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Preliminary steps before a Maryland divorce trial

Are you about to go through a divorce in the state of Maryland? If so, there are likely to be a number of financial and emotional ramifications affecting your life, both now and post-divorce.

According to The New York Times, the divorce rate has dropped from the often-quoted 50 percent, but a significant percentage of marriages end in divorce. One of the causes for the shrinking divorce rate may be that couples are, on average, getting married later in life. Although divorce can be difficult, it helps to be armed with some information about what to expect.

Before you consider some of the steps in a divorce, please be aware that there are two kinds of divorce in Maryland: "absolute divorce" and "limited divorce." You are free to remarry after an absolute divorce because the marriage is dissolved. However, if you are lacking grounds for an absolute divorce, you may choose a limited divorce. A limited divorce could help expedite financial and property matters in cases where an absolute divorce would be too protracted to resolve these issues within your required time frame.

Separation

While Maryland law does not deal with legal separations like some states do, if you are living in a different location than your spouse with the intent to end the relationship, and you are not having sexual intercourse with him or her, you are separated as it pertains to divorce in Maryland. You may want to obtain a legal contract called a "separation agreement" in order to clearly define child custody or divide your property and other assets while you are separated. You can create this contract with the help of a mediator and/or lawyer for the purpose of expediting agreements that are legally binding even before the divorce is finalized.

Under most circumstances, you will have to be separated for at least 12 months before you are able to file for divorce. The period of separation could be shorter or non-existent if the grounds for divorce fall into a certain category called "fault grounds." Adultery and vicious conduct are examples of fault grounds.

Filing

How long have you or your spouse lived in Maryland? If it's less than one year for both parties, it could prevent you for filing for divorce. If this requirement is met, the plaintiff spouse will need to file a complaint, or petition with the court, asking for a divorce. You must file in one of the eight circuit courts of Maryland that applies to your specific county. After this is done successfully, the court will issue a summons.

The summons must be served by the sheriff or by a private process server. It is an essential part of the process to have your spouse served according to specific legal rules. Once the service has been completed successfully, the server will sign an "affidavit of return of service" stating that your spouse was properly served.

If you are about to go through a divorce in Maryland, you don't have to do it alone. From filing a complaint, to the discovery process where evidence will be gathered, to the pre-trial where you can identify any contested issues, and all the way to the signing of the divorce decree, you can be represented by an experienced lawyer. In a matter as complicated and emotionally challenging as divorce, an attorney that looks out for your best interests could make all the difference.

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