Instructions to File For Divorce in Maryland Form
COMPLAINT FOR ABSOLUTE DIVORCE
INSTRUCTIONS FOR COMPLETING DOM REL 20
If you want the court to grant you a complete dissolution (ending) of a marriage, you are asking the
court to grant you an absolute divorce. There are two ways you can get an absolute divorce: (1) obtain the
services of an attorney to handle your case; or (2) file the case yourself by using the DOM REL forms.
After a court issues a JUDGMENT OF ABSOLUTE DIVORCE, you can remarry.
YOU MAY NEED AN ATTORNEY IF:
l the case is contested and your spouse has lawyer. (See p. 4 of these instructions for assistance in
determining whether your case is uncontested.)
l you cannot locate your spouse to serve him or her with your papers.
l you or your spouse have a house, a pension, or a large amount of property or income. Even if it is
a friendly divorce, you should talk to a lawyer before you sign any settlement papers or file
anything in court.
l you and your spouse do not agree on who should have custody of the children.
l you think the court will need information that you cannot get.
l you have been married for close to ten years. Being married for ten years may entitle you to certain
WHERE TO FILE: You should file in the county in which you live, or in which the defendant lives or
works. You do not have to file in the county in which you were married, if you no longer live there.
There are 10 steps you must complete in order to file the case yourself:
>STEP 1 – Completion of Form DOM REL 20.
Page 1: Fill in both your name, as Plaintiff, and your spouse’s name, as Defendant. Then fill in
current addresses and telephone numbers for both. If you do not have an address for the other side and
have done everything you can to find the address, call the legal Forms Helpline (1-800-818-9888) to see if
resources are available in your county to help you.
Line 1: After printing your name in the space provided, fill in the month, day and year of your
marriage. In the second blank, fill in the city or county and the state where you were married. Circle
whether you were married in a religious or a civil ceremony.
Line 2: Check off all statements that apply in your case and fill in the blanks.
Line 3: Check off all statements that apply in your case. Please refer to page 2, line 13 for a list of
grounds for an Absolute Divorce.
Line 4: If you check off, “We have no children…,” remember to skip lines 6 through 10.
DRIN20 (Rev. 2/2012) Page 1 of 4 If you check off, “My spouse and I are the parents….,” write in the full names of all the children you
and your spouse had together and their dates of birth.
Line 5: Fill in information about any court cases which have involved either yourself, the opposing
party, or one of the children involved in this case. Provide cases which may have been handled by this
court, or any other court both in Maryland and outside the State.
Line 6: List cases concerning custody or visitation of the children where you have participated as a
party, a witness or in some other manner. Attach the most recent court order for all of the cases that you
Line 7: List any other people who may believe they have a right legal or physical custody or
visitation with the children.
Line 8: Fill in the name of the person the children listed above live with now.
Line 9: List all other places the children have lived for the last 5 years. Include the time period,
place lived, person with whom they lived and that person’s current address.
Line 10: Check the box for the type of custody or visitation you want and fill in the names of the
Line 11: Check whether or not you are seeking alimony. If you are seeking alimony, state why.
Line 12: If you are asking the court to make a decision about your property, check off the kinds of
property you and your spouse have. If you or your spouse have debts, you may check the box marked
“Debts” and attach a list of the debts to this form.
NOTE: Normally the court cannot order one party to pay the debts of another. However, the court
may need to know what debts you have in order to determine the value of any marital property.
Line 13: Check each ground for divorce that applies and fill in the blanks. Choosing a certain ground
or grounds will not necessarily result in a divorce being granted.
l Twelve (12) Month Separation – If you and your spouse have lived apart from each other for at least
12 months without sexual intercourse with each other. There are some important things to remember:
during the last 12 months, if you and your spouse lived together at all, or if you have had sexual
intercourse with your spouse during that time, or if you spent even one night under the same roof, you
cannot get an absolute divorce based on a 12-month separation. (For example, if you have been
separated from your spouse for 12 months, but one night six (6) months ago you had sexual
intercourse with your spouse, then you have only been separated for six (6) months.)
DRIN20 (Rev. 2/2012) Page 2 of 4l Adultery – If your spouse has had voluntary sexual intercourse with a person other than you, you
may check this ground for an absolute divorce. You must be able to prove your spouse committed
the act of adultery or that he or she had disposition and opportunity. Disposition is when your spouse
and someone of the opposite sex acted romantically towards each other. Opportunity is a specific
chance to have sexual intercourse with that person.
l Actual Desertion – If your spouse left you more than 12 months ago with the intention of ending the
marriage and you and your spouse have not had sexual intercourse with each other during that time,
you may check this ground.
l Constructive Desertion – If at least one year ago your spouse forced you to leave the home by
making it impossible for the two of you to live together in safety, with health, and with self respect
and you and your spouse have not had sexual intercourse with each other during this time, you may
check this ground.
l Criminal Conviction of a Felony or Misdemeanor – This ground is explained on DOM REL 20.
l Cruelty/excessively Vicious Conduct Against Me or My Minor Child – If your spouse has
endangered you or your minor child’s safety or health more than once and there is no reasonable
hope that you and your spouse will get back together, you may check this ground. However, one
incident may be enough if it was very violent and your spouse intended to harm you. The court will
want you to prove that you cannot live safely with your spouse.
l Insanity – This ground is explained on DOM REL 20.
In this section that begins “FOR THESE REASONS…,” check off everything you want. If you fail to
ask for alimony and/or property before the divorce, you will never be able to get it. The court will
not necessarily give you what you asked for.
Date and sign this form.
>STEP 2 – Other Court Documents.
In addition to this form you may also need to complete and attach to the Complaint a:
1. Property Settlement Agreement, if you have one;
2. Financial Statement for Alimony or Child Support, DOM REL 30 or DOM REL 31, ONLY if
you are requesting child support and/or alimony.
>STEP 3 – Filing Fee.
Payment of a filing fee is generally required for filing these papers with the court. See General
>STEP 4 – Filing Your Forms.
Take the completed documents to the Clerk of the Court. Make sure to get the case number.
DRIN20 (Rev. 2/2012) Page 3 of 4>STEP 5 – Service.
You will need to have the other party properly served with a copy of all the papers you are filing
with a Writ of Summons which is provided by the Civil Clerk of this Court. See General Instructions.
>STEP 6 – Request for Default if No Answer Filed.
If your spouse is served: Your spouse should answer within:
in Maryland 30 days after service
in another state 60 days after service
in another country 90 days after service
If your spouse has not filed an answer by the required time, file a Request for Order of Default,
DOM REL 54.
>STEP 7 – Request for Hearing or Proceeding.
After you have received an Answer or an Order of Default, file a Request for Hearing or Proceeding,
DOM REL , so that a court date will be set. See General Instructions.
>STEP 8 – Marital and Non-marital Property.
If property is an issue you may have to complete a Joint Statement of Parties Concerning Marital and
Non-marital Property, DOM REL 33, before your court date.
>STEP 9 – Child Support.
If there are children of this Marriage, you may have to fill out a CHILD SUPPORT GUIDELINES
WORKSHEET. Ask the Clerk of the Court how to get one.
>STEP 10 – Hearing.
At the hearing for Absolute Divorce, you will need a corroborative witness. This is a person who
testifies for you and supports your version of the facts. The witness gives his/her testimony based on the
facts he/she saw or heard. An important exception is that your witness can testify to what your spouse
(but not you), told him/her.
UNCONTESTED MATTER: The most commonly used uncontested matter for divorce is a
Twelve (12) Month Separation. In this case, your witness should be someone who knows you well
and has frequent contacts with you. Your witness must testify under oath that he/she knows:
l you and your spouse are married to each other;
l you and your spouse have been separated for 12 months;
l if there is no order of default, whether or not your spouse is in the military.
CONTESTED MATTER: IF YOU HAVE ANY CONTESTED MATTERS, YOU SHOULD
GET THE ASSISTANCE OF AN ATTORNEY WELL BEFORE THE COURT DATE.
DRIN20 (Rev. 2/2012) Page 4 of 4