What to Do If Your Spouse Files for Divorce in a Different County After You’ve Already Filed for Divorce in Maryland

Sometimes, a divorce case may be something that is straightforward and involves mostly the resolution of factual issues. Other times, your divorce case may feel like a chess match with a series of dueling procedural moves. Whether your case looks more like the former or the latter, it can benefit from the skillful representation provided by an experienced Maryland divorce lawyer. The right attorney can help you to present your strongest possible factual case and avoid being sidetracked by the other side’s procedural moves.

One of the many decisions that must be made in any divorce case is where to file. Once you’ve made your choice and filed your petition, your spouse is generally not allowed to defeat that by turning around and filing his/her own divorce petition in another county.

Here’s an example. In early August 2019, a Maryland man filed for limited divorce in Baltimore County. Less than six weeks later, the wife filed for absolute divorce in Montgomery County.

If you are a divorcing spouse and your spouse engages in this kind of maneuver, you may be confused. What do I do? Do I keep advancing my case in Baltimore County? Do I defend the Montgomery County case? Do I juggle both?

This husband wisely filed a motion in the wife’s case asking the court in Montgomery County to dismiss that action. That judge granted the husband’s motion and dismissed the wife’s divorce filing. Even after an appeal by the wife, the dismissal stood.

‘Concurrent Jurisdiction’ How It Can Impact Your Divorce

The reason for that is something the law calls “concurrent jurisdiction.” A Maryland Circuit Court for one county and a different Maryland Circuit Court for a different county are called “courts of concurrent jurisdiction.” When you have two opposing parties who file two complaints regarding the same matter in two different courts of concurrent jurisdiction, the law says that the case that got filed first generally is the case that should proceed, while the latter should be dismissed.

As the appeals court explained it, it “has long been the rule in this State that, once a court takes jurisdiction over a particular subject matter, another court of concurrent jurisdiction generally should abstain from interfering with the first proceeding.”

The court in this case also clarified that your ability to get your spouse’s filing dismissed, assuming you filed first, is not contingent upon being able to prove that all of the issues in the two lawsuits were identical. Even if you filed for a limited divorce and your later-filing spouse files for an absolute divorce in another county (as this wife did,) that limited-versus-absolute difference generally won’t defeat your motion for dismissal.

It comes down to the issues and the parties’ ability to get a fair and full hearing and resolution in the first-filed action. In this couple’s case, each spouse filed for divorce, child custody and “other issues.” All of the husband’s issues and all of the wife’s issues could be properly adjudicated and decided by the court in Baltimore County, which meant the wife’s divorce petition was the one that should be dismissed.

Issues of law and procedure can play a key role in any kind of case, including a family law matter. To make sure you are fully equipped to succeed in your divorce dispute, you need the right legal team. Count on the experienced Maryland family law attorneys at Anthony A. Fatemi, LLC to be that winning team for you. To learn more about how we can assist you, contact us at 301-519-2801 or via our online form.

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