Maryland/D.C. Divorce: What to Expect In The First Weeks After Filing For Divorce

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Filing for divorce in Maryland or the District of Columbia is usually pretty stressful. Dissolving one’s marriage is momentous, emotional, and, for obvious reasons, life-changing. The legal process is also strange and unfamiliar and can be a source of worry. As such, it can be helpful to understand what to expect during the first few weeks of the legal process after the Petition For Divorce is filed. Preparing and filing the Petition can also be stressful. Couples seeking a divorce in Maryland or D.C. would benefit from hiring experienced Maryland and D.C. divorce attorneys like the ones at The Law Offices of Thomas Stahl. Below, we discuss what you should expect in the first weeks after filing for divorce.

Serving the other spouse with summons and Petition

When a Petition for Divorce is filed at the local courthouse, other court papers are also filed, including what is called a “summons.” A summons is just that — it is a paper that summons the other spouse into court, letting them know that a divorce case has been filed. A summons is a form completed by your Maryland/D.C. divorce attorneys with some information completed (such as the names of the parties) and other spaces left blank. When the Petition is first filed, the clerk of court will stamp the summons with the newly provided case number along with the courtroom, calendar, and judge assigned to the case. The clerk will also stamp the summons with the date for the initial hearing. That is the first date for lawyers to appear before the judge. The date is usually 30 to 60 days from the date that the Petition is filed.

Many copies of the Petition and summons are stamped and completed. At least a couple of these are taken to the local Sheriff’s office (or other official office) to be given over for “service” of the Petition and summons on the other spouse. “Service” means hand-delivering a copy of the Petition and summons. From this delivery, the other spouse is informed of the divorce and knows the first court date.

This process might take a couple of weeks. If the other is hiding or otherwise avoiding being given a copy of the Petition/summons, the process will be extended. Note that there is a process by which the other spouse can waive the service of summons. This involves the other spouse signing a “Waiver Of Service” form. This is often done in uncontested divorces and will save the couple money.

Preparing and filing the Answer (response to the Petition)

After the other spouse has been served, that spouse has from 21 to 28 days to go into the clerk of court and file what is called an “Answer” to the Petition. As the name implies, the Answer responds to matters stated in the Petition. The Petition might say: “The couple was married on May 15, 1990.” The Answer would, in effect, say: “Yes, that is agreed.” Alternatively, the Answer could say: “Disputed. That is not agreed.”

The initial hearing

At the initial hearing, the separate lawyers for the individual spouses appear before the judge. At this “intake” hearing, the judge may quickly review the Petition and the Answer to get a general idea of the case and what might be in dispute. Among other things, the court will set a schedule for the case, including dates for additional hearings. Most cases are scheduled to be resolved within a year from the date of filing.

Maryland And D.C. Family Law Attorneys

Contact the seasoned and experienced Maryland and D.C. family law lawyers at The Law Offices of Thomas Stahl for more information. We have the skills and expertise you need. We have proven experience with family law for Maryland and the District of Columbia. Schedule a consultation today or call us at (410) 696-4326 or (202) 964-7280. We have offices in Columbia, MD, and Washington, DC.