What Happens if You Don’t Meet the Six Month Residency Requirement for Divorce

October 1, 2016, the residency requirement for divorce changed from 12 months to six (6) months. The new law states that if the grounds for divorce occurred outside the State of Maryland then one of the parties to the divorce must have lived in Maryland for six (6) months before filing for divorce.

Delegate Dumais introduced the bill changing the 12 month residency to six month residence into the House of the Maryland General Assembly for two reasons. The main reason was the shortening of the time period would help service members. Maryland has several military bases that employ a large number of service men and women. Typically, military service requires service members to move repeatedly and often. This creates a dilemma for these service members when they file for divorce because it can be hard for them to meet the residency requirements.

The second reason the bill was introduced was to consistency between divorce residency requirements and child-support residency requirements. The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act controls whether Maryland has jurisdiction to make an initial child custody determination. Maryland will have jurisdiction over a child if they lived in the State when child-custody is filed, Maryland was the home state of the child within 6 months prior to the child-custody filing, and the child is no longer present in the state but a parent or guardian continues to live in the state.

Alimony can be granted to a spouse as part of an annulment, limited divorce, or absolute divorce. An award of pendente lite is granted when the spouse files for divorce until the divorced decree. However, it is possible for a court to order spousal support without divorce proceedings being initiated. The law says that a spouse cannot willfully fail to provide support of the other spouse without just cause. There is, however, no affirmative duty to support one’s spouse. Essentially, in Maryland, spouses may not voluntarily impoverish one another, if capable of rendering support. In this context “willful” means with deliberate intention for which there is no reasonable excuse.

The courts require evidence that the spouse is being neglected and that the other spouse is able to provide them support. Non support of a spouse and children are both criminal misdemeanors. The courts will probably not order that a mother work if she has a child under 2. On the other hand, if one spouse is voluntarily not working, even with children over the age of 2, the court may find that this spouse is voluntarily impoverishing themselves. The court may require the spouse work and limit any support provided. The public policy behind the non support statutes is that the State of Maryland does not want a spouse to neglect their spouse or child to the detriment of the State. In other words, Maryland does not want to have to pay financial benefits to a spouse or child where the other spouse is capable of support.

A spouse may be granted child support and spousal support in Maryland despite not meeting the six month residency requirement. There is always an issue of personal jurisdiction when one party of the case is from out of state. Personal jurisdiction is the power of a court over the parties in the case. The easiest way for a court to have personal jurisdiction is if the party (person, company, institution, ECT) is a resident of the state where the court is located. Personal jurisdiction is a Constitutional issue which requires that the party have certain minimum contacts with the jurisdiction in which the court sits.

The Maryland legislature has set forth some specific circumstances that will qualify as minimum contacts and thus provide Maryland courts with personal jurisdiction over a party in a child support matter. First, if the party (individual) is personally served (given official court papers that provide notice of the hearing) within Maryland. Second, the individual can submit to the jurisdiction of Maryland several ways: consenting on record, appearing in court, or filing a responsive document that has the effect of waiving any objection to personal jurisdiction. Thirdly, the individual resided with the child in Maryland. Fourth, the party resided in Maryland and provided prenatal support (expenses) for the child. Fifth, the individual is responsible for why the child lives in Maryland. Sixth, the individual engaged in sexual intercourse in Maryland and the child may have been conceived from that act. Lastly, any other basis for establishing minimum contacts consistent with achieving personal jurisdiction on a Constitutional basis. These circumstances will not create personal jurisdiction in a child modification of support order if said order is from another State’s court. Contact Fred for a free initial consultation and for further advice regarding you div orce, spousal support, or child support by calling 410 730 4404.