Guide to Maryland Divorce Records
Table of Contents
Within human relationships, divorce is a strange chapter in many lives. The process has a clear end, but its aftereffects last for the rest of your life.
Maryland divorce records are an often-overlooked set of documents that'll help you deal with many of the problems that divorce puts in your way. Without them, you'll have trouble reverting your last name, getting remarried, or amending court verdicts on spousal support.
Since these records have so many uses, you have multiple options for where to request yours. However, some government offices are limited in what they can provide, so you need to know exactly where to ask before beginning the process.
What are Maryland Divorce Records?
Maryland divorce records serve as a detailed account of divorce proceedings and include various substantiating documents. For example, a couple's mortgage payments and pay stubs may be submitted to help determine asset distribution.
Even things like vet bills may be included if they were used to decide ownership over a beloved pet. Not all of these documents are particularly vital to the overall record.
So, opting for a divorce decree is best if you don't need the complete divorce timeline. The state maintains an online database of divorce cases dating back to 1980. This way, you can avoid a lengthy process and an inconvenient road trip to your home county.
However, if you require all the background information regarding a divorce, you must visit the county courts that filed the dissolution.
What's Inside the Divorce Record?
Not all divorce records are identical and don't adhere to a set template. What's included in a divorce record depends primarily on what was contested during the divorce and each spouse's responsibilities to their former partner. While these records can vary greatly, most include the following aspects:
- Final Judgment - The judge's signature on this document marks the official conclusion of the marriage. This document serves as a pseudo-summary of the entire divorce.
- Affidavit - Family Courts mandated that both spouses present an overview of their financial situations. The provided information encompasses financial accounts, life insurance policies, tax details, and existing debts.
- Spousal Support – Also referred to as "maintenance", these documents define one spouse's financial responsibility to the other. It's usually paid by the higher-earning spouse but is often affected by custody details.
- Child Custody - This document details arrangements for the children's residence, visitation rights, and financial support. The courts aim to establish a robust framework for parental responsibilities, prioritizing the children's best interests.
- Division of Assets and Debt - Maryland's "Marital Property Act" doesn't force judges to split assets equally. Instead, the judge reviews each spouse's affidavit and distributes everything in the fairest way possible.
Omissions and Errors in Divorce Records
Amidst the challenges of a divorce, countless matters are discussed, and some things fall through the cracks. If an asset is left out of one or both spouses' financials, it may not be awarded by the courts and becomes an undivided asset.
Fixing this scenario is a significant selling point to always maintaining personal copies of your divorce record. You can thoroughly review the asset distribution and decide if you have a case to contest ownership of the undivided asset.
Miscalculations on a divorce record can also drastically change the supporting spouse's alimony payments, but it can overturn custody arrangements depending on the severity.
However, the more significant the change, the more likely you'll wind back up in court. You must strongly consider the consequences of filing for an amendment.
Divorce Statistics in Maryland
Monitoring divorce statistics is vital in gaining insights into societal patterns and shaping family law. These figures provide a glimpse into the challenges faced by a state's modern family and how it is adjusting to the recent legislative direction.
Maryland has the 4th lowest divorce rate in the country, with 1.6 divorces per 1000 people. It's only beaten out by Texas, Illinois, and Massachusetts. This number represents Maryland's lowest divorce rate in the past five decades.
The low number of divorces may have something to do with Maryland's above-average median household income of $87,063. Studies show that high-earning couples have lower divorce rates than their less well-off counterparts.
However, the raw number of divorces may also be due to Maryland's lower marriage rates than the rest of the country. Maryland sits in the bottom ten states when it comes to weddings per citizen, which would also lead to a reduced total number of divorces.
How to Find Maryland Divorce Records
Anyone searching for a divorce record has three options in Maryland. They can apply for a divorce verification through the Division of Vital Records or request certified copies from the State Archives or County Superior Courts.
You must provide the minimum information for any of these methods to locate the records. Errors will slow down processing times or force you to restart the process entirely.
- Full names of spouses before and after divorce
- Date of divorce
- Case number
- Valid government photo ID
You may get away with missing some of these facts for divorce verifications, but it's highly recommended to have everything ready when ordering a certified copy.
Maryland has one of the country's best online ordering and certification systems through its State Archives. It's flexible and provides specific forms for the type of record you need. Their order decree form costs a non-refundable $25 per copy and is government-certified.
Take note of the "non-refundable" caveat because your divorce record is not guaranteed to be in their database. The State Archives only store the information passed to them by the county courts, so any misfiled or in-transit records can't be found.
Additionally, your fee is wasted if your application includes misspelled or incorrect details. The State Archives only search based on the provided information and will not run additional searches without a new order.
We recommend searching the county index that initially handled the divorce for the exact case number and essential information on the spouses. This process should be free since you're not requesting a certified copy and only want a verification.
The ordering web form is found here.
If all you need is verification, then it's recommended that you contact the State Vital Records Division. Their offices outsource verification requests through VitalChek. This third-party service makes requests on your behalf and eliminates the tedious paperwork. It can send verification letters but CANNOT issue certified copies of divorce records.
Verification letters don't include any information on the ex-spouses or details on the case and only serve to confirm that the government recognizes that a marriage ended.
If your divorce occurred before 1980 or hasn't moved to the State Archives, your only option is to go through the County Probate Courts. Unfortunately, Maryland counties are less helpful than the State Archives in obtaining divorce records.
The largest counties, like Montgomery and Prince George's County, don't offer online ordering services. In most cases, applicants must visit the courts in person or call for further options. Not all offices accept mail orders like in other states, so you should confirm whether this is an option with the individual counties.
Going in person may sound like a hassle, but it's the best option for individuals who need their divorce records immediately. Unless you ask for amendments, you can likely receive a certified copy within the hour.
Maryland Circuit Court Clerk Contact Directory
Maryland's online ordering systems are fantastic, but might not have your file on record. In these cases, you must contact the courts that finalized your divorce. Below are the contact details for the courts of the most populous Maryland counties.
|Prince George's County
|Anne Arundel County
|Baltimore City County
FAQ on Divorce Records in Maryland
What's the difference between a divorce record and divorce verification?
A divorce verification is a letter of guarantee that the divorce record exists in the government's database. It doesn't include sensitive details on the ex-spouses or the supporting documents found in the complete court file.
Many clerical chores can be completed with a divorce verification, and it's also easier to obtain. The full divorce record is typically used for legal reference rather than as proof of the dissolution.
Do I need my divorce records to remarry in Maryland?
Yes. However, you do not need the entire divorce record. Supplying the Decree of Divorce or Annulment is enough to apply for a new marriage license in Maryland. A divorce verification letter will NOT work for remarriage in Maryland.
Additionally, Maryland does not enforce a mandatory waiting period for remarriage.
Do I have to pay a fee to get my divorce record in Maryland?
Ordering through the State Archives comes with a $25 search fee. This charge gets you the divorce decree, but if you need the entire case file, it costs $50. These fees are repeated for any additional copies you order and are non-refundable even if their offices can't locate your record.
VitalChek charges a similar amount. Their estimated cost for Maryland divorce records is $27, but that doesn't include shipping. You can put in a RUSH order through their services, but this only affects shipping, and the processing time at the Archives will remain the same.
How long will it take to get my divorce record?
The State Archives do not accept walk-in orders and have an approximate wait time of three weeks plus shipping times. Divorce records take longer to locate because they're mostly kept at an off-site warehouse.
You can cut down the wait time considerably by providing your phone number or email address in the "Additional Information" field of the request form. This allows their offices to contact you so you can personally pick up your order.
They are located at:
Maryland State Archives
350 Rowe Blvd
Annapolis, MD 21401
Can anyone request a divorce record in Maryland?
Maryland divorce records are publicly available. Applicants don't need to provide identification to access the state indexes and can request certified divorce records through the State Archives. However, visiting in person may require you to provide some form of photo ID. This requirement will vary by county.