Divorce Lawyer Bethesda, MD
Skilled attorney serving Montgomery County for more than 30 years
For most people, divorce is a difficult time, and having a trustworthy marital law attorney makes a big difference. Each divorce is unique to the parties involved, so your attorney must be ready with a variety of approaches to identify your goals, resolve conflicts and move effectively toward resolution of the many issues involved. At The Law Office of Stacy B. Talbott, Ms. Talbott offers patient counsel and sound, practical advice as she helps you choose the right path for your divorce.
Help with uncontested divorce in Bethesda
In an uncontested divorce, the husband and wife come to an agreement on all terms prior to filing. An uncontested divorce is the simplest form of divorce and takes place after spouses and their attorneys have negotiated and finalized a marital settlement agreement. That agreement includes their understanding of rights and obligations regarding child custody, child support, visitation, alimony and property division. Couples who have a legal separation agreement or a prenuptial agreement can use those as the basis for a final divorce decree.
In a contested divorce, the husband and the wife have not agreed on terms prior to filing with the court. If they still don’t reach an agreement during the court process, a family court judge will make the determination after various trials and hearings on the issues. There may be a trial within a few months of filing suit to address the immediate issues of support (alimony and/or child support) and visitation. A trial on custody may take place thereafter and then, ultimately, a trial on the divorce itself. The court process can take up to one year to finalize. Although Ms. Talbott is a skilled divorce litigator, she often feels it is in the best interests of her clients to settle issues in negotiation to avoid the time and expense of trial.
Maryland no-fault divorce
Traditionally, Maryland has required a filing spouse to show grounds for a divorce. The most common grounds for a fault-based divorce include:
- Cruelty of treatment
- Excessively vicious conduct
- Felony conviction
- Mental insanity
In a no-fault divorce, neither party alleges or admits to grounds for the divorce. Couples wishing to avoid the unpleasantness of litigating grounds, which then become part of the public record, can obtain a no-fault divorce in Maryland after a separation of 12 months, meaning that the couple has lived separately every night of the year. However, couples with no children in common who have negotiated a marital settlement agreement can file by “mutual consent” and avoid the 12-month waiting period.
Understanding the Maryland divorce process
Since each divorce is unique, the process varies from case to case. However, the following outline should provide a general idea of what to expect as your divorce goes forward.
- Are you eligible? — To file for divorce in Maryland, at least one of the spouses must have been a resident of the state for at least six months.
- The Petitioner files — The Petitioner (the person seeking divorce) files a complaint in the county court asking for a marital dissolution and stating how the petitioner would like the court to decide matters of property, child custody, child support and alimony.
- Serving the Complaint — The Petitioner must arrange for a third party, usually a process server, to deliver the Complaint and Summons to the other spouse.
- The Respondent’s Answer — The responding spouse has 30 days to file an answer with the court.
- Scheduling conference — After the Respondent files the Answer, the court clerk places the case on the court calendar. The scheduling conference is for administrative purposes only. Depending on the facts of the case, the court may order various services, such as alcohol/drug screening, an attorney for the children, co-parenting classes, custody mediation, custody evaluation or a home study by a court social worker, and a psychological evaluation.
- Discovery — In this part of the process, spouses must disclose all relevant information, especially financial statements.
- Pendente lite — This hearing may be held to determine a fair amount of temporary alimony and/or child support payable until the divorce is finalized.
- Custody mediation — A neutral third party attempts to help the spouses craft a workable parenting plan.
- Custody hearing — This hearing is scheduled to permanently decide issues related to the children.
- Settlement conference — Spouses are free to submit a settlement agreement to the court at any time during the process. The court will order a settlement conference to help facilitate that process.
- Trial — Any issues that are not settled after the settlement conference are bound over for trial two to three months later.
- Final order — At the conclusion of the trial or earlier if the spouses submit a settlement agreement, the court will issue a final order, dissolving the marriage.
Whether your divorce is amicable or contentious, Ms. Talbott provides dedicated counsel throughout every phase of the process to reach an agreement that protects you and your family.
Contact a knowledgeable and reliable Montgomery County divorce attorney
To schedule a confidential, no-obligation consultation with an experienced family law attorney, call 301-637-8527 or contact The Law Office of Stacy B. Talbott online.