Marriage doesn’t always end in fairy tales, and dreams of being married happily ever after may be replaced by the desire for a divorce. If this describes your current situation, this guide will help you complete the divorce process in Maine.
NOTE: This article is not legal advice but aims to guide you through the divorce process, from the filing requirements to what to expect when you file for a divorce in Maine.
Divorce in Maine Summary
Here is a brief breakdown of everything you need to know to get a divorce in Maine.
Divorce Petition Requirements
- Have lived in Maine for six months before filing your divorce petition
- Live and got married in Maine
- Have lived in Maine, and the ground for your petition occurred while you were living in Maine
- The spouse is a Maine resident
There are six grounds for at-fault divorce in Maine:
Adultery: infidelity or unfaithfulness
Desertion: if your partner left with intention of abandonment or has been away for over three years.
Substance abuse or addiction: if your partner has a drug or alcohol addiction
Cruelty or abusive treatment: if there is emotional, physical, or psychological abuse
Impotence and mental incapacity: if your spouse is impotent and unable to consummate your union. And if your partner becomes mentally incapacitated.
Refusal or non-support: if your partner refuses to or is incapable of providing general support for you.
How to File A Divorce in Maine
The first step is filing the divorce complaint at the District Court in the county where you or your partner live.
After filing the divorce petition at the court, send your spouse copies of the divorce documents. There are a few different ways you can do this.
If your spouse has filed a divorce complaint, you must enter an appearance by filing an Entry of Appearance form.
You will also need to file an answer to the complaint within 21 days of receiving the divorce paperwork. Otherwise, the divorce will be deemed uncontested if your spouse proves that you received the divorce documents.
If you fail to file an answer within 21 days, the judge may award a default judgment against you, finalizing your spouse’s application for a divorce.
If you and your spouse have outstanding issues regarding spousal support, property division, or child support, you must file financial documents disclosing your assets, debts, and income.
There are also documents required at this stage including the Child Support Affidavit and Social Security Number Disclosure forms.
Mediation is required in contested divorces to allow you and your spouse an opportunity to resolve disputes that led to the divorce.
At the hearings, the court will listen to you and your spouse on the claims made in your pleadings, such as divorce complaint, answer, and counterclaim.
The judge makes pronouncements on all unresolved areas of the divorce.
The final divorce hearing can only take place after the mandatory 60 days waiting period.
This completes the divorce process in Maine.
What Are the Requirements to Get a Divorce in Maine?
Maine law requires you or your spouse to be a resident before filing the divorce petition. You can meet this residency requirement under these conditions:
- You have lived in Maine for six months before filing your divorce petition
- You live in Maine and got married in Maine
- You live in Maine, and the ground for your petition occurred while you were living in Maine
- Your spouse is a Maine resident
Generally, the spouse filing for divorce must meet the residency requirement for the District Court of Maine to have authority over your divorce case. However, military men stationed in Maine and their spouses are exempt from this requirement.
What Are the Grounds for Divorce in Maine?
In addition to the residency requirement, you may only file for a divorce under two broad grounds in Maine. The grounds for a Maine divorce are divided into fault grounds and no-fault grounds. Here are the fault grounds for a Maine Divorce:
- Adultery: You may file for divorce in Maine if your spouse is unfaithful or can’t keep the vows they made to you on your wedding day. However, you must file your divorce complaint within a reasonable time. It is important to note that a divorce complaint on the grounds of adultery may fail if you have also committed adultery or condoned your partner’s infidelity.
- Desertion: You may file for divorce in Maine if your spouse deserts you for three or more years. Desertion occurs when your spouse abandons you and their marital obligations without looking back. So why should you?
- Substance abuse or addiction: If your partner has a drug or alcohol addiction, Maine law allows you to file for a divorce.
- Cruelty or abusive treatment: if your partner is cruel, whether via verbal abuse or extreme cruelty, such as physical abuse, you may file for divorce in Maine. You may also get an injunction restraining them from visiting you or showing up at places you frequent, such as your workplace.
- Impotence and mental incapacity: You can leave your marriage in Maine if your spouse is impotent and unable to consummate your union. Maine divorce law also lets you renounce your marital vows if your partner becomes mentally incapacitated.
- Refusal or non-support: You may get a Maine Divorce if your partner refuses to or is incapable of providing general support for you.
The Maine Divorce Process
With the raging emotions you are probably feeling, you’d expect that the divorce process can at least be straightforward for you. However, this is not often the case, as there are several forms to fill out and file, depending on the circumstances of your divorce.
I have simplified the Maine divorce process below to help you sail out of the murky waters of your marriage with relative ease. However, if the process seems too difficult to handle due to your emotional state, you may consider hiring an online divorce service to help you sort out the legal brouhaha.
Step 1: Filing the divorce paperwork
As you probably guessed, the first step to saying “buh-bye” to an unhappy marriage is filing the divorce papers at your local courthouse. You begin this process by filing the divorce complaint at the District Court in the county where you or your partner live. The divorce paperwork you will need depends on the circumstances surrounding your divorce.
For instance, divorcing couples with minor children must fill out the forms to file a Complaint for Divorce with Children, while couples with no minor children should use the forms to file a Complaint for Divorce without Children pack. You may also ask the court to grant an order preventing your spouse from visiting you (if you no longer live together) or showing up to your place of work. This is called an injunction, and you file for this using the Family Matter Summons and Preliminary Injunction form, which is available for $5 at the clerk’s office.
You will be required to pay a filing fee of $120, after which the court clerk will issue a summons addressed to your spouse, asking them to respond to your divorce complaint. If you cannot afford the filing fee, you may apply for a waiver by filing the Application to Proceed Without Payment of Fees form. A copy of your complaint will also be attached to the summons to give your spouse notice of the reasons you are leaving them. The divorce documents will also include an Acknowledgment of Receipt of Summons and Complaint form with which your spouse will notify you that they have received your divorce paperwork. You may also file your complaint electronically via the Maine Judicial Branch website.
Step 2: Serving the divorce papers
Just as you both had your chance to say “I do” at the beginning of your marriage, your spouse must be given a chance to say their piece on the divorce complaint. This is done by sending your spouse copies of the divorce documents. You can serve your spouse the divorce papers via any one of the following means:
- Registered mail
- Authorized process servers
- The court sheriff
If you do not know where your spouse lives, you may apply to the court to serve them the divorce papers via substituted means. If granted, the court may allow you to serve your spouse the divorce paperwork by publishing them in the newspaper or sending them to your spouse’s last known address. It is advisable to use third-party service options like the court sheriff or authorized process server if the ground for your divorce complaint is extreme cruelty or domestic violence.
If you and your spouse are filing jointly, there will be no need to serve them the divorce paperwork since the divorce is regarded as an uncontested divorce. However, you will need to file a marital settlement agreement showing the agreed terms of the divorce.
Step 3: Answering the divorce complaint
If your spouse has filed a divorce complaint, you must enter an appearance by filing an Entry of Appearance form. You will also need to file an answer to the complaint within 21 days of receiving the divorce paperwork. Otherwise, the divorce will be deemed uncontested if your spouse proves that you received the divorce documents. You may respond to a divorce complaint in one of two ways.
First, by filing an answer stating your stance regarding the grounds of the complaint. Second, by filing an “Answer and Counterclaim.” An answer and counterclaim replies to the grounds for your spouse’s complaints but also includes reasons why you are filing your own complaint. This may be useful if you also have grievances that make marriage unbearable for you.
If you fail to file an answer within 21 days, the judge may award a default judgment against you, finalizing your spouse’s application for a divorce. You can respond to a divorce complaint via recrimination, stating that your spouse is also guilty of the action they are complaining against. You may also plead condonation with relevant facts to show that your spouse has forgiven you for the action that led to the divorce complaint.
Step 4: Mediation and disclosure
If you and your spouse have outstanding issues regarding spousal support, property division, or child support, you must file financial documents disclosing your assets, debts, and income. Some of the documents required at this stage include the Child Support Affidavit and Social Security Number Disclosure forms. This will aid the court in deciding who gets what and why.
Mediation is required in contested divorces to allow you and your spouse an opportunity to resolve disputes that led to the divorce. The judge may also order both parties to attend a parental education course if the divorce involves children. If the divorce does not involve children or you have reached a settlement agreement with your partner, the parental education course may be waived.
Step 5: The divorce proceedings
The divorce hearings are the penultimate stage of your divorce proceeding. At the hearings, the court listens to you and your spouse on the claims made in your pleadings (divorce complaint, answer, and counterclaim) and considers whether each party is entitled to what they are asking for.
Step 6: Final hearing
The divorce proceedings end with the final divorce hearing, where the judge makes pronouncements on all unresolved areas of the divorce. The final divorce hearing can only take place after the mandatory 60 days waiting period.
At the final hearing, the judge resolves all outstanding issues between you and your spouse and puts paid to your marital journey. The details of your agreement are contained in a dissolution order that breaks all vows you made to your now ex on your wedding day. It also relieves you of marital duties, such as companionship and sexual relations.
If you need help with your divorce . . .
Many online services are devoted to giving divorcing spouses a soft landing. I have reviewed the best online services assisting divorcing couples in Maine to ensure you get credible allies to help you break the chains of an unpleasant marriage.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take to get a divorce in Maine?
The timeline for getting a divorce in Maine generally depends on the nature of your divorce. Uncontested divorces are generally quicker to finalize than contested divorces. This is because there are little to no issues for the Judge to consider in an uncontested divorce, as I will explain below.
However, Maine divorce law has a 60-day waiting period for all divorce cases. This means that the earliest timeline within which you can get your final divorce judgment is two months. The waiting period is usually for you and your spouse to explore reconciliation while the divorce process is ongoing.
What are the different types of divorce in Maine?
There are two types of divorce in Maine: contested divorce and uncontested divorce. A contested divorce usually involves a disagreement between you and your spouse on one or more aspects of the divorce, such as child custody, property division, or spousal support payments.
On the other hand, an uncontested divorce occurs when the divorcing spouses agree on issues relating to the divorce. Spouses in an uncontested divorce must file a marital settlement agreement alongside the divorce papers. An uncontested divorce may occur where the spouses file a joint petition, or a spouse fails to respond to the petition after being served the divorce papers. This is called a default divorce and occurs when your spouse does not respond to the divorce complaint after you have served him the notice of the complaint.
Where an uncontested divorce is filed, the judge admits the settlement agreement and adopts it in the final divorce order, making it binding on the parties.
Do I need an attorney to get a divorce in Maine?
No, you don’t need to hire a divorce attorney to get a divorce in Maine. This is especially true where the divorce is uncontested and you and your spouse agree on the divorce terms. In contested divorce cases, with disputes on child custody, it is advisable to hire a divorce attorney to represent you during court hearings.
If the divorce process seems too stressful or emotional for you to handle personally, you may hire an online divorce service to help you file the necessary paperwork.
Do I have to prove separation to get a divorce in Maine?
No, you don’t have to prove separation to get a divorce in Maine. This is because separation is not a ground for divorce in Maine. The factors you need to prove to get a divorce in Maine depend on the circumstances of your divorce, especially if you’re filing for your divorce on fault-based grounds, such as desertion, cruel and abusive treatment, or mental illness.
Can I divorce my partner in Maine if we got married in another state?
Yes, you can divorce your partner in Maine regardless of the state where you married. If one spouse qualifies as a Maine resident and the ground for the divorce occurred in Maine, you may file and obtain a divorce in Maine. The Maine divorce process is set up to ensure you can leave an unpleasant marriage as long as you meet the residency requirements.
Is spousal fault necessary for the dissolution of marriage in Maine?
No, proving spousal fault is unnecessary to obtaining a divorce order in Maine. Maine law recognizes both fault and no-fault grounds of divorce, allowing you and your spouse to say goodbye due to irreconcilable differences alone. Filing for a divorce on the grounds of irreconcilable marital differences allows you and your partner to keep your secrets away from the courtroom by telling the judge you’re no longer interested in being together.
While Maine law allows you to part ways over irreconcilable differences, it also recognizes that your spouse may be a horrible person undeserving of your company. In this light, the state recognizes fault-based divorces on the following grounds:
- Mental incapacitation
- Domestic violence
- Drug abuse
If you choose to rely on any of these fault-based grounds, you’ll need to show proof of them in court for the judge to decide in your favor. Fault-based grounds also come in handy in child custody and spousal support claims.
How is child custody determined in a Maine divorce?
Child custody goes beyond your child’s physical location or primary place of residence. In Maine, child custody is divided into physical and legal custody. Physical custody refers to where the child lives, while legal custody is the right the court grants a divorced parent to make important life decisions for their child.
During your divorce case, the court may require you and your partner to attend a parental education course to learn the effects of divorce on minor children and to ensure that your child has proper parental care.
While the court may grant sole custody (both legal and physical) to one parent or share custody between both parents, the court’s decision is determined by the child’s best interests. In identifying the child’s best interest in a custody dispute, the court will consider the following:
- The age of the child or children in question
- The ability of each parent to provide parental love and care
- The relationship between the child and each parent
- Any history of crime and abuse, whether sexual or domestic violence
- The willingness of each parent to allow parental visitation and bonding with the other parent
- The earning capacity of each parent and their availability to be present in the child’s life
- The court may also ask for the child’s wishes depending on the child’s age.
NOTE: The court is likely to grant sole custody where there is a history of abuse, domestic violence, or criminal record as a sex offender that makes a parent unfit to cater to minor children. The court may also restrict the visitation rights of a parent with a history of domestic or sexual violence.
What factors influence alimony and child support payments?
Child support and alimony are some of the major issues to consider, especially when you and your spouse have minor children. The position of the law is that both parents are responsible for their children. Still, a spouse with physical custody (the custodial parent) may apply for child support during the divorce. Divorcing couples may also agree on child support payments, but a judge must approve such an agreement to ensure it is in the child’s best interest.
If the judge has to make child support orders, the judge will make the order in-line with the Income Shares Model, which is the applicable guideline for calculating child support in Maine. The Income Shares Model considers each parent’s income to determine how much each spouse spent on the child during the marriage. The court then uses this ratio to determine child support payments in the future.
Other factors impacting child support payments include custody (since the custodial parent takes more responsibility for caring for the child) and visitation arrangements. Child support payments generally last until the child becomes 18, but the court may order the amount to be paid until the child turns 19.
In addition to the income of each parent and custody arrangements, the court may also consider the following factors in making an order for child support:
- Any special needs of the child
- The dependents catered for by each parent
- If the child has a source of income
How is marital property shared under Maine divorce law?
Marital property in Maine is shared based on equitable distribution. Marital property refers to assets acquired by either spouse during the marriage. The distinguishing feature is when the property was acquired and not in whose name it is registered. This means a car or home acquired during the marriage will be regarded as marital or joint property, even if it is registered in one spouse’s name.
All marital property is subject to the equitable distribution between divorcing spouses unless a spouse shows that an asset is a separate property through one or more of the following ways:
- A spouse acquired the property via a gift or an inheritance
- A spouse acquired the property before the marriage
- The property was acquired after a legal separation decree
- The property was acquired with proceeds from an asset owned before marriage or from inheritance funds
- The property is excluded from distribution by agreement of the parties (e.g., a prenuptial agreement)
- The property is personal property
Maine family courts encourage divorcing couples to agree on property division or see a mediator for the same purpose. However, where these options fail, the judge will have no option but to step in.
After determining whether an asset qualifies as marital property, the court will conduct a valuation of the asset. This may be done by the spouses or by a valuer appointed by the court. The judge then divides the estimated worth of the asset between the spouses while considering the following factors:
- The contribution made by each spouse to acquiring the property
- The financial standing of each spouse
- The nature of the asset (such as family homes)
- The value of each spouse’s separate property
Just like assets, Maine law also considers debts incurred during the marriage (such as a mortgage) as marital obligations and will divide the debts equitably between spouses. However, not all debts qualify as marital debts, especially where a spouse acquires debts from activities like gambling and drunkenness. In such cases, the person who incurred the debts will be solely responsible for repaying the debts. Spouses may also apply to the court for the debts to be charged to the value of their share of marital property, which the spouses may sell off to pay creditors.
While a divorce is unlikely to be on your wishlist going into marriage, saying goodbye to your spouse is sometimes necessary to preserve your sanity and happiness. I hope this guide leads you to the shining light beyond your failed marriage tunnel, and I wish you luck in moving ahead.