What Happens if My Spouse Refuses to Participate in Our Maryland Divorce Case?

When you are attempting to get divorced, some people think that it can be very simple as long as the two spouses have been separated for sufficient length of time and there is no dispute about property, spousal support or child issues. For these (mistaken) reasons, too many people try to tackle the legal process of getting a divorce on their own.

The reality is that getting a divorce, whether or not it is a contested matter, often requires careful attention to the rules and detailed knowledge of the law. You have to how to include the proper provisions in your divorce petition, you have to know how to go about serving notice of the filing on your spouse in a way that meets the law’s requirements and you have to know what to do if your spouse does not respond to your filings. Those are but three examples of things that can stymie someone not familiar with the law and the system, and all are examples of how an experienced Maryland family law attorney can help most any spouse seeking to obtain a divorce.

Here’s a recent real-life example. Q.Z. and X.H. were a Chinese couple who married in that country in 1994 and had two children in the United States, one in 2004 and one in 2006. The couple separated in 2012 and Q.Z. (the father), along with the children, returned to live in China, allegedly with no opposition from the mother. The mother remained in Maryland. The father filed for divorce in Maryland in November 2017.

Q.Z. fortunately did not try to proceed with his divorce without counsel. Q.Z.’s lawyer ensured that the mother was personally served notice of the filing at her place of employment in Gaithersburg. That was very important because the mother never filed a response. When your spouse does not file a response to your divorce petition, you can ask the judge to enter a default judgment and give you everything you requested in your petition but, first, you must give the court proof that the other spouse was properly served notice.

Q.Z. got his default judgment. The judgment awarded the father child support and a monetary award of $121,000. The mother received notice that she had 30 days to ask for a reversal of the default. Again, she did nothing.

Several months after the default judgment became final, the mother asked for the judgment to be reversed. By then, though, it was too late. The father, through his lawyer, had done everything he was required to do and had served notice to the mother at every required step along the way. The only way a judgment like this could have been reversed is if the mother had given the courts proof that the father had impeded her in some way from responding in the case. This mother had no proof like that, so the judgment in favor of the father stood.

Any divorce or family law case, where or not there is acrimony between the parties, can require nuanced and in-depth knowledge of the law and procedural rules in order to complete successfully. To make sure your divorce doesn’t suffer from any unnecessary “road blocks,” contact skilled Maryland family law attorney Anthony A. Fatemi, who has been diligently representing mothers, fathers, wives, husbands and others in Maryland family litigation cases for many years. To learn more, contact us at 301-519-2801 or via our online form.

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