Ending your marriage can be overwhelming, especially when you’re not sure what’s involved, what your rights are under Maine law, or how to take the necessary actions. Whether you’re just contemplating divorce or ready to make it happen, here’s what you need to know:
There are four general options for divorce in Maine: Do-It-Yourself (DIY), Mediation, Collaborative, and Litigation.
- All four options require serving, signing, and filing divorce papers; and the entry of an order, whether by agreement or judge’s decision, covering child custody and support, allocation of assets and debts, spousal support, and other particulars of your divorce.
- Maine is a “no fault” divorce state. Essentially this means that a spouse doesn’t have to show any wrong-doing on the part of their spouse and a divorce can’t be prevented if one spouse doesn’t want it.
- There is a 60-day waiting period after the divorce papers are filed; it takes longer in more complicated and contentious situations, and some divorces go on for years after the first papers are filed.
Like every major life transition, how you choose to divorce depends on your personal circumstances. As you review your options below, keep in mind that you can reduce anxiety and conflict by moving through the experience just one step at a time.
The Four Options for Divorce in Maine
- Do-It-Yourself Divorce is the best choice if your circumstances are uncomplicated and don’t require the help of professional, such as if you and your spouse have been married briefly or have no children, minimal assets and debts to divide, similar incomes, and no desire for spousal support . If you are able to come to a fair and equitable agreement and you trust each other not to complicate matters, you can start the process by picking up a packet of divorce forms at your local district court. Check out the Pine Tree Legal website for a friendly rundown of all the steps and associated minimal costs.
- Mediation makes sense if you would benefit from the assistance of a professional trained to help couples navigate conflict and facilitate agreement on matters such as child custody and support, allocation of assets and debts, etc. The process involves you and your spouse meeting one to three times with a neutral mediator to come to agreement on the aspects of separating your lives according to Maine law. Because the mediator is neutral and does not advocate for either of you, mediation works best if you and your spouse can be reasonable with each other without further professional support; it’s not likely to be productive (or allow you to come to a fair and equitable resolution) if you can’t trust and work with each other. The advantage of mediation is that it keeps you out of court and is considerably less costly than the traditional litigated (attorney vs. attorney) model – if you feel can get along well enough with your spouse to reach a sustainable outcome without the support and advocacy of additional professionals. To find a divorce mediator, go to the Maine Association of Mediators.
- Collaborative Divorce is a wise choice if you and your spouse have been together for a while and want to transition from your marriage into your new lives with minimum stress and a foundation for future well-being, and would benefit from the support and advocacy of additional professionals. The Collaborative process involves you and your spouse working in concert with your own individual attorneys and other divorce experts to arrive at customized solutions that are of maximum benefit to each of you and any children. The focus is on moving beyond sometimes polarized positions to arrive at mutually satisfying interest-based agreement. Like mediation, Collaborative Divorce is accomplished over a series of meetings, keeps you out of court, and gives you control of the process. The advantage over mediation is that you have a team of divorce professionals guiding you through conflict toward a carefully considered settlement. Click here for a list of collaboratively trained attorneys.
- Litigated Divorce is recommended only if you and your spouse are too much at odds to work together towards a fair and equitable understanding – and especially if your spouse can’t be counted on to tell the truth and/or has a history of being abusive toward you and/or your children. The process involves you and your spouse each hiring your own attorneys to argue for your individual rights in court, with the Judge making decisions about asset/debt division, child custody, spousal support, and other pressing issues. Because litigation is usually adversarial and not confidential, it can be destructive to you and your children. It is the most unpredictable and expensive path to divorce due to delay caused by scarce judicial resources and trial time and complex legal tactics. And the personal discord that leads parties to feel the need to get their “pound of flesh” from each other can result in further legal battles. To find a divorce attorney, go to the Maine Bar Association lawyer referral service. If you can’t afford an attorney, call the Maine Volunteer Lawyers Project (VLP) at 1-800-442-4293.
Ready to move forward? Click here to find a Professional and start the Collaborative process.