Complaint for Divorce   

The first step in the formal legal process is the filing of a “Complaint for Divorce”. In Maryland, only Circuit Courts (Not District Courts) have legal authority (“jurisdiction”) over divorce cases. The Complaint is usually filed in the county of residence of one or both parties.  After you sign the Complaint for Divorce, it is filed in the Circuit Court clerk’s office.  A filing fee must be paid, unless it is waived because of indigency. The purpose of the Complaint is to ask the Court to take “jurisdiction” over your divorce, to notify your spouse that you want to end the marriage and to start the time running on the deadlines required for a response. The Complaint requests a divorce and asks for the Court to resolve any issues arising out of the marriage that cannot be agreed upon. The deadlines do not start until the Complaint is “served”.

Plaintiff/ Petitioner   

The person who files the Complaint is the Plaintiff or “Moving Party”; That person may be called a Petitioner if a Petition is filed instead of a Complaint. 



The person against whom a Complaint is filed is the Defendant.  This person  is usually required to answer the Complaint within a certain number of days.  After the Complaint is filed, the Defendant is usually personally served with a copy of the complaint and a summons directing the Defendant to answer the Complaint within a specified number of days.



This  document informs the Defendant that a Complaint has been filed and directs the Defendant to file an answer within the required time. It is “issued” (signed) by the Court Clerk, and it must be served on the Defendant.


Information Sheet

This is a printed form which must be completed and filed with the Complaint. It provides basic information about the parties and the action. These are used by the court for reference and for statistical analysis and reporting. 


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