Grounds for Divorce

In many states, there are no longer grounds for divorce. In other words, a couple can petition for divorce, and have that divorce granted, without stating a reason as to why they are seeking to separate. Maryland is not one of these states. If you want a divorce in Maryland, you will have to decide if you want one based on fault or no-fault grounds.

A final divorce in Maryland is called an absolute divorce. To be granted this type of divorce, a couple must meet certain legal grounds.

There are two grounds for a no-fault absolute divorce:

  • 12-Month Separation: Parties must live apart and maintain separate residences for at least 12 months prior to filing for divorce. If the couple spends even one night together during the 12-month period, the “separation clock” may have to be reset. Prior to the introduction of Mutual Consent in 2015 (see below), a 12-month separation was the only grounds for a no-fault divorce in Maryland.
  • Mutual Consent: In October 2015, the State of Maryland revised its laws to include a new grounds for divorce: “Mutual Consent”. A divorce by mutual consent has no “waiting period” or separation requirement, encourages couples to work out the terms of their divorce by written Agreement, and rewards them with a prompt – and relatively inexpensive – absolute divorce.

An absolute divorce may also be granted on the fault-based grounds of:

    • Adultery
    • Desertion
    • Cruelty
    • Excessively vicious conduct; and
    • Certain criminal convictions

Unlike a no-fault divorce, certain fault grounds, if proven, don’t require a waiting period and may allow you to obtain a divorce immediately. A fault-based ground can be, but is not always, one of several factors that a Judge may weigh when evaluating the right to alimony or the issuance of a “monetary award “ or judgment to the “innocent” spouse. In certain rare circumstances, if the fault-based ground is proven, it may have an impact on child custody.

Divorce laws in Columbia and throughout Maryland are complex. If you are considering filing for a divorce, reach out to an experienced family law attorney for assistance.