To file for divorce in Maine, one of the following residency requirements must be met:
The Plaintiff may file a Complaint for Divorce with the Family Matter Summary Sheet in the District Court where either party resides. Service upon the Defendant is necessary at this time. Service may be accomplished by mail or hand delivery, certified mail, or sheriff.
Within two weeks of filing the necessary forms and serving the Defendant, the Court will notify the parties of the date and time of a required Case Management Conference. However, if both parties agree on terms and fill out and file a Certificate in Lieu of Case Management Conference, the conference may not be required.
A final divorce hearing cannot be held prior to 60 days after filing.
Upon the request of either spouse to change his/her name, the court, when entering judgment for divorce, shall change the name of that spouse to the requested former name or any other name requested.
In Maine, domestic partners are defined as two unmarried adults who are domiciled together under long-term arrangements who display a commitment to remain responsible indefinitely for each other's welfare. Under Maine law, registered domestic partners have a legal status similar to married persons for the purposes of probate, guardianships, conservatorships, inheritance, protection from abuse and related matters.
The law establishes a Domestic Partner Registry located within the Office of Health Data and Program Management, Bureau of Health of the Department of Health and Human Services.
To register as domestic partners, the following criteria must be met:
To become registered domestic partners, the parties must jointly file a Declaration of Domestic Partnershipunder oath, with a required filing fee, with the registry.
A registered domestic partnership is terminated by the marriage of either registered domestic partner, or by filing one of the following notices with the registry:
Maine provides for several fault-based grounds for divorce and one no-fault method. The legal grounds for divorce in the state are as follows:
If one spouse claims that there are irreconcilable marital differences and the other spouse denies this claim, the court may continue the case and require that both parties receive counseling by a qualified professional counselor, who will be selected either by agreement of the parties or by the court. If the party contesting the irreconcilable marital differences refuses or simply fails to participate in the court-ordered counseling without good reason, the court will find that the marital differences are irreconcilable.
When residents of Maine leave the state to obtain a divorce for grounds that occurred in the state while the couple lived in the state, or for grounds not authorized in Maine, and do obtain the divorce outside of the state, this divorce is not valid in Maine. All other out of state divorce decrees, legally obtained, are valid in Maine.
If individuals, who are Maine residents, leave the state to be married in another jurisdiction for the purposes of evading prohibitions in Maine, when they return to Maine to reside, the marriage will be void in this state.
The following proposed marriages are prohibited and void without process:
When the validity of a marriage is in doubt, either party to the marriage may file a complaint for annulment. The court shall order the marriage annulled or affirmed according to the evidence. An order for annulment may include orders awarding parental rights and responsibilities for minor children of the marriage and changing the name of either spouse when requested.
Parties must be 18 years of age to marry without parental (or guardian) consent. If the parties are under 16 years of age, both parental (or guardian) consent and judicial consent must be obtained. If the State Registrar of Vital Statistics determines that parties to a marriage are not eligible to marry due to age or other requirements after the marriage has been solemnized, the state registrar may file an action in District Court to void the marriage.
Although difficult to obtain, case law history supports filing for annulment in Maine on a couple of other grounds. If one of the parties committed fraud by misrepresenting himself/herself to obtain consent to marriage from the other party, the injured party may seek an annulment. Additionally, if a spouse is unable to consummate the marriage the other spouse may seek an annulment for impotency.
Maine is an equitable distribution state. In a proceeding for divorce or legal separation, the court shall set apart to each spouse his/her property and shall divide the marital property in proportions the court considers just, after considering all relevant factors, including the following:
Marital property refers to all property acquired by either spouse after entering into the marriage, with the following exceptions:
All property acquired by either spouse after entering into the marriage and prior to a decree of legal separation, is presumed to be marital property, regardless of whether title is held individually or by the spouses in some form of co-ownership, such as joint tenancy, tenancy in common, tenancy by entirety or community property.
If a final divorce decree fails to set apart or divide marital property over which the court had jurisdiction, the omitted property will be determined to be held by both parties at tenants in common. On the motion of either party, the court may set aside or divide the omitted property between the parties, as deemed just.
The court may award or modify different types of spousal support in a divorce action for varying reasons. The order awarding the support must state the method(s) of payment that it deems just, including lump-sum and installment payments. It must also state how long the support must be paid and any limitations on changes in amount, the term and the method of payment. This includes any applicable limits with regards to remarriage and/or cohabitation by the recipient spouse.
If one of the spouses has substantially less income potential than the other spouse, general support may be awarded to provide financial assistance so that both spouses can maintain a reasonable standard of living after the divorce.
It is a standard presumption by the court that general support may not be awarded in instances where the couple was married for less than 10 years. If the couple was married at least 10 years but no more than 20 years, the standard length of time for which general support will be ordered will be no more than half the length of the marriage. To rebut these standard presumptions, the court must find that either of these presumptions would result in an inequitable or unjust finding.
Transitional support may be awarded to provide for a spouse's transitional needs. These include, but are not limited to short-term needs resulting from financial dislocations associated with the divorce; or short-term support required for re-entry or advancement in the work force (i.e. physical or emotional rehabilitation services, vocational training and education).
Reimbursement support may be awarded to achieve an equitable result in the overall dissolution of the parties' financial relationship in response to exceptional circumstances. These exceptional circumstances can include financial or economic misconduct by a spouse and substantial contributions one spouse made towards the educational or occupational advancement of the other spouse during the marriage.
Reimbursement support may be awarded only if the court concludes that the couple's financial situation does not allow the court to fully address equitable considerations via property division.
Nominal support may be awarded to preserve the court's authority to grant spousal support in the future.
Interim support may be awarded to provide for a spouse's separate support while awaiting a divorce or judicial separation.
The court shall consider the following factors when determining an award of spousal support:
The court may order part of the paying spouse's real estate or other property, as well as the rents, profits or income from real estate or other property, to be assigned and set out to the other party for life or for some other set period that the court determined to be just. The court may also order the paying party to maintain life insurance or otherwise provide security for the payment of spousal support in the event the paying spouse dies before the obligation is met.
Allocated Parental Rights and Responsibilities:
The Legislature finds and declares as public policy that encouraging mediated resolutions of disputes between parents is in the best interest of minor children. It is the public policy of Maine to assure minor children of frequent and continuing contact with both parents after the parents have separated or dissolved their marriage and to encourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities of child rearing.
The responsibilities for the various aspects of a child's welfare are divided between the parents, with the parent allocated a particular responsibility having the right to control that aspect of the child's welfare. These aspects include the following:
Responsibilities may be divided exclusively or proportionately. A parent allocated responsibility for a certain aspect of a child's welfare may be required to inform the other parent of major changes in that aspect.
Shared parental rights and responsibilities means that most or all aspects of a child's welfare remain the joint responsibility and right of both parents, so that both parents retain equal parental rights and responsibilities. Both parents must communicate and make joint decisions regarding the child's welfare, and keep each other informed of any major changes affecting the child's welfare.
Sole parental rights and responsibilities means that one parent is granted exclusive parental rights and responsibilities with respect to all aspects of a child's welfare, with the possible exception of the right and responsibility for support.
When both parents have agreed to an award of shared parental rights and responsibilities, the court shall make that award unless there is substantial evidence that it should not be ordered.
When making an award of parental rights and responsibilities, the court shall apply the standard of the best interest of the child. In making decisions regarding the child's residence and parent-child contact, the court shall consider as primary the safety and well-being of the child. In applying this standard, the court shall consider the following factors:
The court may not apply a preference for one parent over the other in determining parental rights and responsibilities because of the parent's gender or the child's age or gender. The court may not consider departure from the family residence as a factor in determining parental rights and responsibilities when the departing parent has been physically harmed or seriously threatened with physical harm by the other parent, and that harm or threat was casually related to the departure. Nor when one parent has left the family residence by mutual agreement or at the request of the other parent.
When the custody of a minor child is involved in a divorce action, the court may request the department to investigate conditions and circumstances of the child and the child's parents. Upon completion of the investigation, the department shall submit a written report to the court and to counsel of record at least three days before the date of hearing. The report may not be further copied or distributed by anyone.
Child support is the money paid directly to a parent, to another person or agency awarded parental rights and responsibilities with respect to a child or to the department on behalf of a child receiving public assistance and medical or dental insurance coverage provided on behalf of a child pursuant to court order.
Either parent of a minor child shall contribute reasonable and just sums as child support payable weekly, biweekly, monthly or quarterly.
Maine uses the Income Shares Model for calculating child support. After the court determines the annual gross income of both parties, the two incomes must be added together to provide a combined annual gross income and applied to the state's child support table to determine the basic support entitlement for each child. The total basic support obligation is determined by adding the child care costs, health insurance premium and extraordinary medical expenses to the basic support entitlement as follows:
The total basic support obligation must be divided between the parties in proportion to their respective gross incomes. When the parties have equal annual gross incomes and provide substantially equal care for each child for whom support is being determined, neither party is required to pay the other a parental support obligation. The parties shall share equally the child care costs, health insurance premiums and uninsured medical expenses.
Criteria that may justify deviation from the support guidelines are as follows:
A court order requiring the payment of child support remains in force as to each child until the order is altered by the court or until that child reaches the age of 18 years, or if he/she turns 18 while attending secondary school, the order remains in force until the child graduates, withdraws or is expelled from secondary school or attains the age of 19 years; gets married; or joins the armed services.
Upon the Petition of one or both of the parties to a marriage, the District Court has jurisdiction to enter a separation decree if the couple lives apart or desires to live apart for a period of at least 60 continuous days.
The Petitioner may file the Petition for Judicial Separation in the county or judicial division where either of the parties resides, unless the Petitioner has left the county or judicial division where the couple had lived together and the Defendant continues to reside there. In this case the Petitioner must file the Petition in that county or judicial division. Notice must be given as directed in the Maine Rules of Civil Procedure.
The court may issue orders awarding parental rights and responsibilities regarding minor children of the marriage. While a final separation decree is pending, the court may order either spouse to pay the other spouse (or his/her attorney) for the defense or prosecution of the separation action; make provisions for spousal support; and enter a decree for parental rights and responsibilities, including child support. The court may also order the disposition of the parties' property in accordance with the divorce property division laws.
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