Petition for Dissolution of Marriage

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 What Is a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage?

A Petition for Dissolution of Marriage under family laws is the formal legal document that one spouse submits to a court to begin the process of getting a divorce. This document is also sometimes called a divorce petition. By filing this petition, you are asking the court to officially end your marriage.

In this document, you will provide basic information about you, your spouse, your marriage, and any children you may have. The petition also typically outlines what you are seeking from the divorce in terms of property division, child custody, child support, and possibly alimony or spousal support.

What Is Included in a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage?

When you file a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage form, several pieces of information need to be included:

Personal Information

When filing a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, the very first section will include comprehensive personal details. It’s not just about who you are but also about providing a backdrop for your marriage. This includes:

  • Full Legal Names: Your legal names as they appear on all official documents.
  • Addresses: Your current addresses, which may be used for future court correspondence and proceedings.
  • Marriage Details: The date and place where you were married, which establishes the jurisdiction and possibly the applicable laws for the dissolution of your marriage.

Grounds for Divorce

This section is about the legal foundation for your request to dissolve the marriage. You’ll articulate the reasons why you believe the marriage should end and whether it is a no-fault divorce or not.

Information about Children

Children are central to many divorce proceedings. In this part, you’ll provide:

  • Children’s Details: Names and ages of all children, biological or adopted, from the marriage.
  • Living Arrangements: Where and with whom the children are currently living.
  • Custody Proposal: An initial proposal for how you believe custody should be handled, whether seeking sole or shared custody.

Financial Information

A detailed look at finances is necessary to ensure a fair division of assets and proper support arrangements:

  • Assets: Information about all marital assets, including properties, savings, investments, and valuable personal property.
  • Debts: Outstanding debts like mortgages, car loans, credit cards, and personal loans.
  • Income: Documentation of earnings for both you and your spouse, which can affect alimony and child support.
  • Expenses: Regular household and personal expenses to provide a clear picture of the standard of living and financial needs.

Custody and Support

This part outlines the expectations and plans for the children’s care:

  • Custody Arrangements: Detailed suggestions for legal and physical custody, including where the children will live and how decisions about their welfare will be made.
  • Visitation Schedule: A proposed visitation schedule for the non-custodial parent.
  • Child Support: An outline of the expected child support, taking into consideration the children’s needs and both parents’ financial circumstances.

Property and Debt Division

Dividing property and debt fairly is crucial. This section would include:

  • Marital vs. Separate Property: Distinguishing between what was acquired during the marriage and what belongs to each spouse individually.
  • Valuation of Property: Estimates or appraisals of property value for an equitable division.
  • Debt Responsibility: How marital debts should be divided and who will be responsible for what.

Spousal Support

Whether temporary or permanent, spousal support considerations include:

  • Need for Support: Establishing the need for financial support by one spouse, which could be influenced by a disparity in income or earning potential.
  • Ability to Pay: The other spouse’s ability to provide financial support without undue hardship.

Other Legal Issues

Sometimes, there are additional legal matters to consider:

  • Name Change: If one spouse wishes to return to a maiden name or a previous last name, this request can be included.
  • Restraining Orders: In cases involving domestic violence or harassment, protective orders may be necessary.

Each of these areas requires careful consideration and precise documentation to ensure that the court has a full understanding of the circumstances surrounding the dissolution of marriage. It’s important to provide clear, detailed information to facilitate a fair and just resolution to the divorce proceedings.

What Are Some Other Considerations Regarding Petitions for Dissolution of Marriage?

When filing for divorce, there are a few other things to keep in mind:

Residency Requirements in Maryland

In Maryland, there is a clear rule about who can file for a divorce in the state. Before you can ask for a divorce, either you or your spouse must have lived in Maryland for at least one year. This is what the law calls a “residency requirement.” If the reason for your divorce happened outside of Maryland, then this one-year rule applies.

However, if the reason for your divorce happened in Maryland and you both lived there when you applied for divorce, there is no specific time you must have lived there before filing.

Legal Separation in Maryland

Maryland law does not require you to be legally separated before you get divorced. However, being separated can be part of the reason you are asking for a divorce. In Maryland, if you and your spouse live apart for 12 months without interruption and do not have sexual relations with each other during that time, you can use this as a reason (or “grounds”) to get a divorce.

Mediation and Counseling in Maryland

Sometimes, courts in Maryland will want you to try to work things out before your divorce is final. This can mean going to mediation or counseling. Mediation is a process where a trained person helps you and your spouse talk about your issues and try to reach an agreement. In some cases, if there are disagreements about children, the court might order you to go to a parenting education program or counseling. The court can also send you to mediation for other disagreements, like arguments about property.

Serving Your Spouse in Maryland

After you file your papers with the court, you must let your spouse know about the divorce. This is called “serving” them. In Maryland, you can do this in a few different ways. You can hire a professional called a “process server,” or sometimes the Sheriff can do it for you. In some cases, if your spouse agrees, they can just sign a paper that says they received the documents; you cannot just give the papers to your spouse yourself.

Waiting Periods in Maryland

Once you file for divorce, you might have to wait a bit before things move forward. Maryland has different rules about this “waiting period” based on the reason for the divorce. You may have filed because you and your spouse have been separated for 12 months. In this case, you can move forward without a waiting period.

But, if you’re filing for a divorce for other reasons, the time you have to wait can vary. There is also a 30-day waiting period for the final divorce decree to be issued after the court hearing in some cases to give time for any appeals.

Remember, these rules can be complicated, and every situation is different. It’s a good idea to talk to a divorce lawyer who knows a lot about Maryland divorce law to help guide you through your specific situation. They can make sure you understand all the rules and what you need to do.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help With a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage?

Dealing with the end of a marriage can be complicated and emotionally challenging. The legal process involves many details that can have long-lasting implications for your life. You are allowed to file a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage on your own. However, working with a family law attorney can help ensure that your rights and interests are protected throughout the process.

A family law attorney can guide you through the complexities of the divorce process, including understanding the laws of your state, preparing and filing the necessary paperwork, and representing you in court if necessary. An attorney can also provide valuable advice on issues such as division of assets, child custody arrangements, and spousal support.

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