Requirements for divorce in Maine
You can file for divorce in Maine:
You need to live in Maine for at least six months before filing for divorce
You can file for divorce either in the county where you live or the county where your spouse resides.
The final hearing on your divorce will be held only after 60 days of filing the action.
Grounds for divorce
The Complaint for Divorce must state the proper grounds on which you are seeking a divorce. The lawful and appropriate grounds is what both the spouses agree upon and can prove or grounds that the plaintiff wants to prove in the court.
In the case of “no-fault” divorce, the divorce can be granted on basis of “irreconcilable marital differences”.
In the case of a “fault” divorce, the grounds are:
Desertion continued for 3 years consecutively before the divorce action was commenced.
Confirmed habits of intoxication from the use of drugs or liquor.
Cruel and abusive treatment.
Non-support, when one of the spouses has the ability to provide for the other but cruelly or grossly neglects or refuses to provide proper maintenance to the spouse.
Mental illness needing confinement of the spouse for a minimum period of 7 years continuously in a mental institution before the divorce action was commenced.
Step 1: Starting your Maine divorce
Preparing the Documents
To file for divorce in Maine, the following documents must be completed. Below are some of the documents that must be completed, although you may need to fill additional forms.
Documents Needed for Filing for Divorce
Confidential Family Matter Sheet: Identifies the spouses and the kind of action.
Complaint for Divorce: Identifies the spouses and their children, states the grounds, has details of the court’s jurisdictions, documents both spouses’ real estate interests and determines the 5-year residential history of the children and if any other party has custody and is claiming visitation rights to the children (if there are children from the marriage).
Family Matter Summons and Preliminary Injunction: Informs the defendant spouse that the divorce action has started and orders him/her not to dissipate the marital assets and gives him/her 20 days in which he/she must file an Answer.
Acknowledgment of Receipt of Summons and Complaint: Acknowledges the receipt of service and establishes that the defendant will participate in the case.
Answer and Counterclaim: This is filed by the defendant where he/she agrees/disagrees with some/all allegations in the Complaint. The Counterclaim is the defendant’s allegations and requests in the divorce.
Financial Statement: Has the details of all the finances of both spouses.
Order for Service by Publication: Allows the plaintiff to publish the divorce action in the newspaper.
Child Support Worksheet: Used to make calculations and determine child support.
Entry of an Appearance: Used when the defendant wants to testify to some or all the issues such as marital and non-marital property division, alimony, attorney’s fees and child support.
Certificate in Lieu of Case Management Conference: This is filed when both parties arrive at an agreement and the divorce action can move to the final hearing.
Filing Your Forms
The divorce process in Maine begins when you complete the correct documents. You can get the forms either online or via the court clerk at the district courthouse. Ensure that you use the correct forms. If you have children, then you will have to use a different set of forms. You can get more information from the website of the Maine judiciary branch.
You can file the Complaint for Divorce in the Superior Court of Maine or in the Maine District Court. If you file your papers in the District Court, then it must be in the judicial district where either your spouse or you reside or if you are filing in the Superior Court, it must be in the county where your spouse or you reside. Once the papers are completed, they must be served on your spouse at the earliest.
You can bring the papers and file them with the court before serving them to your spouse if your spouse will cooperate if the service is via mail. However, if you use a professional process server or a law enforcement official, then you should file the papers with the courthouse after the service.
You must then submit the forms and the proof that your spouse has been served along with the appropriate filing fee to the court clerk. If you cannot afford the filing fee, then you can request the court to waive the fees by filling the fee waiver forms and submitting them with the court.
Within 2 weeks of filing the forms and serving your spouse, the court will notify you of the date and time for the Case Management Conference. However, if your spouse and you agree on all the terms of the divorce and file the Certificate in Lieu of Case Management Conference, then a conference may not be needed.
Step 2: Notifying your spouse
When you have filled out the forms, you must serve the same on your spouse. The documents must be delivered to the defendant either by us ail or by getting a law enforcement officer to hand over the documents to your spouse.
You must also get the proof of service, which means that either your spouse or the process server must sign the document stating that the papers have been served.
Step 3: Contested or uncontested?
Contested Divorce (High Costs)
If your spouse and you do not agree with all the terms of the divorce such as property and debt division, child custody and support, spousal support and any other issues, then your divorce becomes a “contested divorce” and will proceed to trial, where the judge will hear your case and resolve the disputed issues.
Contested divorces are very expensive because both spouses must hire a lawyer to represent their side of the case and such divorces are quite long-drawn too.
Uncontested Divorce (Low Costs)
In an uncontested divorce, both the parties agree on all the issues related to the divorce such as division of property and debts, alimony, child custody, child support and visitation or parenting time.
In Maine, there are 2 ways in which you can get an uncontested divorce:
If you file and serve the divorce papers on your spouse and your spouse does not file and serve the responsive papers. In this case, the court clerk will mark your case on the court calendar for an uncontested final hearing.
If your spouse and you attend the mandatory preliminary hearings and there are no disputed issues, then your case will be scheduled by the court for an uncontested final hearing.
Step 4: DIY or get a lawyer?
DIY divorce Papers (Slower & Least Costly)
Several people handle their own divorces and do not hire a lawyer. a DIY divorce is where all the proceedings for the divorce are conducted by yourself. You must prepare all the divorce documents on your own, represent yourself in the court if required, apply for child custody, child/ spousal support, etc.
In Maine, DIY divorce is a viable option because you do not require either a lawyer or a legal body to assist you. However, you should remember the following:
You must not fulfill any action without being completely sure that you know what to do.
Always check the accuracy of the completed documents.
Make 3 copies of all documents in advance and serve your spouse.
Be prepared for your court hearing.
Online Divorce Services (Fastest & Inexpensive)
If you want to handle your divorce on your own, but aren’t sure about the processes or how to fill out the forms needed to file for divorce, then you can use an online divorce service. The online service will prepare all the necessary forms for you and save you a lot of time and money.
How does it work? You simply answer questions regarding your divorce and based on your responses, the correct forms will be filled out based on your needs. After you finish answering the questions, you will be able to download and print them out to file at your local courthouse.
Attorney Divorce Trial (Longer & Expensive)
If you are unable to agree with all the issues regarding your divorce with your spouse, then your case may go to trial. You may want to hire a lawyer or talk to one about the divorce process.
This is especially important if:
Your spouse and you disagree about the decisions that affect your children.
Your spouse and you have complicated issues pertaining to your finances, property or real estate.
There is a threat or history of domestic violence in your home.
If your case goes to trial, it will be heard by the judge, who will go through all the testimonies, witnesses, evidence etc. and then take decisions on all the disputed issues.
Step 5: The big issues
Maine is an “equitable distribution” state, which means that in the case of a divorce, the marital property will be divided in a fair and equitable manner. The court encourages both spouses to reach an agreement, failing which, the court will take a decision about the property division.
The court will divide the marital property after considering the relevant factors such as:
Contribution of each of the spouses in the acquisition of the marital property and also the contribution of each spouse as a homemaker.
The value of the property apportioned to each spouse.
The economic situation of each spouse at the time of property division and the desirability of awarding the family home to the spouse who has the custody of the children or the right of that spouse to live in the marital home for a reasonable length of time.
Marital property is all the property which is acquired by either party after the marriage excluding:
Property that is got as a gift, by descent, devise or bequest.
Property that is got in exchange for property acquired before the marriage or in exchange for property got by gift, descent, devise or bequest.
Property got by a party after the decree of legal separation.
Property that is excluded by a valid agreement between the spouses.
Increase in the property value got before the marriage and the increase in the value of a party’s non-marital property.
Alimony / Spousal Support
Not all divorce cases involve spousal support from one spouse to another and spousal support – either temporary or permanent is decided on a case-to-case basis either as an agreement between the spouses or at the discretion of the court. If both spouses are unable to arrive at an agreement, the court will decide the spousal support after considering the following factors:
Duration of the marriage.
Capacity of each spouse to pay.
Age of each spouse.
Employment potential and history of each spouse.
Income potential and history of each spouse.
Education and training of each spouse.
Provisions for health insurance and retirement benefits of each spouse.
Tax implications of the marital property division and also tax implications of sale of the marital home.
Health of each spouse and disabilities (if any).
Tax implications due to the award of spousal support.
Contributions of each spouse as a homemaker.
Contributions of either spouse to the earning potential or education of the other.
Standard of living maintained by both spouses during the marriage.
Economic misconduct by either spouse causing the income or marital property to be reduced.
Ability of the spouse seeking support to become self-supporting within a realistic period of time.
Any other relevant factors.
Child Custody Laws
If there are minor children from the marriage, the Maine court will do all that is necessary to reduce the emotional trauma experienced by the kids and if the parents are unable to agree on the issues pertaining to the children, the court will pass a custody order keeping in mind the best interests of the child after considering the following factors:
Child’s relationship with his/her parents and any other persons who can affect the welfare of the child significantly.
Child’s preference if the child is mature and old enough to specify a meaningful preference.
Duration and appropriateness of the current living arrangements of the child and the desire to maintain continuity.
Stability of the living arrangements for the child.
Motivation and capacity of each parent to give the child affection, love and guidance.
Adjustment of the child to his/her current school, home and community.
Capability of each parent to encourage and allow frequent and ongoing contact between them and the child and also physical access.
Ability of each parent to cooperate in child care.
Methods that can assist parental cooperation and resolving disputes and the willingness of each parent to adopt those methods.
If one of the parents has the authority over the upbringing of the child, then the effect of this on the child.
History or current occurrence of domestic abuse between parents and its effects on the child.
History of child abuse by a parent.
If the child is less than a year old and is being breastfed.
History of conviction of a parent for a sexually violent offense or for a sex offense.
The parent’s willful misuse of protection from abuse.
Any other factors having a bearing on the physical or psychological welfare of the child.
The child support guidelines to calculate the child support in Maine are based on the Income Shares Model. And, the monthly support is calculated by applying the child support guidelines and is proportionally divided based on the income of each parent.
The 2 amounts are offset to determine which of the parents will pay the other for child support.
Step 6: Finalizing your divorce in Maine
Once the divorce papers are filed and served on the defendant, he/she has 20 days to respond to the same. In Maine, the divorce cannot be finalized before 60 days after the time that the papers have been served on the defendant. The court may issue temporary orders on some or all of the issues related to the case, while the divorce is pending.
If both parties agree on all issues or in the case of a trial, once the court issues orders on all the disputed issues between both parties, the final divorce judgment or decree will be issued by the judge.