What We Cover In This Article
Divorce Laws | Residency Requirements | Grounds for Divorce | Divorce Attorney | Filing for Divorce | Online Divorce | How Long? | Divorce Costs | Custody | Child Support | Alimony | Division of Asset | Common-Law Marriage | Alternatives
No matter what, going through a divorce is difficult, confusing, and emotional.
However, navigating the divorce process in Maine without a proper understanding of the relevant laws and the options available to you makes an already complex process even more challenging.
Getting a divorce in Maine isn’t unlike getting a divorce elsewhere in the United States, but there are some specific Maine laws that future divorcees must consider before beginning the divorce process.
In Maine, you can get divorced in either contested or uncontested hearings.
In most cases, uncontested hearings are the ideal option but not everyone will qualify.
Divorcing spouses should always consider using attorneys (but they won’t always need them, and Maine does not require plaintiffs and defendants to be represented) to help them navigate the filing and hearing procedures in the state’s court system.
Spouses should make considerations for child custody, spousal support, and child support, and should explore their options for financial separation from each other.
Additionally, there are alternative legal options for couples who don’t think a divorce is the best course of action to achieve reconciliation in their relationship.
This guide will help potential divorcees navigate the court system and successfully navigate through getting a divorce in Maine.
Types of Divorce Laws in Maine
In Maine, spouses can proceed with their divorce via two major routes: contested divorces and uncontested divorces.
The decision to proceed with either type of divorce is largely contingent upon the spouses’ amicability throughout the process, and whether or not they can come to an agreement about the terms of the separation without a judge’s or magistrate’s involvement.
Ideally, spouses will be able to come to agreeable terms without needing a contested hearing.
Which is a fancy way of saying going to court and having the legal system decide the terms of your divorce.
An uncontested divorce also significantly accelerates the timeline for divorce proceedings, and if spouses choose to be represented by attorneys, they’ll save money on representation.
However, contested hearings are unavoidable in some cases.
You should be able to get an idea how amicable your spouse will be when you asked for a divorce and how the communications has been since then.
Below we will break down the differences between contested and uncontested divorces in Maine.
A contested divorce (the less than ideal option for spouses getting a divorce in Maine) occurs when spouses cannot come to a full agreement during the Case Management Conference or Pre-Trial Conference.
The Pre-Trial Conference (or Case Management Conference, if the divorce case involves minor children) is led by a judge (or magistrate, if a Case Management Conference is required) and takes place after the following steps have been completed:
- Spouses gather the information needed to fill out court forms
- Spouses fill out the required forms that need to be filed to initiate the court process
- One spouse serves these forms to the other (the serving party is the plaintiff, while the other party is the defendant)
- The plaintiff files the court forms, along with proof that the defendant has been served, to the court
The steps before the Pre-Trial Conference or Case Management Conference will be covered in detail later, but these steps will likely inform a couple’s decision (or necessity) to proceed with a contested or uncontested divorce.
If both parties are in full agreement about the terms of the separation at the time of the Pre-Trial Conference or Case Management Conference, the judge present during the conference may conduct a final uncontested hearing before the conference adjourns.
During mediation, a trained professional assigned by the court will allow both parties to speak their piece (without showing favor to either side) and assist the spouses in coming to an amicable, complete agreement on the terms of their divorce.
In most cases involving minor children, mediation is required.
In cases of domestic violence, or if an active Protection from Abuse order or case is at play between the divorcing parties, the court may decide to forgo the mediation phase for the parties’ protection.
If the court determines that mediation is required, the parties can meet with the mediator separately to determine whether or not both parties agree to the terms of the divorce.
If both parties can come to a full agreement during the mediation process, the court will hold an uncontested final hearing to conclude the divorce process and ensure that both parties understand the final agreement.
If both parties cannot agree during mediation, the case will proceed to a contested hearing.
The Contested Hearing
During a contested hearing, a judge is present to make some decisions for the divorcing couple.
In the case that the only disagreement after the mediation process is about child support, the contested hearing may be conducted in front of a magistrate.
A judge will only discuss and resolve the issues about which the parties are not in full agreement at the time of the contested hearing.
For instance, if the parties have agreed on the child support arrangement, but haven’t agreed to a custody arrangement and the division of assets, only custody and assets will be discussed during the contested hearing, and both parties will simply confirm that they’ve already agreed to the child support terms.
Each party or their legal counsel will be able to provide evidence and call witnesses as needed during a contested hearing.
These will inform the judge’s decision-making during the case.
After the contested hearing, the judge will issue a final, legally binding order to complete the divorce process.
After a contested hearing, a judge may also take the case “under advisement,” giving them more time to decide the final order.
If a case is taken under advisement, the judge may perform additional legal research, and the final order will be issued to both parties by mail.
Advantages to Contested Divorces
The pros of the contested divorce process include:
- Inclusion of witnesses
- Witnesses can help parties who feel that they’re being slighted during the process, bolstering their case.
- The potential for witness testimony to sway the court could prevent parties from accepting terms to which they don’t agree for the sake of convenience.
- The judge on a case has access to precedent cases, which could help them make the fairest decisions during the case.
- More attorney involvement
- If parties choose to be represented, their attorneys may attend every legal hearing involving their clients. However, attorneys have the best chance to advocate for their client’s best interests during a divorce in front of a judge.
- Since a mediator can only facilitate conversation between the two parties and cannot make decisions about the divorce agreement, attorneys can advocate for their clients during the decision-making process in a contested hearing.
Drawbacks of Contested Divorces
Despite the potential advantages of contested divorces, they’re not the ideal option in most cases.
The cons of the contested divorce process include:
- A contested divorce could involve multiple court dates, including a potential waiting period for the final order to be made if a case is taken under advisement.
- If parties choose to seek legal representation, more time spent during the process leads to additional legal fees for the parties.
- Emotionally taxing
- Both parties will experience a range of emotions during a contested divorce which will, in all likelihood, reduce their potential to be amicable in the future.
- If minor children are involved in a contested hearing, the process could lead to significant emotional distress and—potentially—trauma.
Contested divorces are, on the whole, the worst-case scenario for divorcing couples but unfortunately are the most common type of divorce in Maine.
Uncontested divorces in Maine are generally simpler, less time-consuming, and cheaper for both parties.
In an uncontested divorce, both parties are in agreement regarding all of the terms of the divorce presented during the Pre-Trial Conference or Case Management Conference.
If both parties are in agreement during the first conference, a judge or magistrate may conduct an uncontested hearing during the conference, completing the divorce process.
It is in the best interest of both parties to agree either at the first conference or by the end of the mediation process to avoid a contested hearing.
It’s important to note that, even if the parties are in agreement before they start the legal divorce process, the plaintiff must still fill out the required court forms, serve those forms to the defendant, file the forms and a proof of service to the court, and participate in the Pre-Trial Conference or Case Management Conference.
In cases involving minor children, both parties will likely be required to complete mediation, as well.
FURTHER READING: How To Get a Cheap and Quick Divorce
Uncontested Divorce Requirements in Maine
To proceed with an uncontested divorce in Maine, the parties must complete all required legal proceedings before the Pre-Trial Conference or Case Management Conference and complete the conference.
The parties must verbally confirm that they agree to all matters of the separation agreement during the first conference, and if the judge orders the parties to participate in mediation, both parties must agree to and complete the mediation session.
So, the only requirements to complete an uncontested divorce in Maine are
- Filling out, serving, and filing the required court forms
- Attending the Pre-Trial Conference or Case Management Conference
- Verbally agreeing to all terms of the divorce agreement
- Attending and participating in mediation, if required by the court
Uncontested divorces are significantly simpler and much less expensive than contested divorces in Maine.
Advantages of Uncontested Divorces
The pros of uncontested divorces are significant:
- They’re cheaper.
- In all likelihood, legal representation is unnecessary in an uncontested divorce, resulting in less money spent during the process.
- They’re less time-consuming.
- Contested hearings require at least one mediation session and at least one contested hearing in front of a judge. Contested hearings could require multiple court dates, significantly extending the divorce timeline.
- They require excellent communication from both parties.
- To come to an agreement as early as possible in the divorce process, both parties will need to be on the same page about every element of the divorce agreement.
- Getting on the same page will require significant conversation and communication about the agreement, increasing the likelihood that the parties will split amicably.
The financial and emotional toll of an uncontested divorce is significantly lower than those of a contested divorce and will result in a quicker separation process.
Disadvantages of Uncontested Divorces
The ease of the uncontested divorce process may not sway some couples to pursue that route.
The cons of uncontested divorces are:
- Agree to all divorce terms for the sake of convenience or financial need.
- Divorce shouldn’t be taken lightly. If one party doesn’t agree to the terms presented by their spouse, they should advocate for themselves or seek legal counsel to ensure the best outcome.
- Neither party should agree to an uncontested divorce simply because they can’t afford representation. If a party is in financial need, they can seek legal aid for help during their case.
- Are experiencing emotional or domestic abuse.
- If part of the justification for divorce is to escape abuse, the abused party may feel threatened and comply with all of their abuser’s terms, even if they don’t agree.
- If any party is seeking a divorce as an escape from abuse, they should contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline to make an escape plan, arrange legal representation, and proceed with the divorce process in the safest possible manner.
When a spouse is ready for a divorce, they should thoroughly review all of their options to ensure the best outcome for their separation.
If you qualify for an uncontested divorce, using an online divorce service is a great way to save a lot of money. Keep in mind in Maine, it can cost over $9,000 in fees if you file for divorce with an attorney.
We reviewed, rated, and ranked the best online divorce services available and our #1 choice is 3StepDivorce.
Residency Requirements in Maine
To file for divorce in Maine, parties must meet some basic requirements:
- Parties must be married and must have lived in Maine for at least six months
- At least one party must be a Maine resident who was married in Maine
- At least one party must be a Maine resident and must have been living in Maine when the cause for divorce took place
- At least one spouse is a Maine resident
To be considered a Maine resident, your primary residence must be within the state (whether you rent or own your home).
That primary residence must be one to which you intend to return, even if you temporarily leave the state for travel, work, or to live elsewhere.
You can prove Maine residency by presenting one of the following:
- a Maine driver’s license
- a Maine vehicle registration
- a utility bill with your current address
- a Maine hunting and fishing license
- a contract in your name, a tax bill, or a
- a document issued by a government entity
Grounds for Divorce in Maine
When filing for a divorce in Maine, the plaintiff must complete and file a series of forms, including form FM-004, a Complaint for Divorce.
This form requires plaintiffs to specify the reason they’re seeking a divorce, and includes two options:
- Irreconcilable differences exist between the parties, or
If the plaintiff chooses “Other,” they must list their grounds for divorce.
Maine state statutes provide the following grounds for divorce in the state:
- Extreme cruelty
- Utter desertion
- Desertion must have been continuous for three consecutive years before the divorce forms are filed
- Confirmed habits of intoxication from drugs or alcohol
- To cite nonsupport, the defendant must have the ability to provide for their spouse and/or children but chooses to neglect them
- Cruel and abusive treatment
- Irreconcilable differences
It’s important to note that, when gathering the necessary documents for filing for divorce, the plaintiff may need evidence to prove that their justification is valid.
Evidence to support these grounds can be various, but will likely be easier for some grounds than others.
In addition, if irreconcilable differences are cited as the grounds for divorce, and the defendant denies that the differences are irreconcilable, a judge could order the plaintiff and defendant to attend mandatory counseling.
After participating in counseling, the counselor will prepare a report to determine whether or not the couple’s differences are, in fact, irreconcilable.
However, if the defendant claims that there are reconcilable differences, but refuses to participate in counseling for any reason, the court will determine that the marriage is irreconcilable.
If a plaintiff expects that the defendant will contest irreconcilable differences and agree to counseling, the plaintiff should cite other grounds if possible.
If you’re seeking a divorce and are unsure what grounds you should cite in your Complaint for Divorce form, consider seeking legal counsel to ensure the best possible outcome.
Using a Maine Divorce Attorney
Using a Maine divorce attorney is never a bad idea.
If you and your spouse intend to pursue an uncontested divorce, you may not think that retaining legal counsel is necessary (and it may not be).
But, ensuring that you’ll have a legal advocate during the process will provide peace of mind, even if an uncontested divorce proceeds smoothly.
However, it will add an additional expense.
If you predict that your divorce will be contested, or if the divorce will be messy in any way, you should seek legal counsel as soon as possible.
An attorney can help you complete and file the necessary court paperwork, can advise on serving the paperwork to the defendant, and represent your best interests during the court and mediation proceedings.
Whether you feel you’ll need someone to fight for you or you’re taking extra precautions to protect yourself, hiring a divorce attorney can help you achieve the best possible outcome for your divorce.
When to Use an Attorney
If you imagine that your divorce will proceed via an uncontested hearing, hiring an attorney will provide a safety net if things don’t go to plan.
Unless you’re absolutely certain that you and your spouse will agree on all aspects of the separation and remain amicable throughout the process, seeking legal counsel is recommended.
It’s especially important to retain an attorney if you expect a contested divorce.
If you and your spouse haven’t been amicable for some time, an attorney can help you achieve your desired outcomes and take the best possible actions on your behalf.
They can help during the filing process, help you gather documents to support your forms, and advocate for you during the Pre-Trial Conference or Case Management Conference, mediation, and the contested hearing.
There are two cases when hiring an attorney is integral
- When you’re the defendant in a case that you imagine will be contested and could get messy
- When you’re the victim of emotional or physical abuse. As the defendant, an attorney can help represent your best interests even if you’ve negatively contributed to the marriage’s failure (by committing adultery, for instance).
PRO TIP: If you’re a victim of physical or emotional abuse at the hands of your spouse, your safety could be in jeopardy during the divorce process. An attorney can help you seek safety and act on an escape plan, and advocate for both your safety and best interests during the divorce.
If you’re experiencing abuse at the hands of your spouse, seeking counsel should be the first step in your divorce plan.
What Makes a Good Divorce Attorney
A good divorce attorney meets the following criteria:
- They’re experienced with divorce cases – You never want to be someone’s first client. Ask for references of past clients before interviewing potential attorneys.
- They’re experienced with divorce cases that are similar to yours – For example, if you’re filing for divorce from a narcissist, you want your attorney to have a proven track record in cases like yours.
- They have time in their caseload to take your case – If you suspect that an attorney might be overloaded with cases (if they frequently ask to reschedule your consultation, or if they mistake elements of your case with another case), they’re not going to give your case the attention it deserves.
- They understand your priorities during the proceedings – They listen to you, repeat your needs back, and confirm them before any legal or mediation proceedings.
A good divorce attorney should exceed your expectations.
If you feel like someone is committed to your case after your first consultation, and they provide satisfactory answers to your interview questions, trust your gut.
How to Find a Good Divorce Attorney
You can find a good divorce attorney in a variety of ways.
Since you should always seek references from past clients before hiring an attorney, reach out to divorcees that you know.
If your closest friend is divorced, and they also live in Maine, ask for their attorney’s contact information.
The internet is also a useful tool for searching for an attorney.
You can use the internet to compile a shortlist of attorneys whom you think would be compatible with you and your case.
Take a close look at their online biographies.
How long have they been with their firm?
When and where were they educated?
Do they have any specialties outside of divorce and family law?
These are all questions that should inform your decision-making process.
Once you’ve developed a shortlist, request a consultation appointment.
The consultation will allow you to explain the details of your case, and you can gauge potential attorneys’ interest based on how they respond.
Do they ask you compelling questions about the case?
Do they seem invested?
Are they prioritizing conversations about their compensation instead of prioritizing your case?
Ask yourself these questions during and after the interview process.
Interview Questions for Divorce Attorneys
There are a variety of valuable questions to ask potential attorneys that will give you additional information to determine if they’re a good fit for your divorce case.
Here are some examples:
- How long have you been practicing family law in Maine?
- Describe your experience with cases like mine.
- When was the last time you had a client who wasn’t satisfied with the outcome of their case? What have you done differently since that case closed?
- What does your caseload look like right now?
- Based on what I’ve told you about my case, what do you think the likelihood is that I’ll get my ideal custody arrangement/spousal support/asset division?
- What motivates you to practice divorce and family law?
- Do you think you’re a good fit for my case?
While these are only some general examples, your potential attorney’s answers will give you a feel for how they’ll speak to you throughout your entire case.
The treatment that you get during a consultation is a window into what their representation will look like throughout the divorce process.
Use the interview time to your advantage, and make sure that you leave with the information that you intended to get.
Is the Initial Consultation Free?
Most reputable and professional attorneys in Maine are offering free consultations for divorce cases in the current industry.
Today’s divorce attorneys understand that you have a variety of options for representation (especially if you’re only securing an attorney as a safety net for an uncontested case), and they know that the consultation is your chance to interview them.
If an attorney on your shortlist charges for a consultation session, consider striking them from the list.
However, if you’ve received good feedback from past clients about someone, and they charge for a consultation, consider taking the appointment if it won’t break the bank.
Good representation is worth every penny.
Is the Meeting Confidential?
Any meeting with an attorney in Maine, even an initial consultation (and even if that consultation is free), is one hundred percent confidential.
The initial consultation should take place either in a closed-door, in-person meeting or via a password-protected online meeting platform over a secure internet connection.
Any attorney worth their salt will ensure that your privacy is protected, and asking about privacy and confidentiality during the interview process is an excellent way to gauge your potential attorney’s commitment to privacy.
You can ask about their firm’s client confidentiality policy, if phone calls with clients are ever recorded, or if they have a secure email server.
If you’re concerned about your confidentiality and can't risk being seen walking into the attorney's office, ask them to meet you where you are.
The priorities that you have for the first consultation, and whether or not a potential attorney acknowledges those priorities, can serve as an indicator of how they’ll manage your priorities during your case.
Advantages of Using an Attorney
There are numerous benefits to using an attorney, and legal representation should always be considered during divorce cases.
Pros of using a divorce attorney in Maine include:
- Someone is always on your side – Even though the majority of legal professionals you encounter (clerks, judges, magistrates, and mediators) will remain impartial in regards to your case, it’s critical to feel like there’s someone on your side fighting for you.
- A professional can help you navigate the legal system – While filing for divorce in Maine is pretty straightforward, having someone walk you through the legal process alleviates significant pressure. Instead of teaching yourself how the Maine legal system works, you can consult an expert.
- A professional can help keep you motivated about the case – Divorces, especially drawn-out contested cases, can be arduous and time-consuming. You’ll likely feel burnt out and emotionally drained at various points during the process, but your attorney will have done all of this before. You can rely on them to remind you what you’re fighting for.
- Your attorney will keep your spouse in check – If you’ve had trouble with your spouse making unilateral decisions in your relationship, or your spouse made unattainable demands on your life and your time, your attorney will help you maintain boundaries in the courtroom and protect you from verbal attacks and put-downs.
Using an attorney can offer your protection or, at the very least, a security net during your divorce case.
Drawbacks of Using an Attorney
While using an attorney is highly recommended for divorce cases, representation certainly has drawbacks:
Cons of using a divorce attorney in Maine include:
- Rifts between the parties – If you choose to seek legal representation, in all likelihood your spouse will too. This could increase the rift between the divorcing parties, especially if both parties want to remain amicable.
- Expense – Legal representation can get expensive, especially in cases with extensive timelines. While there are options for legal aid in Maine, each legal aid agency has different eligibility requirements that certain parties won’t be able to meet.
- Extended communication channels – During a divorce case where both parties have representation, extra parties in the communication chain can sometimes muddle messages. In a situation where four people have to be kept in the loop instead of two, communication takes extra effort.
Consider these drawbacks before you hire an attorney.
Better yet, ask them how they confront these drawbacks in their practice when you interview them.
If you have well-founded reservations about hiring representation, let your potential attorney know.
If they respond to your qualms honestly, they’re likely a good fit.
Filing for Divorce in Maine
Filing for divorce in Maine is not a simple process for most people.
There are a lot of documents to search for and prepare, significant paperwork to fill out, and multiple options for serving your spouse.
Even if you have an attorney to help you navigate the process, it can be overwhelming, especially if a divorce is your first experience with the court system.
Take care when preparing your divorce forms.
Make sure that they’re filled out completed and accurately, as any mistakes or omissions could result in processing delays.
File the divorce forms promptly, and make sure to keep copies of filing receipts for future follow-up calls.
Serving your spouse their divorce papers, while not complicated, could be intimidating or even unsafe.
Luckily, there are options for service in Maine that will protect you and your spouse during the process.
Finally, ensuring that your financial disclosures are in order is integral to your case, and documents should be accurate and verifiable.
The information below will take you through the process step by step.
Pro Tip: The information below is perfect for you to get an overview of the divorce filing process and also use as a guide if you will be filing for divorce on your own. However, if you are using an attorney, their team will typically be taking care of these steps as part of their proper representation of you as a client.
Preparing Your Divorce Forms
Preparing divorce forms is one of the most tedious parts of the divorce process.
Luckily, the Maine court system offers numerous online resources to help you complete everything accurately.
There are several required forms to fill out during the process:
- The Family and Probate Matters Summary Sheet (FM-002) – This three-page document is essentially a summary sheet for your case. You’ll need to provide the names and contact information of the defendant, yourself, and any minor children.
- The Complaint for Divorce (FM-004) – This four-page document asks integral questions about your case in more detail than FM-002. You’ll specify whether or not you or your spouse have filed a divorce or an annulment before, whether or not you own real estate together, and your residency.
- The Social Security Number Confidential Disclosure Form (CV-CR-FM-PC-200) – This form ensures that your social security number remains confidential throughout the divorce process.
- The Child Support Affidavit (FM-050) – if your divorce case involves minor children. This four-page form requires you to document your financial information, such as income, employment, child care costs (including insurance and other medical expenses), and whether or not you provide support for children other than those involved in this divorce case.
- The Acknowledgement of Receipt of Summons and Complaint or Post-Judgement Motion (FM-036) – When you serve your spouse, the defendants will use this form to acknowledge their receipt of the divorce forms. Defendants must sign two copies. Plaintiffs are to keep one copy and file the other with their remaining forms.
- The Family Matters Summons and Preliminary Injunction (FM-038A) – This form is only available in person from the Maine Clerk of Court’s Office for a $5.00 fee.
- The Affidavit for Confidential Address (FM-057) – This form is optional. Fill out and file this form if you’d like your address to be kept confidential during the court proceedings.
- Application to Proceed without Payment of Fees (CV-067). – If the filing fee is too expensive, you can file this form. You’ll also have to submit an affidavit detailing your financial status.
While the divorce process in Maine requires numerous forms, the court system offers a guide to completing and filing each required form.
Or you can consider using an online divorce website to guide you through this process if you will be filing an uncontested divorce.
Serving Your Spouse
Once you’ve completed the required forms, you will need to serve them to your spouse.
If you and your spouse continue living together during the divorce, and you have an amicable relationship, this can be simple as asking your spouse to sign in person.
However, you can also send the papers via certified mail with restricted delivery.
To send documents via certified mail, visit your local post office.
You’ll receive a green card in the mail, showing proof of receipt that your spouse received the documents.
You’ll need to file this green card proving that you served your spouse, so keep it in a safe place.
You can also pay a sheriff to deliver the documents to your spouse.
While each Maine County Sheriff’s office will require a different fee for this service, most county fees are nominal.
If you’re living amicably with your spouse during the divorce process, serving them yourself is likely the best option.
If your spouse has moved out of the home, and you’re not on speaking terms, certified mail is an affordable and effective option to make sure you can submit a proof of service to the court.
Paying a county sheriff’s department to deliver your documents to the defendant is an extreme option that should only be used in cases where the plaintiff is in danger of the defendant.
If a plaintiff has minor children who are still in the house with the defendant, and the defendant is at risk of harming the children upon being served, arrangements should be made to remove the children from the home before divorce forms are served.
While Maine’s court system offers versatile options for victims of abuse filing for divorce, victims should ensure their safety and the safety of their minor children before serving.
If you want assistance with preparing your divorce forms appropriately and instructions on how to file them correctly, using an online divorce service is a great idea to save a lot of money and hassle.
We reviewed, rated, and ranked the best online divorce services available and our #1 choice is 3StepDivorce.
Filing Your Divorce Forms
Once you’ve received confirmation that your spouse has been served, you can file the forms with a local district court.
Many courts serve Maine’s cities, and the court system’s website offers a comprehensive directory.
Filing for divorce in Maine requires paying a filing fee of $120.00.
Plaintiffs who cannot afford this fee should fill out the Application to Proceed without Fee (CV-067).
If you file this, you’ll also have to provide evidence of financial need (including a financial affidavit) to the court.
It’s important to keep thorough documentation during the divorce process.
Keep at least one copy of all documents and forms filed with the court.
After filing, you should receive a filing receipt (and a payment receipt, if you pay the filing fee).
Keep this receipt in a secure location, and write down your case number if you’re given one upon filing.
Maintaining documentation of the divorce process is essential if you need to provide evidence of filing or serving.
If your attorney offers to keep these records for you, ask for copies of everything as an extra security measure.
Both the plaintiff and the defendant have to provide certain financial documents during the divorce process.
If you and your spouse disagree on the division of property, spousal support, or attorney fees, you’ll both need to complete and file the Financial Statement (FM-043).
If you don’t have any disagreements about these items, you can complete and file the Certificate in Lieu of Financial Statement (FM-042) instead.
In contested hearings involving real estate, both parties must complete and file the Certificate Regarding Real Estate (FM-056) at least seven days before the final hearing.
The information in this form (including property address, the date of the Deed and whose name is on the Deed, the date of the parties’ marriage, and whether or not the property was gifted or inherited) will assist a judge in their decision regarding the property.
All of these forms are available on the Maine court system’s website.
Online Divorce in Maine
While the Maine court system does not offer any completely online divorce services, Maine residents seeking a divorce can use a variety of 3rd party online services to assist them with the divorce process.
Some online service providers will guide users through the completion of Maine divorce forms, and users will receive a digital copy of their completed documents to print and file upon completion.
Some service providers, in addition to forms guidance, will serve divorce papers to the defendant and file them for additional fees.
It’s important to look at reviews for each specific online service provider to ensure that their services are worth the cost.
How to Qualify for an Online Divorce in Maine
To take advantage of an online divorce service when filing in Maine, it is required that plaintiffs meet certain criteria.
For most providers, plaintiffs must be able to locate their spouse, and plaintiffs and defendants must already agree on the division of property and assets, spousal support, and child-related matters.
Essentially, if you imagine that your divorce will be uncontested and that you and your spouse will remain amicable and agree on all of your terms right away, using an online service to complete and file forms could provide an added convenience.
However, online service providers that assist with forms, servicing the defendant, and filing are not law firms.
They can’t provide legal advice, and they’re not liable for any mistakes on forms, court processing delays, or service mishaps.
However a good online divorce service will guarantee that the forms they produce will be accepted by the courts or they will help you resolve any issues or process a refund.
Online divorce services can be very useful for straightforward uncontested divorce cases.
However, complicated or contested cases do not qualify to use an online divorce service in Maine.
Do You Still Need to Go to Court?
Even if you choose an online divorce provider that prints your forms, files them with the court, and serves them to your spouse, you’ll still need to attend court to complete your divorce.
There is no option in Maine for completing a divorce entirely online.
After filing, you’ll receive a phone call, letter, or email from the court providing the date of your Pre-Trial Conference or Case Management Conference.
Even if you’re confident that your divorce will be uncontested, you must still attend and participate in the first conference.
If the judge requires mediation, or if your divorce becomes contested after mediation and requires a contested hearing, you must attend all court dates.
Keep in mind that any online service provider who promises that they can complete your divorce without any court visits in Maine is likely a scam.
How Long Does it Take to Get a Divorce in Maine?
Each divorce has its nuances and complications, including possible children, complicated asset division, and less-than-friendly relationships between spouses.
Each divorce is different, and each takes a different amount of time.
However, there are certainly ways to speed up the process, but they require both parties to stay amicable and cooperate.
The Maine court system requires a minimum 60-day waiting period for all divorce cases between the date of the first paperwork filing and the day of the final hearing.
However, divorces in Maine typically take longer than 60 days, especially during cases where minor children are involved, since cases with minor children usually require mediation.
Uncontested divorces between couples without minor children offer the quickest timeline.
To receive a final judgment on the day of the first conference with a judge, spouses must agree on all aspects of the divorce agreement, including division of assets and spousal support.
Spouses can only achieve that agreement by communicating their expectations and coming to terms before this first conference.
Parties without minor children can expedite their divorce process by ensuring that they’re on the same page before ever stepping into the courtroom.
Uncontested divorces involving minor children will still require mediation, in all likelihood. Judges require mediation for amicable spouses with children in the majority of cases, and a mediation session will increase the divorce timeline.
However, mediation is likely worth the time and effort.
Even if both parties are in agreement about the division of assets, custody and child support, and other elements of the divorce, mediation can help both parties reflect on the agreement and make any adjustments as needed before the final judgment.
Uncontested divorces are certainly the best-case scenario for couples looking for a quick divorce.
However, people seeking a quick divorce who can’t agree during the first conference or mediation session will extend their timeline by initiating a contested divorce.
Contested divorces require at least one contested hearing, and the more court dates are required in a case, the longer a case will take to close.
Depending on the availability of judges, court dates can sometimes be weeks or months apart.
The number of contested issues discussed during a contested hearing can also affect the timeline.
If a couple can’t agree on custody, child support, asset division, or spousal support, the contested hearing process will likely require numerous court dates to present evidence, arguments, and testimony to a judge.
Let’s explore a hypothetical timeline where the maximum number of time between court dates is one week.
If, after the Pre-Trial Conference or Case Management Conference, the couple must attend mediation (either because they can’t agree or because they have minor children), a week is added to the timeline.
If the couple still can’t agree on their terms at the end of the mediation session, their case will move to a contested hearing, adding another week to the timeline.
If they disagree on four issues in their agreement, each issue takes (hypothetically) one day in court to discuss, and court dates are spaced a week apart, another four weeks are added to the timeline.
While it’s difficult to determine just how long a divorce in Maine will take without knowing all of the details of the case, there’s a statement that can generally describe the timeline, more complications lead to more time in court.
While the 60-day waiting period after filing is set in stone, any more time than that is ultimately up to the parties.
Potential divorcees can accelerate their divorce timeline by striving for optimal agreement as soon as possible.
Efforts to stay amicable during a divorce aren’t easy, but they’re possible, and amicable couples who can agree to set terms quickly will have the quickest divorces in Maine.
Couples who want to part amicably and decrease their time in court should consider counseling to discuss the terms of their divorce.
While this conversation would happen outside of court, a counselor could help couples stay amicable and create a solid set of terms to which both parties can agree.
Divorce Costs in Maine
Just like the length of time to expect for the divorce process in Maine, divorce costs in Maine are different for each case.
But, there are some court fees that you can expect, unless you complete an Application to Proceed without Payment of Fees (CV-067).
Divorce process costs include filing fees, service fees for defendants, mediation fees, attorney fees, and litigation fees, as applicable.
Online services for paperwork completion, filing, and serving can potentially offer cost savings, but plaintiffs should ensure that the product is worth the cost.
As always, consulting an attorney for divorce matters is the ideal option.
Maine residents seeking a divorce will likely only have to pay two court fees: the $120.00 filing fee, paid when plaintiffs file their divorce papers with the court and the $5.00 fee for the Family Matters Summons and Preliminary Injunction (FM-038A) form.
The filing fee covers the cost of your paperwork filing and the scheduling of your Pre-Trial Conference or Case Management Conference.
While it’s not a court-assessed fee, plaintiffs could also pay anywhere from $25.00-$50.00 for their local sheriff’s department to serve their spouse the necessary divorce papers.
While avoiding this cost is ideal, it’s not realistic for all plaintiffs.
While Maine residents may represent themselves in court, including during divorce cases, retaining an attorney is always encouraged.
However, attorneys will significantly increase the cost of your divorce.
If you’re on the fence about whether or not you should hire a divorce lawyer, take advantage of free consultations to see what they have to say in order to make up your mind.
Discuss your case with an attorney for free, and determine whether or not you think they could help you with your case.
If you expect to have an uncontested divorce and you don’t have any minor children, you may not need an attorney.
Each attorney is different, and they all offer different hourly rates, so it’s hard to predict the total attorney costs for a divorce in Maine.
Some estimates put the average cost of divorce with an attorney in Maine to be around $9,000 or more.
So you will need to be prepared for that cost and factor in more money if you anticipate a lot of complexities or negotiations throughout the process.
If both parties fail to come to terms during mediation, the case will proceed to a contested hearing or litigation.
Litigation incurs extra costs, usually a result of increased attorney involvement.
The more time a couple’s attorneys spend in litigation, the more money they’ll spend on their divorce.
Money spent in litigation is significantly higher than resolving the divorce during mediation, for which the fees are considerably lower.
Couples looking to save money during their divorce process should avoid litigation at all costs, and make every effort to resolve their differences by the end of the mediation process.
Mediation (And Reduced Costs)
Paying mediation costs is a significantly cheaper proposition than paying for litigation in Maine.
Unless you request a fee waiver and meet requirements for financial need, two mediation sessions cost $80.00 per party.
Even if couples choose to use their two mediation sessions, are represented by attorneys, and choose to pursue further mediation after the first two sessions, these costs will be significantly lower than litigation.
During litigation, attorneys collect and submit evidence, recruit and brief witnesses, and participate in courtroom procedures.
While attorneys are allowed to attend mediation in Maine, it’s significantly less effort (and, therefore, cheaper for their clients) to represent clients in mediation than it is to represent them in litigation.
Mediation, while still coming at a price, incurs a significantly lower fee than litigation, and couples with a limited divorce budget should exhaust their mediation efforts before proceeding to litigation.
Online Divorce Service
While there is no entirely online divorce option in Maine, some plaintiffs may seek out service providers online with help completing documents, filing documents, and serving defendants.
While fees for these online services are in addition to filing fees, they’re generally significantly less than attorney fees.
While advice from an attorney is always encouraged, for people with uncontested divorces, these online document preparation services could be useful if plaintiffs predict an uncomplicated divorce process.
Couples with minor children, who can’t locate their spouse, or who expect a divorce to proceed to litigation should consider hiring an attorney instead of using an online service.
Online services offer a variety of prices, from hundreds to thousands of dollars.
The prices vary by provider and depend upon the services the plaintiffs request.
For instance, purchasing document preparation assistance alone is cheaper than purchasing documents in addition to filing and service to the defendant.
If you want assistance with preparing your divorce forms appropriately and instructions on how to file them correctly, using an online divorce service is a great idea to save a lot of money and hassle.
We reviewed, rated, and ranked the best online divorce services available and our #1 choice is 3StepDivorce.
Custody Considerations in Maine
As discussed, the divorce process in Maine can proceed as quickly and as cheaply as possible if both parties cooperate and remain as amicable as possible.
For couples with minor children, the custody arrangement will be a significant consideration in the divorce agreement.
In most cases, a court will honor the custody agreements made amicably by both parties.
If both parties agree to a custody arrangement (whatever that arrangement may be), the court will grant it in the final judgment unless there is “substantial evidence that it should not be ordered,” according to Maine state law.
If a judge decides to issue a different custody order than the arrangement agreed upon by both parties, the judge will justify their choice, though this is rare.
Maine’s custody laws are nearly all justified by the determination of the child’s (or children’s) best interest.
Some elements judges consider when determining a child’s best interest include
- The age of the child
- The child’s relationship with both parties, and their relationship with any relevant third parties
- The child’s adjustment to their present home, school, and community
- The stability of the proposed living arrangements
- The ability and motivation of each party to provide love, affection, and guidance
While these are only some of the considerations made by a judge when ordering a custody agreement, these are particularly important in divorce cases that proceed to litigation.
If each party asks their attorney to pursue full custody, the judge will either accept one parent’s request for full custody or order a shared custody arrangement of some kind.
Each party’s attorneys will shape their custody arguments around these legal stipulations for best interest.
Ultimately, it is in the best interest of both the plaintiff and the defendant to come to a reasonable, suitable agreement that is in their child’s best interest.
If both parties approach the judge at a final hearing with a reasonable custody plan, the judge is likely to honor it.
If once the final divorce judgment is issued, one parent violates the custody agreement, both parties are within their rights to petition the court for a non-compliance hearing.
Results of a noncompliance hearing could include changes to the order, additional visitation if it was wrongfully denied, or a contempt of court charge with a fine of at least $100.00.
Child Support Considerations in Maine
Judges presiding over divorce hearings also have the authority to determine child support arrangements.
Just like in the case of custody, it is in the best interest of both parties to come to a reasonable agreement about child support before their final hearing.
The judge can create a child support order based on a weekly, biweekly, monthly, or quarterly payment schedule.
They can also require parents without primary custody to pay past child support if only one parent has been financially supporting the child during the divorce process.
One major stipulation of a child support order is that any custody agreement must require at least one parent to purchase and maintain health insurance for the child if it can be obtained at a reasonable cost.
If at the time of the judge’s order, health insurance can’t be obtained for a reasonable cost, the order will stipulate that health insurance will be purchased at such time that it isn’t cost-prohibitive.
In addition, a child support agreement can stipulate that support be paid after a child turns 18 if they’re still attending secondary school.
To achieve a custody agreement that works for both parties in the divorce, and that allows parents to provide the best possible care for their child, child support should be thoroughly discussed by parents.
Consider examining past expenses for child care, including food, clothing, education, and recreation, and use these expenses to create a reasonable child support plan.
Alimony Considerations in Maine
Spousal support, or alimony, can be included in divorce agreements in Maine and ordered by a judge.
There are two major kinds of spousal support: general support and transitional support.
General support, like child support, comes with a stipulated time frame.
These time frames are “rebuttable presumptions,” meaning that they’re general guidelines for alimony agreements.
For instance, general support may not be provided if the parties were married for less than 10 years.
It’s possible, but it’s unlikely that a judge will order it, based on precedent and other circumstances of the divorce.
Another rebuttable presumption of general support is that general support won’t continue for more than half of the length of the marriage, as long as the parties were married for more than 10 years, but less than 20.
Again, different agreements have different terms, but these guidelines represent a precedent.
Transitional support is intended to meet a spouse with a lower income in the short term.
Transitional support could help a spouse get back on their feet after paying the costs of the divorce or could provide them with a safety net while they re-enter or advance in the workplace.
If the two parties haven’t come to an agreement about alimony at the end of the mediation phase, and alimony has to be ordered during litigation, a judge has the final say on the parties’ alimony agreement.
Division of Assets
Division of assets can be one of the most difficult, emotional, and tedious parts of the divorce process, especially for couples with significant assets.
As always, it’s encouraged for the plaintiff and defendant to come to an amicable agreement in mediation to avoid the potential for a contested hearing.
Couples will be much happier with a compromise than they will with a judge’s order.
Couples or judges can create a variety of arrangements for their real estate assets.
Some divorcees choose to sell their primary residence and split the profits, some spouses request to stay in the primary home and “buy out” their spouse, or some agree to rent their primary residence and split the rental income.
401k, IRA, and Other Investments
Couples or judges create agreements regarding investments according to their current value and each spouse’s contribution to those investments.
Assets are divided equitably, not equally, meaning that the judge will divide assets based on each family’s specific financial situation.
Financial contributions aren’t the only contributions considered in the equitable division.
The division of businesses owned by spouses during a divorce is also subject to equitable division.
The valuation of the business, each spouse’s contribution to the business, and a variety of other factors (like the operational involvement of spouses) are considered when determining the division of business assets.
While numerous other types of assets are divided by the court during a divorce, some assets are considered “non-marital.”
While there are some exceptions, non-marital assets generally include
- Assets acquired before the couple married
- Assets inherited by one party during the marriage
- Assets received as a gift during the marriage
- Assets acquired after the couple was legally separated
Other marital assets include rental properties, vehicles, and personal items.
Common-Law Marriage Considerations in Maine
Domestic partnerships offer similar benefits to marriage in Maine, including
- Probate for wills
- Protection from abuse
The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, a division of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, has created a registry for domestic partnerships, and couples can enter the registry by completing and filing a mutual consent form.
They can also use a mutual consent form to dissolve the domestic partnership.
To be considered eligible for registered domestic partnership, both partners must
- Be a mentally competent adult
- Have legally lived in Maine for at least one year
- Be legally single, and not in another domestic partnership
- Be the only domestic partner of the other, and expect that to remain true.
Domestic partnerships in Maine can be terminated by marriage (whether the domestic partners choose to marry each other, or one of the domestic partners chooses to marry another person), mutual consent, or alternate notice.
Like married partners, domestic partners can file for a dissolution of their domestic partnership by serving their partner a Notice of Termination, for which they must acknowledge receipt.
Once the confirmation of service and the Notice of Termination are submitted to the Maine CDC, the domestic partnership is dissolved.
Alternatives to Divorce in Maine
There are a variety of legal and informal alternatives to divorce in Maine.
If the cost, time commitment, or emotional turmoil of divorce prove too difficult, some couples may seek an alternate route to separate or heal their relationship.
Legal separation, called Judicial Separation in Maine, can be filed by either one spouse or both spouses.
One or both spouses can file a petition for Judicial Separation if they have lived apart from their spouse for more than 60 continuous days, or if they wish to live apart from their spouse for more than 60 days.
Judges can order spousal support or mediation as part of a final separation judgment.
In Maine, spouses can only pursue annulment if they were married in the state and their marriage broke state law.
If, for instance, one or both spouses did not meet the age requirements for marriage, or if one spouse was previously married and married again without ending the first marriage, the state registrar could petition the Maine District Court for an annulment.
Work it Out Together
Before pursuing divorce, couples should make a good faith effort to resolve their marital conflicts.
Divorce shouldn’t be taken lightly, and before filing for a divorce, couples should exhaust every last effort to save the marriage.
One way to potentially resolve marital conflicts is to enroll in couples counseling.
While it’s ideal for both partners to attend counseling together, one partner can attempt to save the marriage by attending relationship counseling on their own.
Considering a divorce can really take an emotional toll on even the strongest people.
If you are in need of therapy with both privacy and convenience, we recommend Online-Therapy.com. Their incredible service gives you access to instant professional help, on any device, wherever you are in the world.
In an open marriage, a kind of consensual non-monogamy, each spouse seeks out secondary partners (sexual partners, romantic partners, or both) while remaining married.
Most couples set ground rules and basic boundaries for open marriages, and some couples find that they need multiple partners to meet all of their emotional and physical needs.
A parenting marriage, or platonic parenting, could be a lifestyle change for families trying to avoid divorce.
Couples who aren’t necessarily in love anymore, but who seek to provide happy and healthy lives for their children, can continue their parenting relationship while seeking relationships with others or remaining single.
Getting a divorce in Maine is a process that, while simple, requires significant effort.
Couples can pursue uncontested or contested divorces and can file for divorce on a variety of legal grounds as long as one spouse is a legal resident of the state.
Potential divorcees should strongly consider retaining legal counsel to guide them through the divorce process.
While hiring an attorney can be expensive, there are a variety of expenses in the divorce process that couples need to consider before pursuing that option.
Divorce is also time-consuming and requires considerations for custody, child support, spousal support, and division of investments and property.
If the potential toll of divorce is too taxing, some couples may benefit from exploring alternative options to divorce.
Overall, divorcing in Maine requires a commitment to a lengthy and potentially expensive process, but could be the best possible outcome for couples.
Lauren Cook-McKay is the Vice President of Marketing at DivorceAnswers.com. She holds a Master’s Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) from the University of San Diego and applies her training in private practice to helping couples struggling in their marriage. She believes there is hope in all marriages and strives to provide therapy to couples that will lead them back towards a loving marriage, or an amicable divorce that brings peace and closure.