When divorcing, it’s difficult to know what to expect. Divorce is a complicated process that can be full of frustrating delays and unpleasant surprises. An idea of what is going to happen when can make an uncomfortable time a little more predictable. Every divorce is different depending on your situation and also where you choose to get divorced, but the following timeline is a general overview of what steps will happen when.
1. To start the Divorce process, either you or your spouse obtains a lawyer who writes and files a Petition with the court also known as a Complaint for Divorce. This is a legal document that states why the spouse wants to divorce and how the spouse wants to resolve financial, custody, child support, and other issues.
Discovery is the phase of litigation in which both sides request information from one another. The purpose is to learn about each position taken by each side to facilitate a settlement or, if a settlement is not possible, to get as much information as possible to be used at trial.
There are two main types of discovery in Family Law cases: Interrogatories and Requests for Production of Documents. These requests must be made formally and sent to the other side or his/her lawyer. Once received, the Maryland Rules state that you have thirty (30) days to answer. There is a prescribed format for answering these discovery requests and you may find that you will need an attorney to help you ask for discovery and to respond to the other side’s discovery requests of you. Please note that you are required to respond to these requests and failure to do so may result in various sanctions against you.
Maryland is an equitable distribution state which means that the court will equitably divide and distribute the marital property and liabilities in a divorce action. Equitable means “fair”; it does not always require a 50/50 split.
Nevertheless, the presumption is that the distribution should be equal unless there is a justification for an unequal distribution. The court will analyze a number of statutory factors to determine if an unequal distribution of assets and/or liabilities is justified. Marital fault is only one of many considerations that a Judge will look at if s/he decides to unequally distribute the marital assets.
The time immediately following a separation can be very chaotic for many reasons. The emotional and financial trauma of separation is compounded by the fact that there are no rules or guidelines to direct both sides on what to do. Not surprisingly the newly separated husband and wife cannot agree on anything and may be very angry at one another. As a result each side may follow his or her emotions and matters can be become much worse. While it is always advisable for the parties to reach a settlement, even if it is only temporary, when no temporary settlement is reached the Court will schedule a pendente lite hearing.
A pendente lite hearing is scheduling at the Court’s Scheduling Conference so you will not know the exact date of the pendente lite hearing until then.
Alimony, also called spousal support or maintenance, is one of the more difficult issues to tackle during the divorce process. With the exception of child custody and child support, no other issue is as personal or emotionally charged to divorce litigants.
Alimony is based on the premise that during a marriage, both spouses have an absolute obligation to support each other financially during the marriage and alimony is a continuation of this obligation after separation or divorce. Accordingly, an alimony award is a vehicle for the Court to equalize the income stream of the parties after divorce for a determined period of time.