In almost every divorce case, the parties want to know how long it takes to divorce. It is a fair question. Unfortunately, there is not a simple answer to this question. There are a number of variables that can impact the amount of time it takes to complete the divorce proceedings in the state of Maryland. Unfortunately, not all variables are within the parties’ control.
Whether One Party is at Fault
In certain situations, Maryland does not impose a waiting period for one to file for divorce. If, for example, one can prove adultery or cruelty, there is no waiting period. However, proving these allegations requires that certain legal standards are met. It is not enough for a spouse to assert adultery or cruelty. One must provide testimony in support of the allegations. Additionally, not all cruelty meets the legal standard for a fault-based ground upon which one can file with no waiting period.
Whether the Parties Require A Waiting Period Prior to Divorce
In some cases, there is a waiting period for divorce. This requires a couple separate for 12 months. However, recently, Maryland passed a law providing for couples with children to divorce without a waiting period. However, this is conditioned on several factors, including:
separation by mutual consent
- A written settlement agreement that the court determines provides for the best interests of the children’s care, custody, support, and access
- Details about how decisions will be made for the children
- Specific information about parenting time
- A plan for how the children’s needs will be met financially.
When the parties come to a mutual agreement, the courts will not insert themselves into the agreement, provided, of course, the agreement complies with the law. This is where a divorce attorney’s expertise can be particularly helpful.
Whether the Parties Can Come to An Agreement
It is not uncommon for parties to a divorce to begin the proceedings with disagreements on most or all of the issues. Over time, however, sometimes these differences cease to be important. In other cases, the parties’ respective lawyers use their negotiation skills to come up with a divorce settlement package that both parties can agree with.
In some cases, mediation can help. A mediator is a neutral third party who listens to each party’s position. Without taking sides, a mediator can offer solutions that may meet each party’s concerns and allow for case resolution. One of the benefits of mediation is that a mediator can work with the parties (and their lawyers) to come up with creative solutions that a court may not order. Further, mediation is a private process, rather than a public event, like a trial is. The parties can work to resolve their differences in private, rather than airing their dirty laundry in public. Mediation is not binding. Consequently, if the parties do not come to an agreement, they are not worse off than if they hadn’t tried mediation. Many couples are surprised at mediation’s effectiveness.
Collaborative law is another approach, wherein the parties and their specially trained attorneys meet to work together to resolve the issues in the divorce. Parties save time and money by only hiring one financial consultant, one parenting expert, etc. The information provided by the experts is then used not to litigate issues, but rather craft a mutually agreed upon settlement. A collaborative law approach is specifically designed with resolution in mind, rather than litigation. Because the parties do not have to also accommodate the court’s schedule, often a collaborative divorce can take much less time.
Whether the Parties Require a Divorce Trial
Every court appearance is a balancing act requiring the input of at least two attorneys, two divorcing spouses, and the court’s calendar. This can often result in significant delays between court dates. Often times, it is useful to use these gaps to work towards a settlement. However, if a couple just cannot come to terms on how to divide their assets, their debts, or issues relating to parenting time and child support, not to mention alimony, the court must make those decisions for the couple. This means waiting until the court has space available on the calendar.
There are other situations which may delay divorce proceedings. This could include an overcrowded court calendar or an over-committed judge. In these circumstances, some or all of their cases may require rescheduling on a given day. Depending on the facts of your case, it may make sense to wait for a ruling from the Maryland Supreme Court, if there is a case before them with similar issues on similar facts. An expert’s report may be submitted late (or not at all). Alternatively, an expert report may include surprising information which results in the need for additional consultation. There are any number of reasons the case may be delayed.
In most cases, if the parties are motivated to resolve the issues by mutual agreement, divorce can be completed relatively quickly. However, in some cases, divorce takes more time. In either case, having an experienced divorce attorney on your side is essential. They can guide you through the decisions you will need to make. Additionally, the advise you about the potential consequences of different choices, and negotiate on your behalf. Call Fait & DiLima at (301) 888-6384 today to schedule a consultation. We look forward to working with you.