We help divorcing spouses, domestic partners and co-parents navigate the difficult parenting and financial matters that accompany a family break-up. We will work for your best interest as well as the best interests of your children during times that can seem overwhelming and scary.
Our experienced and compassionate attorneys will be with you through the courtroom process and can explore solutions outside the courtroom through negotiation, mediation and arbitration. For more information about divorce, parental rights, and family law, please contact us.
While Maine retains the “old fashioned” grounds for divorce, such as adultery, nonsupport, desertion, etc., Maine is nevertheless a “no-fault” divorce state. As a result, the usual grounds for divorce are “irreconcilable differences.” As a practical matter this means that it only takes one person to get a divorce: it is not necessary that a spouse “give” the other a divorce. If one half of a couple wants a divorce, it will happen.
In addition to deciding whether there are grounds for divorce (such as “irreconcilable marital differences”), the Court is asked to decide three issues in divorce cases:
First, what happens with the children: where do they live, how often do they see each parent, how much child support is paid? See question 7 below for more detail.
Second, what is the marital property and how does it get divided up between the parties? See question 8 below for more detail.
Third, should one person pay spousal support to the other and, if so, how much? See question 9 below for more detail.
Your case may involve all three, or none, of these issues.
The shortest time it takes to get divorced in Maine is 60 days from the date the divorce action begins. However, unless you and your spouse have come to a reasonable agreement on all issues, it may take quite a bit longer. While each case is different, most cases will get to a trial within 11-13 months after the start of the divorce.
During the time a divorce case is pending, almost all divorce lawyers will continue to try to negotiate a settlement. Once a settlement is reached (and if 60 days have passed) the parties can get divorced almost immediately.
For divorce cases, we bill clients on an hourly basis. Usually a retainer is required, which varies depending on the complexity of the case or the contentiousness of the issues. The amount of money spent on a divorce varies considerably and should be discussed openly with your attorney.
Pre-nuptial agreements are enforceable in Maine, and, if executed properly, may strictly define the distribution of property and/or the award of spousal support when you get divorced. If you have a pre-nuptial agreement, bring it to the attention of your lawyer at your first meeting.
Many couples simply can’t afford lawyers and will try to proceed on their own. Alternatively, couples may seek to mediate without the help of lawyers. If you choose to proceed on your own, our recommendation is that you consult with an attorney regarding your case on a “limited representation” basis. This means that you would meet with a lawyer to discuss your divorce issues before you go to court or to a mediator to make sure you are prepared. Often, we will review a proposed settlement to make sure that it is fair to you and to your children. In these cases, we bill you only for the time spent with you.
Court forms and information can be obtained from the Maine State Bar Association at www.mainebar.org and from Pine Tree Legal Association at www.ptla.org.
In general, a judge will make decisions based on the “best interests of the children.” Of course, what is best for the children is often the subject of much disagreement and is often the most difficult part of a divorce case. To assist it in making such a decision, the Court will often seek the assistance of a guardian ad litem, whose job is to investigate the children’s circumstances and make a recommendation to the court based on what he or she believes is in the children’s best interests.
Child support is usually based strictly on Maine’s Child Support Guidelines and can often therefore be estimated accurately by your attorney, so long as each party accurately reports his or her income.
The determination of what is marital property is often a difficult question and can be the subject of extensive (and therefore expensive) arguments between lawyers requiring Court intervention. In general terms, marital property is property acquired by either spouse during the time of the marriage, unless acquired by gift (such as a birthday present) or by bequest (such as an inheritance from a parent), which is not otherwise excluded from the marital estate by valid agreement (such as a pre-nuptial agreement) and which has not been converted into marital property (such as putting inherited funds into a joint account with your spouse).
Once the Court identifies the marital property, it will divide the property “equitably,” which might also be described as “fairly.” While an equal division of marital assets may be the result, the Courts are not required to do so. Often, a fair result may give one spouse substantially more than the other. Again, your circumstances will be unique and require a conversation with your lawyer.
Alimony, known in Maine law as “Spousal Support,” remains one of the great mysteries in Maine because Maine law provides very little in the way of firm guidelines.
While the Court has the authority to award “transitional” or “reimbursement” support, the conventional alimony that concerns most divorcing couples is “general spousal support.” General spousal support is awarded “to provide financial assistance to a spouse with substantially less income potential than the other spouse so that both spouses can maintain a reasonable standard of living after the divorce.” What this amount may add up to is again the subject of great debate and varies considerably from case to case.
Maine does provide one firm guideline regarding spousal support: the law establishes a “presumption” that (a) any marriage of less than ten years will not result in a spousal support award; (b) if spousal support otherwise is appropriate, a marriage of at least ten, but not more than 20 years duration, will result in an award of support of no more than one-half the length of the marriage. The presumption does not apply to marriages of more than 20 years.