Your Complete Guide to Getting a Divorce in Maine

by Lauren Cook-McKay | Last Updated: September 4, 2021

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.

picture of snow breaking apart in Maine mountains symbolizing a divorce

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.

Contested Divorce

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:

  1. Spouses gather the information needed to fill out court forms
  2. Spouses fill out the required forms that need to be filed to initiate the court process
  3. One spouse serves these forms to the other (the serving party is the plaintiff, while the other party is the defendant)
  4. 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.

If both parties are not in full agreement, the spouses will proceed to the next steps: mediation and, if necessary, a contested hearing.

Mediation

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:

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:

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 Divorce

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

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:

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:

When a spouse is ready for a divorce, they should thoroughly review all of their options to ensure the best outcome for their separation.

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Key Takeaways
Potential divorcees in Maine can pursue an uncontested divorce or a contested divorce.During an uncontested divorce, all parties agree to the terms of the divorce either at the first conference session or the end of the first mediation session.

In a contested divorce, the couple’s disagreements must be settled by a judge or a magistrate.

While an uncontested divorce is an ideal choice for divorcees in Maine who predict an amicable split (due to their timeliness and affordability), sometimes a contested divorce may be necessary (especially in cases where evidence and witness testimony could help the parties fairly resolve their disagreements).

Residency Requirements in Maine

To file for divorce in Maine, parties must meet some basic requirements:

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:

Key Takeaways
There are basic residency requirements you will need to meet to file a divorce in Maine.You can prove residency in a variety of ways, the easiest of which would be with a Maine driver’s license.

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:

If the plaintiff chooses “Other,” they must list their grounds for divorce.

Maine state statutes provide the following grounds for divorce in the state:

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.

Key Takeaways
When completing the Complaint for Divorce form, Maine residents can specify that they are divorcing on the grounds of “Irreconcilable Differences,” or “Other.”While the legal justifications for divorce are not listed on the form, there are a variety of legal grounds for divorce in Maine.

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

  1. When you’re the defendant in a case that you imagine will be contested and could get messy
  2. 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:

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:

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:

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:

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.

Key Takeaways
When getting a divorce in Maine, you should consider legal representation.While it may not seem necessary in cases that you expect will be uncontested, the safety net that an attorney can provide if things go south is invaluable.

Finding an attorney that’s right for your case can be a lot of work, but an arsenal of recommendations and good interview questions will help you choose the perfect person for the job.

Keep in mind that consultation appointments should, ideally, be free and that consultations should always be confidential.

Consider using an attorney for their help with the legal system and their ability to advocate for you, but take special care to maintain your budget and (if you’d like to remain amicable after the divorce) your relationship with your spouse.

An attorney that listens actively to your case details and answers your questions honestly is one worth hiring.

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:

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.
 

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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.

Financial Disclosures

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.

Key Takeaways
Filing for divorce in Maine is a multi-step process involving the completion of forms, the service of those forms to the defendant, and the filing of those forms with the court.Luckily, the court system offers helpful guides for completing the paperwork.

Alternatively, if you’ve sought legal counsel, your attorney can help you with the paperwork.

Make sure to fill out all of the required forms completely and accurately.

Follow directions to the letter to avoid processing or filing delays, which could put the brakes on the entire divorce process.

 

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.

Best Online Divorce Services
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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.

Key Takeaways
While a 100% online divorce from start to finish isn’t available in Maine, there are online service providers who offer assistance with filling out the confusing divorce paperwork, and some of those providers will file the paperwork for you and serve your spouse.However, these services do not offer legal advice, and should not be confused with professional legal counsel.

You’ll still have to appear at your case’s first conference, mediation if required by your judge, and any further hearings if your divorce is contested.

Online divorce services can only be used in uncontested divorces where the divorcing couple agrees on all the terms of their legal seperation.

We recommend 3StepDivorce learn more >>

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.

Key Takeaways
While there’s no set timeline for divorces in Maine, the court’s 60-day minimum waiting period stipulates that parties will spend a minimum of 60 days between the filing of paperwork and the final hearing.Any addition to this time frame is a direct result of complications, like the involvement of minor children and disagreements that lead to mediation and contested hearings.

Couples who want a quick divorce should make efforts to agree as early as possible and remain amicable throughout the process.

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.

Court Fees

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.

Attorney Fees

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.

Litigation Costs

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.
 

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Key Takeaways
While there are some basic fees that divorcees in Maine can expect, like fees for filing and forms, other divorce costs can rack up quickly.Additional costs in divorce proceedings can include document service fees, attorney fees, litigation fees, mediation fees, and the costs of using an online service provider for document preparation, service, and filing.

Avoiding litigation is one of the easiest ways to achieve an affordable divorce.

If you expect that your divorce will proceed smoothly and in an uncontested hearing, you may be able to avoid retaining an attorney, which will result in cost savings.

Achieving an agreement within two or fewer mediation sessions will also save both parties money.

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

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.

Key Takeaways
While, in most cases, a judge will grant a custody order agreed upon by both parents during a final hearing, there are exceptions to that rule.If a judge finds that the proposed custody arrangement isn’t in the best interest of the child, they can order a custody arrangement of their design.

It behooves both parties (from financial, time, and emotional standpoints) to agree to a custody arrangement as early in the divorce process as possible.

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.

Key Takeaways
As always, it’s in the interest of both parties to agree on child support without having to pursue litigation.If a divorce case does proceed to a contested hearing, the judge will have the final say over the child support arrangement, which could result in disappointment for both parents.

Realistically considering the costs of care for the child before suggesting a child support agreement will not only give you leverage when requesting it from the court, but it will show your spouse that you’ve made a good faith effort to suggest a fair agreement.

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.

Key Takeaways
Both general spousal support and transitional spousal support can be stipulated in a legally binding divorce agreement.The arrangement can be agreed upon by both parties before the final judgment, or a judge can create an arrangement based on “rebuttable presumptions” in Maine state laws.

General support refers to long-term support for a spouse with a lower income than the other party to guarantee that the lower-income spouse will maintain their standard of living.

General support typically isn’t awarded to spouses who have been married for less than 10 years.

Transitional support is temporary and is awarded to help one spouse get back on their feet after the divorce.

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.

Real Estate

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.

Businesses

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.

Other 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

Other marital assets include rental properties, vehicles, and personal items.

Key Takeaways
All assets that are divided by the court are distributed to each spouse via equitable division, including real estate, investments, businesses, and others.But, couples should make a good faith effort to create their agreements for the division of assets to prevent their divorce case from entering the litigation phase.

The court has jurisdiction to divide almost all of a couple’s assets.

Common-Law Marriage Considerations in Maine

While Maine does not recognize common-law marriage, and there are no equivalents for divorce proceedings for unmarried partners, Maine does recognize domestic partnerships.

Domestic partnerships offer similar benefits to marriage in Maine, including

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

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.

Key Takeaways
Maine does not recognize common-law marriage, therefore there are no divorce-like legal proceedings for unmarried couples stipulated by Maine law.However, Maine does recognize domestic partnerships.

There is a domestic partnership registry, and participation and termination of a couple’s registration are simple.

Domestic partners file mutual consent forms for both declaration and termination of a domestic partnership.

Like traditional divorce proceedings, one partner may serve the other with a Notice of Termination, and the serving partner must submit proof of service to dissolve the domestic partnership.

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

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.

Annulment

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.

Seek Counseling

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.

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Open Marriage

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.

Parenting Marriage

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.

Key Takeaways
For married couples seeking a solution to their married woes outside of divorce, there are a variety of options, including legal separation, attempts to improve the marriage, relationship counseling, non-monogamy, and platonic parenting.These alternatives offer a chance to change the landscape of a marriage without the cost, time, and emotional turmoil caused by divorce.

Final Thoughts

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 strongly 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. Connect with Lauren on LinkedIn here.