Maine Divorce Laws – What You Need to Know!
For couples facing divorce in Maine, the first order of business is to establish residency to make sure the Maine courts have jurisdiction over the divorce action. Otherwise, the court won’t accept the petition, or dismiss it at some future point. The residency requirements to file for divorce in Maine are:
- The petitioner must have lived for six months in the state before being able to file.
- The petitioner is a resident of Maine and the couple was married in the state.
- The petitioner resides in Maine and the couple lived in the state when the divorce action occurred.
- The defendant is a Maine resident.
When both parties to divorce live in the state, the divorce may be filed in the county where either one resides. While these residency requirements are strictly enforced, there are exceptions in place for members of the United States Armed Forces who are stationed in Maine, or is the spouse of a member or the parent of the member’s child. In those cases, the member is presumed to be a resident of the county and state where he or she is stationed.
Grounds to File for a Maine Divorce
Just as in the rest of the United States, Maine now has no-fault divorce for its residents. This means that neither party has to bear the brunt of the responsibility for the failure of the marriage; irreconcilable differences are cited in the petition as the cause of action.
Simply because no-fault divorce exists in Maine does not negate the petitioner the right to file for an at-fault divorce as long as one of the following criterion is met:
- Extreme cruelty
- Desertion by one spouse for three years prior to the filing of the petition
- Confirmed and gross habits of intoxication from drugs or alcohol
- Cases of nonsupport, when a spouse has the ability to provide for the other, but grossly, wantonly or cruelly refuses to provide suitable maintenance for the complaining spouse
- Abusive and cruel treatment
- Mental illness that requires confinement in a mental institution for no fewer than seven consecutive years prior to the filing of a divorce petition
The spouse making these allegations will be required to substantiate one’s veracity in order to cite one or more as grounds for divorce. Understandably, some will be harder to prove than others and may result in a costlier divorce if the grounds are challenged by the defendant.
According to the Maine Revised Statutes of its civil code, if the petitioner alleges irreconcilable differences as grounds for the divorce but the defendant denies the allegation, the court may then step in. At the motion of the court or of either party in the action, the case may be continued while both spouses are counseled by a professional. The professional counselor may be chosen by the court or by agreement of the spouses. The counselor will submit a report to the court and copy both parties in the matter. If the spouse who denies irreconcilable marital differences exist fails or refuses to attend the counseling without a good reason, this refusal or failure is deemed to be prima facie evidence that irreconcilable differences exist.
Spousal support can be waived or modified in Maine if a prenuptial agreement stipulates so. But in the event that waiving the right to spousal support would make one spouse eligible for public assistance, the judge may still order the other spouse to pay spousal support.
All couples contemplating filing for a Maine divorce should consult with a family law attorney to make sure they are acting in accordance with all applicable statutes.