to prepare this Judgment of Divorce form. Ask the clerk in that County for a sample form. You will also have to file a “blue form” which you complete and file with the court. You secure the “blue form” from the Clerk’s Office. This is an “official form” that amends your records with the State of Maryland and officially notifies the State of Maryland that you are now divorced and no longer married.