Question: In a pending divorce case, I want to file a signed agreement with the court so the case can be uncontested. How can I submit the agreement correctly?
Answer: If you and your spouse have reached a mutual agreement, or what the court refers to as a Marital Settlement Agreement or MSA, then you should make a copy of the Agreement and mail the agreement along with a Line stating that the case is now UNCONTESTED and asking for an uncontested divorce hearing. The best thing to do is to call up the Court’s Family Services Division and ask how the Court wants this to be done. Each Court may have a slightly different process for this.
It’s important to note that your Agreement must be complete* in that it addresses ALL the issues in your marriage even if it as simple as one line that says “both parties are waiving any claim for alimony from the other and they recognize that waiver is forever and they cannot come back to the court and ask for alimony at any time.” So, your agreement should mention and resolve who gets what personal property, child custody and access schedules, child support, alimony, investment and bank accounts, cars, furnishings, retirement accounts, and who gets the real property (land and houses) and who pays what for the house and its expenses. Also, if you own land or a house together, you Agreement should be Notarized.
*I strongly advise you to have an experienced family law attorney look over the agreement and suggest additions or modifications. A Marital Settlement Agreement is a lot more complex than you should assume. If you do it right, you will have very few disagreements in the future because the MSA already covers the topic you would otherwise fight about. A well written MSA keeps you out of court and therefore saves you a lot of headache and money in the future.
Additionally, in Maryland, because you need a “ground” or a reason to file for divorce. So, once you have your Agreement signed then you qualify for a “mutual consent” divorce regardless of how long you’ve been separated or even if you still live together. So, this means you should get another copy of the Complaint for Absolute Divorce (form DR20), write the word “Supplemental” before the title so it now says “Supplement Complaint for Absolute Divorce” and check the box “Mutual Consent” in paragraph 13. I’d highlight that also so the Clerk sees it.
Now you will have three things to file with the Court:
- Supplement Complaint for Absolute Divorce (original and you keep a copy);
- Signed Agreement (copy);
- Line asking for an Uncontested hearing.
To file this you can mail it to the Circuit Court, or drop it off, or you can register for the on-line MDEC system and once you are registered you can file everything electronically. Although you are able to file the agreement without an attorney, an attorney could assist you in making sure the process is performed correctly and can review your agreement to make sure all issues are resolved.
Your spouse also needs to file a Supplement Answer form (Form DR50) where she or he answers that the case is Uncontested. She or he files it via one of the same ways you did and you should get a copy of this. Look on the on-line database http://casesearch.courts.state.md.us/casesearch/ to see if the Court received all the pleadings. You should expect the Court to send you a Notice of Uncontested Divorce Hearing 10-14 days after that. If that doesn’t happen, call up the Court’s Family Services and ask them to schedule a hearing for you.