Legal separation provides married couples with an alternative to divorce. Some are not ready to give up on the marriage or are opposed to divorce, because of moral, religious or financial reasons. Maryland law does not provide for legal separation. In Maryland, couples file for a “limited divorce,” which provides them with the same legal rights and protections as a legal separation. With a “limited divorce,” couples are still legally married, but petition the court for decisions regarding property settlements, alimony, child support and custody. To file for a limited divorce in Maryland, you must be a resident of the state at the time of filing. If the grounds for the divorce occurred in another state, Maryland requires a residency period of at least one year before filing.
Download the limited divorce forms from the Maryland Judiciary website or a third-party online form provider. Necessary forms include the Complaint for Limited Divorce and the Civil-Domestic Case Information Report. If spousal and child support issues are involved, you will also need the financial statement and a child support worksheet form.
Complete the Civil-Domestic Case Information Report form. Fill in the name and contact information for you and your spouse. Leave the case number blank. The court clerk will fill in this information when you file the form. Complete the special requirements, alternative dispute and contested issues sections. Select the limited divorce box and input any relevant non-custody and custody issues, including any allegations for abuse. Sign and date the form.
Fill out the Complaint for Limited Divorce form. Information needed includes contact, martial, residential and financial information. Input the names and dates of birth for any children. Select the grounds for the limited divorce. In Maryland, grounds for limited divorce are cruelty/excessively vicious conduct, actual desertion, constructive desertion and voluntary separation. If you have children, indicate the type of custody or visitation you want. If you are requesting alimony, state why. If you want the court to make a decision about your property, check off the kinds of property you and your spouse own together. Attach a property settlement agreement if you have one. Complete the affirmation at the bottom of the page, then sign and date the complaint.
Complete the Financial Statement, if necessary such as when alimony and child custody are issues. Fill out the monthly expense list, financial statement and assets and liabilities statement sections. Monthly expenses include residence costs, food, medical and dental, transportation, recreation and entertainment, clothing and gifts. Assets cover both personal and physical community property. Liabilities range from mortgages to credit card balances. Sign and date the statement.
Complete the relevant Child Support Guidelines Worksheet form, if necessary. Use Worksheet A if you are requesting primary physical custody and Worksheet B in cases of joint custody. Fill in information related to parental income, time spent with each parent and expenses related to daycare, health insurance and other child medical costs. Sign and date the worksheet.
Make two copies of the forms and any attachments. Keep one copy for your files.
File the original forms and pay the fee in the clerk’s office at the appropriate county circuit court. Limited divorce forms must be filed in the Maryland county where either spouse lives or works. The clerk will give you a case number and issue a Writ of Summons.
Arrange for a private process server, the sheriff’s office or an adult over the age of 18 to deliver a copy of the Writ and limited divorce forms to your spouse, either in person or by certified mail. Maryland law prohibits the petitioner from serving the papers. Pay any necessary service fees. If using a private company or adult, provide him with the appropriate Affidavit of Service form and an additional copy of the Writ of Summons. He will need to file the Writ and a completed form with the court clerk, when service is complete. The sheriff’s office will automatically notify the clerk; no form is needed.
Tips & Warnings
- Contact an online document preparation website or a local divorce attorney for legal advice regarding Maryland’s laws procedures, especially in contested cases.
- Gather all the necessary financial information before starting the forms.
- Court employees cannot help you fill out your limited divorce forms or provide any legal advice.
References & Resources
- The People’s Law Library of Maryland: Residency Requirements for Filing for Divorce in Maryland
- Maryland Judiciary: Domestic Relations Forms
- Maryland Judiciary: General Instructions for Use with all DOM REL Forms
- Maryland Judiciary: Complaint for Limited Divorce Instructions for Completing DOM REL 21
- Maryland Family Law: Section 7-102 - Limited Divorce
- Maryland Judiciary: Complaint for Limited Divorce (DOM REL 21)
- Maryland Judiciary: Financial Statement (DOM REL 31)
- Child Support Guidelines Worksheet A (DOM REL 34)
- Child Support Guidelines Worksheet B (DOM REL 35)
- Maryland Judiciary: Family Law Self-Help Centers
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