What are the grounds for divorce in Maine?
Grounds for divorce are the legal reasons that you state for seeking a divorce. If you cannot state a valid reason, you will not be granted a divorce in Maine.
Unlike in the majority of states in the U.S., Maine retains two main categories of grounds for divorce:
- No-fault divorce
This is the most common category. With this type of ground for divorce, no proof of fault, misconduct or wrongdoing is required. The couple agrees to part because of “irreconcilable differences” in the marriage.
This is left deliberately vague but it is not enough to be unhappy in the marriage. You must state that you and your partner are unable to get along and there is no reasonable prospect of the situation changing. That usually involves a communication breakdown and regular disagreements.
If one spouse does not agree that the differences in the marriage are irreconcilable, the court can order both spouses to attend counseling.
Many states do not now allow fault-based divorce because it is seen as encouraging blame, disputes, and increasing the potential for litigation and court time being wasted.
Wrongdoing must be proven in court, and may include the following:
- Extreme cruelty or abusive treatment
- Desertion (for three consecutive years)
- Habitual intoxication (liquor or drug usage)
- Nonsupport (failing to provide suitable support for a spouse, despite having the capability of doing so)
- Incapacitation of one spouse, when a permanent guardian has been appointed by the court for that spouse
Which grounds for divorce should you choose?
The fault-based grounds for divorce outlined above could also lead to the “irreconcilable differences” that are the basis of a no-fault divorce.
If you have specific reasons for proving misconduct of your spouse, you may opt for the fault-based option but the vast majority of people in Maine choose a no-fault divorce. It is considered less time-consuming, expensive and stressful for all parties involved, including the children.
Fault-based divorces are now effectively discouraged by the court system in Maine as a spouse’s misconduct is not a factor if a judge needs to decide on issues concerning alimony, division of marital property, etc.
How long do you have to be separated before divorce in Maine?
In Maine, you cannot file for a judicial separation or divorce unless you have lived apart from your spouse continuously for a minimum of 60 days.
This usually means living in a separate home but if you can prove that you are not living as a married couple (e.g., sleeping and eating separately, separate bank accounts, etc.), it may be adequate.
What issues are resolved during divorce in Maine?
Most divorces in Maine require a wide variety of issues to be resolved but the following four are generally the main ones:
- Child custody/parental rights for minor children from the marriage
- Child support – who pays what for the upbringing of the children
- Spousal support (alimony) – when one spouse needs financial support from the other to transition to a single life
- Marital property and debt division
If you are fortunate, you and your spouse may be able to resolve these issues through discussion and negotiation. In many cases, however, legal assistance is required to help resolve issues.
Even if the separation is amicable and you can resolve the differences between you, the divorce or separation agreements should be drafted professionally by a lawyer before being submitted to the court for approval to avoid legal issues with your divorce.