|Posted by Sarah I. Malik on March 6, 2018 at 4:50 PM|
We have all heard of the quickie wedding (last minute elopement or rash decision in Vegas), but, unfortunately, most divorces are not as quick. Sometimes, the divorce process can take longer than an actual marriage. One of the most common questions family law attorneys field is “how long will this case take?” The long and the short of it is, longer than you think if you do not plan strategically!
In Maryland, most cases fall within the spectrum of divorce timelines that can range from 2 months to 2 years.
How does one find themselves on the shorter end of this? Simple – by trying to settle the case as early as possible.
The shortest possible timeline to divorce in Maryland involves the Mutual Consent divorce. Currently, the Mutual Consent grounds are available to couples that have no minor children in common and have entered into a signed separation agreement. Once they have met these two requirements, they do not even need to be separated! After signing the separation agreement, they can file for an uncontested divorce based on Mutual Consent and will have a final divorce hearing approximately six weeks later.
The longest possible timeline to divorce in Maryland involve cases that include financial/property issues as well as custody issues. Most courts bifurcate the process, and set a trial date for the custody and child support matters (known as the “custody merits”) first and then the financial and property merits (also known as the “divorce merits”) second. The courts establish those dates early on in the process and often space them apart by several months. If the parties do not reach a settlement before the trial dates, they can present their case at the respective trial for an outcome. In any event, before the court can grant the divorce at the “divorce merits” stage, the parties need to have met at least one of the grounds for divorce and, most often, that is having been separated for one full year without interruption. These cases can last anywhere from 1 to 2 years, depending upon if and when the case settles and the court’s calendar.
The cases that are in the middle as far as timeline to divorce are those that only involve one issue (e.g., custody only or financial/property only) or the parties reach an agreement on all issues as soon as possible. So, for example, if you are divorcing and have separated, you can use the time during the required one year separation to settle all issues related to custody, child support, alimony and/or property. When your one year time is up, then you can file for an absolute divorce and have the divorce hearing about six weeks later.
So what is the moral of the story? Plan your divorce carefully and seek alternative forms of dispute resolution (e.g., mediation or negotiations). Not only will this save you lots of time, it will allow you to avoid the heartache of a long drawn out litigation process and the legal costs associated with such a process.