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The Difference Between a Divorce and an Annulment in Maine

Marriages recognized and solemnized under state laws end in one of two ways. The common route is for one or both spouses to file for a divorce, but a marriage may also terminate by annulment. The Maine Judiciary is vested with the power to solemnize and annul matrimonies in Maine. Court officials keep records of the entire proceeding in a publicly accessible database. And per the Maine sunshine laws, anyone can access and copy records of annulment and divorce unless a court order or statute restricts access.

What is a Maine Divorce Decree?

A Maine divorce decree is a judicial order that effectively relieves parties from the rights and obligations that matrimony confers. The court will issue a document to this effect per 19-A M. R. S. § 953(5). The decree contains the names of the divorcees and the court’s declaration on adjudged matters (see the abstract of a divorce decree).. Upon issuing a decree, the court confers the social and legal status, rights, and obligations of unmarried persons on the divorcees. 

The records contained in documents related to family court include both marriage and divorce records. Both types of records contain information that is considered very personal to the parties involved, and it is recommended that those parties maintain these records with care to make changes in the future. The personal nature of these records results in both being considerably more difficult to find and obtain when compared to other types of public records. In many cases, these records are not available through either government sources or third party public record websites.

What is an Annulment in Maine?

Per 19-A M. R. S. §752, an annulment is a court order to end a marriage that is adjudged invalid in Maine. Such illegal or invalid marriages include all marriages listed in 19-A M. R. S. §701, i.e., marriage between relatives, the marriage of persons under guardianship, marriage pending final divorce, polygamy, and marriage pending the issuance of a death certificate of spouse. To annul the aforementioned marriages, the plaintiff only needs to submit a petition citing the invalidity with supporting evidence. The court will dissolve the marriage without legal process (19-A M. R. S. §751)..

Likewise, the law does not recognize any out-of-state marriage that violates Maine marital laws or unions solemnized under duress, by compulsion, threat, or force. Annulment of this marriage begins when the plaintiff submits a complaint at the District Court. While divorce and annulment proceedings are often closed to the public, interested members of the public may peruse court records after adjudication. The court records will remain in the public domain until the court removes access.

Annulment vs. Divorce in Maine

Suffice to say that these legal actions to end a marriage share few similarities. Both follow Chapter XIII of the Maine Rules of Civil Procedure, and final adjudication breaks the bonds of matrimony. 

But divorce and annulment are intrinsically different. Marriage remains a valid contract—even during an ongoing divorce proceeding—until the court issues a final decree. Conversely, an annulled marriage is void and non-binding from the moment of solemnization. Both spouses can legally claim an unmarried status during the period. Furthermore, Maine laws require couples to file for divorce on specified statutory grounds (19-A M. R. S. §902),, but the grounds for annulment need only prove invalidity.  

Is an Annulment Cheaper Than Divorce in Maine?

No. Intending couples can file for divorce and settle out of court, thus paying the bare minimum of legal fees. However, couples filing for annulment cannot file for annulment cannot settle out-of-court. Thus, the cost of annulment increases as the plaintiff prepares the necessary legal and medical documents that establish proof of an invalid marriage.

What is an Uncontested Divorce in Maine?

An uncontested divorce is one where both parties agree on the grounds of filing and terms of the settlement agreement. The intending divorcees must prepare and submit a document that details the division of valuables, and liabilities. If there are children involved, the couple must agree on the terms/conditions of child support and parenting time.

Where to get an Uncontested Divorce Form in Maine

Divorce forms are available at the office of the clerk of the district court in the county where either spouse resides. To obtain the forms, either spouse must meet Maine residency requirements. The judiciary also provides divorce forms online. The divorce packet to download depends on whether there are children involved in the marriage. Furthermore, the intending divorcee must follow the judicial instructions for filing for divorce in Maine.

Maine divorce records in Maine are public records and available to interested persons at the office of the clerk (find the court and contact information).. Alternatively, the interested requester may access divorce records via the Maine case management portal.

Note that documents in divorce records that contain sensitive information such as social security numbers are unavailable to unauthorized persons. The court may also sequester divorce records from the public domain if the divorcees petition the court to seal the divorce records.

Consequently, only the entities privy to the case and authorized government officials may access the divorce record. Other persons need a court order to access the sealed divorce records. Even with a court order, the clerk will redact sensitive information before allowing a third party to peruse the divorce records.

Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching for records simpler, as geographic locations do not limit their activities. Thus, the search engines on third-party sites may help when starting a search for specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:

  • The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
  • The location or assumed location of the record or persons involved in the case. These include information such as the city, county, or state of residence or accusation.

Third-party sites are independent of government sources and are not government-sponsored. Consequently, record availability on third-party sites may vary.

How do I get a copy of my Divorce Decree in Maine?

Use the court directory to find the contact information of the district court that handled the divorce. Then, visit the courthouse and furnish the clerk with information to retrieve the divorce decree. Such information includes the names of the divorcees and the date of the divorce decree. To process the request, the requester must pay the applicable search fees. And upon retrieval, the requester must pay the fees to copy and certify the divorce decree.

Divorce and marriage records may be available through government sources and organizations, though their availability is not guaranteed. Similarly, their availability through third-party websites and companies is not guaranteed, as these organizations are not government-sponsored, and record availability may vary. Finally, marriage and divorce records are considered extremely private due to the information they contain and are often sealed. Bearing these factors in mind, record availability for these types of records is not guaranteed.

How do I get a Maine Divorce Decree Online?

As of December 2020, requesters cannot order divorce decrees online. Thus, eligible persons may request copies of divorce decrees at the office of the clerk of court in person and during business hours.

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