How Do I Get This Divorce Started? And Why Does It Take So Long?

Getting your Maryland divorce started and finished is not always easy.  First, the complaint for divorce has to be drafted and signed by you, the party moving for divorce. Once the complaint for divorce is filed, the clerk of the court will issue what is known as a writ of summons. A writ of summons is a document issued by the court, which orders a person to answer a complaint within a specified time. After the summons is issued, it must be served within 60 days after the date it is issued, along with a copy of the complaint, and all other papers filed with it. Serving these documents can be done in one of several ways: by having the documents delivered directly to your spouse; by leaving the documents at your spouse’s dwelling, house, or usual place of abode with a resident of suitable age and discretion; or by sending the documents via certified mail, restricted delivery. If your spouse lives outside of Maryland, then they can be served by any method allowed by the jurisdiction in which they reside, provided that it is reasonably calculated to give your spouse actual notice.

Under Maryland law, you cannot personally serve your spouse. Instead, service of process must be made by a sheriff or by a private person who is not a party to the divorce and is at least 18 years of age. When choosing a method for serving your spouse there are several factors to consider, including but not limited to: where your spouse resides, whether they are likely to evade service, your finances (you will incur expenses when having divorce papers served by a sheriff or private process server), your safety, and how you anticipate they will act to being served with divorce papers. For example, if you know your spouse has a propensity for anger when receiving bad news, having them served by a uniformed police officer or private process server may be the more appropriate method for service of process. If you are unsure what method to choose, you should consult with an attorney.

Each one of these steps, obviously, takes some time. And the Court won’t do anything in your case, unless it’s an unusual circumstance, until service has been completed. So, it’s important to get it done right if you feel in a hurry. But service of the complaint is just the first step of many, so keep that in mind as you move forward. Good thing patience is a virtue.