Divorce and Separation
Under Maryland law, an “absolute divorce” terminates the marriage, allows the parties to remarry, and enables a court having jurisdiction to determine property, support and parenting issues between the parties. Maryland recognizes the following grounds for such an "absolute divorce":
- 12-month separation;
- desertion (or constructive desertion) for 12-months;
- excessively vicious conduct;
- incurable insanity under certain conditions;
- certain criminal convictions and sentences; and
- mutual consent of spouses without minor children in common.
In cases of desertion, cruelty and vicious conduct, it must be shown that there is no reasonable expectation of reconciliation. A separation requires that the parties live separate and apart without cohabitation continuously for 12 months. Spouses are not considered "separated" in Maryland unless they are not living under the same roof, even if they occupy separate bedrooms, permanently discontinued sexual relations, and are essentially living separate lives.
In the case of a mutual consent divorce, it must be shown that the parties have no minor children in common, they have submitted to the court a written settlement agreement signed by both parties that resolves all issues relating to alimony and the distribution of property, and both parties have to appear in court at the divorce hearing, which is typically very brief given that all of the issues have been resolved. There is no requirement that the parties be separated for any length of time for a mutual consent divorce.
In addition to an “absolute divorce,” Maryland law provides for a "limited divorce", in essence a court-sanctioned separation. In cases of "limited divorce," the parties remain married, however, the court may order spousal and child support payments and award the possession and use of the family home and its contents, and other personal property used by the family such as an automobile. A "limited divorce" may be based upon the following grounds:
- separation of any length without cohabitation;
- excessively vicious conduct; and
- desertion (or constructive desertion).
There may be additional requirements for a judgment of "absolute divorce" or "limited divorce", including residency, obtaining personal jurisdiction over the defendant spouse, proof of the marriage, and corroboration of evidence. The proof required in any particular case should be discussed with counsel.
Prior to the final hearing or trial, the court may award spousal and child support, custody, visitation, use of the family home and family use property, and attorneys’ fees on an interim basis.