A separation decree may be given by a court where there is unilateral (one party) or bilateral (both parties) desire for separation. This means that a husband or wife can file for a separation apart or together; they do not have to agree to the separation. Separation is generally used as a period that allows the parties to work towards a final divorce.
Divorce, on the other hand, is the final divorce judgment that permanently ends the marriage relation. While counseling is not required prior to divorce, all contested divorces must go through the mediation process. Mandatory mediation is designed to decrease costs- currently mediation costs each party $80 in Maine – and improve efficiency. You are not required to have a lawyer represent you during the mediation process, but it is advised, especially where children or significant assets are involved.
What Paperwork Do You Need to File for Divorce?
Maine has established a five-step process for divorces with children. These steps have initial and ongoing paperwork requirements and it will be extremely beneficial to have a lawyer helping you through the entire process.
- File a Divorce Complaint. This is the initial paperwork that announces your intention to leave your spouse. A child support affidavit will be completed and submitted now as well.
- Service of Forms. The paperwork described in Step 1 must be delivered (served) on your spouse and possibly other interested parties. Improper service, or failing to serve, can lead to the divorce complaint being dismissed or challenged later.
- File Paperwork. Once the forms have been completed and properly served they must be submitted to the court system.
- Case Management Conference. A court will meet with you and your spouse to discuss preliminary matters (such as division of child custody until the divorce is finalized) and to set mediation guidelines.
- Mediation. You and your spouse will attend mediation. This process can take a significant amount of time depending on the complexity of the divorce. Be prepared by gathering and reviewing paperwork related to your family matters, investments, real estate and income.
You may be able to challenge findings of the mediator, but this is highly unlikely. An experienced divorce lawyer can help you through the entire process and work to ensure that your rights are protected at each step.
Community Property vs. Separate Property
Maine is considered an "equitable distribution” state. Contested property in a divorce will be divided after consideration of the following:
- the contribution(s) made by each spouse (including homemaker contributions),
- the value the property has to each spouse, and
- the economic impact the property has, at the time of the divorce, on the family.
Property division can be one of the most complicated areas of a divorce. What a home or business is valued at can be extremely contentious and the support of a lawyer is highly recommended.
What Should You Do If There are Children Involved?
The protection and well-being of children are given priority throughout the divorce process. A Maine court can impose certain protections if your child is in immediate danger from your spouse. A lawyer can be critical at this time to help you through the process and ensure that proper safeguards are requested.
The divorce process should always consider the best interests of the child whenever making a decision related to the child’s future. For example, stability in the child’s life will be given serious weight and often the parent who can provide the child with a comfortable and safe environment will be given primary custody.
If one parent has primary custody and the other has limited or joint custody, then the other parent will often be required to pay child support. The amount of child support is often decided by the court and is based on a variety of factors, including how much the parent earns and the needs of the child.
Do You Need to Pay Alimony?
Depending on the facts and circumstances of your divorce, you may be required to pay alimony. The mediation process will allow each party to discover the assets and income of the other party. It is usually in the best interest of the state to ensure that none of the parties to a divorce are left dependent upon the state. Therefore, if one spouse was the primary earner then he or she may be required to continue their financial support of the other.
Where Can You Find the Right Divorce Lawyer?
If you are considering divorce or are facing a divorce, then it is in your best interest to contact an experienced Maine divorce lawyer today to discuss your rights and option under the divorce laws of Maine.