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Grounds for Divorce Under Maine Divorce Laws
In the State of Maine, the only one syllable state in the country, a divorce may be granted on the following grounds:
- Extreme cruelty
- Utter desertion for a period of three consecutive years immediately prior to the commencement of the action
- Nonsupport (meaning one spouse has the means to sufficiently provide for the other but chooses not to do so)
- Cruel and abusive treatment
- Mental illness and confinement to a mental institution for a period of seven years
Yet despite all these possible situations, Maine is still a “no-fault” divorce state. This means that the usual grounds for divorce will be the ever-popular irreconcilable differences. Basically, a Maine divorce can be a one-sided affair. If one person wants a divorce, the other person can do nothing to stop it.
Maine – where 90% of our country’s toothpicks are produced (who knew?) – will only allow a divorce to be filed if at least one of the two of you is a resident of the state or, barring that, the Plaintiff (i.e. the person filing for divorce) must have in good faith resided in Maine for a period of at least six months prior to the filing of the complaint.
Name of Court and Title of Action/Parties
An action for divorce filed in the State of Maine is filed in the District Court. The title of the action initiating the divorce is a Complaint for Divorce, while the title of the action granting the divorce is referred to as the Judgment of Divorce. The party who is filing the action for divorce is called the Plaintiff, while the other spouse is referred to as the Defendant.
A judgment of legal separation may be granted upon the petition of one of the parties to a marriage, or upon a joint petition filed by both spouses when the party or parties live or desire to live separate and apart from their spouse for a period of at least sixty consecutive days in accordance with Maine divorce laws.
There are several types of alimony that may be awarded in the State of Maine.
General support – Support awarded to provide financial assistance to a spouse who has substantially less income than the other spouse so that both spouses may maintain a reasonable standard of living after the divorce. There is a rebuttable presumption that general support may not be awarded if the spouses were married for less than ten years as of the date of filing for divorce.
Transitional support – This type of support is typically awarded to provide for a spouse’s transitional needs, such as the short-term needs resulting from financial setbacks resulting from the divorce or for re-entry into the work force. This is payment to help the stay-at-home moms and dads find a job once they lose their support system.
Reimbursement support – Reimbursement support is awarded to achieve an equitable result in the dissolution of the parties’ financial relationship.
Nominal support – Nominal support is awarded to preserve the court’s authority to grant support in the future.
Interim support – Interim support may be awarded to provide for a spouse’s separate needs pending the action for divorce.
Some of the factors the court will consider in determining an award of support include:
- The length of the marriage
- The ability of each party to pay
- The age of each party
- The employment history of each spouse
- The income history and income potential of each spouse
- The education and training of each spouse
- Any other factor the court considers appropriate
The court may order that a support award be paid in either lump sum or in installments, and an award of support will terminate upon the death of either spouse unless provided for otherwise in the judgment of divorce.
Distribution of Property
Maine divorce laws call for equitable distribution of assets. This means that any property you acquired on your own is yours to keep and property acquired with your spouse will be divided by the court in what they deem to be a fair and reasonable manner. In the absence of a valid property settlement agreement, upon entry of the final decree of divorce the court shall distribute shared property between the parties after considering the following factors:
- The contribution of each spouse to the acquisition of the marital property, including the contribution of a spouse as a homemaker
- The value of the property set aside to each spouse
- The economic circumstances of each spouse at the time the division of property is to take effect
The court shall determine custody of minor children of the marriage based upon the best interests of the child and Maine divorce laws. Some of the factors used to determine the best interests of the child include:
- The age of the child
- The relationship of the child with the child’s parents and any other person who may significantly affect the child’s welfare
- The preference of the child, if old enough to express one
- The duration and adequacy of the child’s current living arrangements and the desirability of maintaining continuity
- The stability of any proposed living arrangement
- The motivation of the parties involved and their capacity to give the child love, affection and guidance
- The child’s adjustment to the present home, school and community
- The capacity of each parent to allow and encourage frequent and continuing contact between the child and other parent
- The capacity of each parent to cooperate of to learn to cooperate in child care
- Any other relevant factor
The court shall not apply a preference for one parent over the other based upon gender or age of the parties. In any custody proceeding, the court may order each parent to submit a parenting plan detailing each parent’s proposals regarding issues such as the child’s residence, support, visitation, education and medical and dental care, among others.
If the divorce action is contested, the court shall require the parties to attend parenting classes. In addition, if one spouse denies that there are irreconcilable differences in the marriage, the court may require that both parties receive counseling. Furthermore, the court on its own motion may order mediation at any time.
The State of Maine has established child support guidelines which establish the amount of child support to be paid. The court may deviate from these guidelines upon a finding that the application of the guidelines would result in an inequitable or unjust result. Some of the criteria that the court may use to justify a deviation form the child support guidelines include:
The non-primary parent is in fact providing residential care for the child for more than 30% of the time on an annual basis
The number of children for whom support is due is greater than six
- The interrelationship between the child support award, the division of property, and alimony
- The financial resources of each child
- The financial resources and needs of each party
- The standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the relationship continued
- The physical and emotional needs of each child
- The educational needs of each child
- Available income
Any proposed agreement which deviates from the guidelines must be reviewed by the court to determine whether the proposal is in substantial compliance with the guidelines and whether it is justified and appropriate.
Upon request of either spouse, the court may change that person’s name to a former name or any other name requested.