What are the grounds for divorce in Maryland?
In order to be granted a divorce, you must prove that there is a legally-accepted reason for it. However, before we discuss the grounds for divorce in Maryland, it’s important to understand the distinctions between the different divorce options available to you:
- absolute vs. limited divorce, and;
- no-fault vs. fault based divorce
Absolute vs. Limited Divorce
Maryland has two types of divorce – absolute and limited.
- Limited divorce is designed for separating couples who may not meet the requirements for an absolute divorce, or for those whom an absolute divorce is not a viable option. If a couple is married but wants to live apart, with financial and custodial issues formalized through a court-approved Agreement, limited divorce may be the answer. Limited divorce is much less common than absolute divorce.
- Absolute divorce is what most people consider a “real” divorce, in that it dissolves the marriage entirely. The grounds for an absolute divorce can be fault-based and are covered in more depth below. To be granted an absolute divorce, at least one legally accepted reason or “ground” for divorce must exist.
No-Fault vs. Fault-Based Grounds For Divorce in Maryland
In order to get an absolute divorce, you must claim at least one grounds for divorce in Maryland. However, there are two different categories that the different grounds for divorce can fall under:
- No-fault grounds; and
- Fault-based grounds
No-fault grounds for divorce in Maryland
Just as it sounds, no-fault grounds are reasons for divorce that are not based on the wrongdoing of one spouse. There are currently two different no-fault grounds for divorce in Maryland:
- 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.
When the law was initially rolled out in 2015, it was limited to only couples without minor children in common. However, the law was updated in 2018 to include married couples with minor children.
In order to obtain a divorce by mutual consent in Maryland, married couples must do three things:
- Reach and sign a binding Agreement resolving alimony and division of property. Effective October 1, 2018, if the couple shares. minor children, the Agreement must not only resolve all financial issues between the parties, but also resolve custody, access, and support of the minor children.
- Agree, and do, appear in court for the absolute divorce hearing; and
- Ensure that neither party files an opposition to the Agreement before the divorce hearing.
Fault-based grounds for divorce in Maryland
As discussed above, an absolute divorce may also be granted on the fault-based grounds of:
- Excessively vicious conduct; and
- Certain criminal convictions
Unlike a no-fault divorce, certain fault grounds, if proven, do not 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.
WE ARE HERE TO HELP.
If you are considering a separation or divorce, it is a smart idea to consult with a divorce lawyer to discuss which of the ground for divorce in Maryland best fit your situation. As each has its own implications on the divorce process, it’s important that you make a well-informed decision.
Experienced Maryland divorce lawyer Fred L. Coover has been serving families Howard County and beyond for over 30 years. If you are facing a separation or divorce, contact us at (410) 553-5042 to schedule a $99 no-risk initial consultation and see if our firm is the right fit for you.