How Does Divorce Work in Maine?
A lot of my practice is family law, with or without a restraining order Protection from Abuse case. That comprises three main areas. One is divorce. That’s for people who are actually married. That process is the unwinding of the marriage, granting of a divorce, determining parental rights with regard to any children, determining what assets are marital including real estate, other property, debt, vehicles, and setting aside non-marital property to the person that owns it and dividing the marital property equitably, and, for longer term marriages, spousal support and, if there are children, child support, as well.
That process starts with a complaint. Maine is not a “hurry up and get divorced” state. It takes 60 days after the filing and service of the complaint on the defendant – you can’t get a divorce until the 60 days has passed. On the 60th day, you can get a divorce. In order for that to happen, almost always the parties have to have agreed to all these issues because divorce takes a considerable amount of time in the absence of an agreement, although the courts have gotten much, much better over the years at actually getting to a divorce within a reasonable time. A reasonable time now in how long it takes a case to be reached is sometimes six months, usually nine months to maybe a little more than a year, now. That is a big improvement from what it used to be.
If there are issues about children, any of the parties or the court on its own can appoint a guardian ad litem to do an investigation and make recommendations about the best interests of the children. Sometimes, you need to hire experts to appraise real estate or to value a business, for example. Sometimes, you need to hire accountants, actuaries, that sort of thing, to determine the present value of a pension, or retirement asset, or stock options, that sort of thing.
In order to get a divorce, the parties have to allege and prove, although it’s quite easy, irreconcilable marital differences or one of the older traditional fault grounds, which are not often used these days, but they’re still available. All the issues that we’ve described have to be resolved, either by an agreement or by a hearing before a judge.