The two most frequent questions clients ask me are: (1) how long will this take? and (2) how much will this cost? By the time I meet with a client about a divorce, the client has most likely been considering divorce for quite some time, and the client wants the process to be over as soon as possible. “How long will this take?” the client asks me. Like any good lawyer, my answer is that “it depends.”
The length of the process depends on the client, the spouse, and the court. The quickest way to obtain a divorce in Maryland is to arrive at a written separation agreement before filing for divorce. Now that Maryland allows for mutual consent divorce where the parties have a signed separation agreement, regardless of whether the parties have children, there is no required separation period before filing for a divorce. Once you have a signed separation agreement, you can file a complaint about absolute divorce, and the process typically takes 3 to 4 months from beginning to end.
When negotiating a separation agreement where litigation is not pending, you have a good deal of control over the length of the negotiations. You should develop a framework of the terms that you would like, prioritize them, and prepare a negotiation strategy with your attorney. You know what is most important to you, and you should know what is most important to your spouse. The best way to reach an agreement is to find terms that allow both parties to get some of the things that are most important to them. Focusing on blame or getting even will not help you reach an agreement quickly. Neither party will likely love the ultimate terms of the agreement, but it is important that both parties feel that the agreement is fair. You may not like your spouse or care about how he or she will live, but the process will be shorter and, in the end, a better result for your family if you can reach an agreement that serves both parties’ needs. If you share children, it does not benefit the family if your spouse is not well situated to move on after the divorce. For example, you want your children to have an appropriate place to stay when they are with your spouse.
If you are unable to reach an agreement prior to filing for divorce, you are on the litigation timetable until you are able to reach a written agreement or you receive the court’s decision, if you are unable to ever reach an agreement. When you are on the litigation timetable, the court controls the length of the process. The length of the litigation timetable depends on the county where your divorce is filed. Montgomery County, for instance, bifurcates custody and financial issues, meaning that the court sets a custody trial date first, and then a financial and divorce trial second. The entire process takes about 12 months. Even in counties where there is only one trial, however, the process can still take between 6 to 12 months, and sometimes longer.
Any time that you can reach a written agreement with your spouse that resolves all the issues arising out of your marriage, the litigation timetable comes to an end, and the court can hold an uncontested divorce hearing. The longer the litigation process continues, the more expensive the process becomes. As I often tell my clients, I love my job. I will work hard to negotiate an agreement or litigate in court. If both parties can reach an agreement, though, they are able to spend their money on the family’s future, such as college savings or retirement, rather than attorney’s fees.
If you have questions about Child Custody, Guardianship or any other Family Law issue please contact Catherine H. “Kate” McQueen at (240) 507-1718 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
ABOUT KATE MCQUEEN
Catherine H. “Kate” McQueen is a family lawyer and principal in Offit Kurman’s Bethesda office and is licensed to practice in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. Ms. McQueen focuses her practice on the many legal issues that impact families, including all the issues arising out of a divorce, such as custody, child support, alimony, and other financial and property issues. She also has extensive experience in guardianship matters for children and incapacitated adults, including assisting clients in petitioning for guardianship, serving as court-appointed counsel for alleged disabled persons, and serving as court-appointed guardian for individuals when their family members or friends are unwilling or unable to do so.
ABOUT OFFIT KURMAN
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