We all face difficult decisions and situations in life; divorce can be one of the most challenging. Untangling two lives, and all of the ways they are intertwined, can be complicated – even in cases where the divorce is amicable. But what happens if you file for divorce and your spouse moves before the divorce is final? Does your divorce case have to move to a different court jurisdiction? Do you have to re-file your divorce? What if your spouse moves out of state? Can your divorce proceedings continue in Maryland?
In short: Will your spouse moving throw a monkey wrench into your divorce that drags out the proceedings or is it a minor complication?
Where you divorce depends on where you – or your spouse – lives
If you filed for or are about to file for divorce and your spouse decides to relocate to another area, it is understandable that you would feel concerned about this development. The key is understanding how Maryland determines jurisdiction for divorce cases. Under Maryland law, you can file for divorce in the state if either you or your spouse is a resident of Maryland. Both parties do not need to live here in order for you to file. You should file for divorce in the circuit court in the county in which you or your spouse reside.
The important thing is that either you or your spouse meet the residency requirement at the time you file for divorce. That is what determines where your divorce should be handled. Maryland’s residency requirements for divorce state that:
- At least one spouse must be a resident of Maryland at the time of filing.
- If the reason, or grounds, for divorce occurred here in Maryland, you only have to be a resident at the time you file for divorce.
- If, however, the grounds for divorce did not happen in Maryland, either you or your spouse must live in Maryland for at least six months.
If you have already filed and your spouse moves – even if they move out of state – your divorce can continue in the court where you filed it. Or, if you and your spouse both move out of state before the divorce is finalized, the divorce can continue.
Also, note that the amount of time your spouse has to respond to your divorce filing varies depending on where your spouse resides when the papers are served. When you file for divorce in Maryland, your spouse is served with divorce papers and has:
- 30 days to respond if they live in Maryland
- 60 days to respond if they live in another state
- 90 days to respond if the papers were served outside the United States
What if I don’t know where my spouse moved?
Not knowing where your spouse is currently living can present a problem, as you need to have some sort of current, legal address where they can be reached. Your spouse must be served with the divorce complaint in order for the case to move forward. If you do not know where your spouse lives, it is important that you do your best to find out before you file for divorce. The court will not locate your spouse for you.
After you file, the court will issue a summons that must be served within 60 days. If you are unable to have your spouse served because you do not know their location, the case may not move forward unless you can demonstrate that you have tried in good faith to find your absent spouse and that they have not been declared legally dead and are not deployed with the military. You may also ask the court for permission to file a Motion of Service by Publication or Posting, which requires that you publish a notice of divorce in the newspaper or in the courthouse. The notice must be published and run once a week for at least three weeks.
Under Maryland law, you can divorce an absent spouse if you can demonstrate that you have made a good-faith effort to locate your spouse but you are unable to find them, you may request an Order of Default. If the court grants the Order of Default, you can use it to file a Request for Hearing or Proceeding, which is a formal request of the court to set a date for your divorce hearing. When the hearing takes place, you will have to present all of your divorce document. If all of the divorce documents are in order, the court will then grant the divorce.
Handling all of this on your own can be challenging. Even if you and your spouse are in agreement regarding the divorce, it is a life-changing decision and the process can be stressful. Any complication, even one that seems minor such as a change of residency, may be cause for additional concern on your part. However, an experienced Bethesda divorce lawyer can help.
The Bethesda divorce and family law attorneys at McCabe Russell, PA understand that every situation is unique. Although we have been handling divorce and family law cases for years and there is little we have not seen, we know that this may be your first time involved in a divorce. We guide you through the process step-by-step, taking the time to explain everything and answering your questions along the way. If and when complications arise, such as your spouse moving, we make sure to explain exactly how the development may affect your case and discuss our recommendations on how best to handle it. Our goal is to resolve your divorce or other family law matter as effectively and smoothly as possible, so that you can move on in a healthy manner.
If you are considering divorce, or if you are facing any other family law matter and are in need of legal advice, we stand ready to assist you. We represent clients in Bethesda, Columbia, Fulton, and Rockville, Maryland, as well as in the surrounding areas. Give us a call today at 443-917-3347 or complete our contact form to schedule a consultation.