The Two Types of Divorce

Divorce in Maryland can be divided into two categories: absolute divorce or a limited divorce.

An absolute divorce resolves all issues related to your separation and allows the parties to remarry after the Judgment of Absolute Divorce is entered with the clerk’s office at the Circuit Court in the county where the divorce action was filed.

A limited divorce does not terminate the marriage, does not allow you to remarry and basically grants you a formalized separation. The only relief that can be provided in a limited divorce, is:

  • use and possession of a family home
  • personal property
  • custody
  • child support
  • alimony
  • attorneys’ fees (for the limited divorce process only)

All other issues are “tabled” until absolute divorce proceeding  or the parties reach an amicable resolution.

Regardless of what type of divorce is filed, the party filing for divorce must be able to prove to the court that the grounds for divorce existed when the suit was filed. This proof is obtained by supporting evidence from an individual or individuals who have personal knowledge of the facts that caused the parties to separate and/or admissible documentation that supports the allegations as to why the parties separated. The facts of your case determine whether you are eligible for a limited divorce or an absolute divorce. You should contact an attorney to determine whether you are eligible for an absolute or a limited divorce.

Are you eligible for an Absolute Divorce in Maryland?

A court may grant an absolute divorce on the following grounds:

There is one “No Fault Ground” in Maryland:

1. You can be granted an absolute divorce based on a 12 consecutive month separation which requires no allegations of fault (you cannot file for the divorce under this ground until you have been living in separate residences without sexual relations for 12 consecutive months). Even after filing for divorce you and your spouse must refrain from residing under the same roof overnight and from having sexual relations until you are granted an absolute divorce. Otherwise, the clock restarts (even if you were previously ready for divorce under the 12 month ground and had already filed for an absolute divorce).

The 5 Reasons for divorce (“fault grounds”) in the State of Maryland:

1. Adultery. To file for adultery as grounds for divorce you need to have a good faith basis to believe that your spouse is having an affair with a person of the opposite sex. Although Maryland finally reached the modern times in 2014 and legalized same-sex marriage, not all of Maryland’s other laws have caught up with the times. Specifically a divorce action for adultery.
2. Spouses’ conviction of a felony or misdemeanor and is serving a particular sentence.
3. Cruelty or excessively vicious conduct with no reasonable expectation of reconciliation.
4. Desertion/Constructive desertion. This is where your spouse has advised you that they no longer want to resume the marital relationship. Sometimes a spouse may come to this conclusion due to the other spouse’s actions (or inactions). This would be considered constructive desertion.
5. Insanity of one spouse with certain provisions.

Are you eligible for a Limited Divorce in Maryland?

A court may grant a limited divorce in the following circumstances:

1. Mutual and voluntary separation without cohabitation (for less than a year).
2. Cruelty to a spouse or to a minor child.
3. Excessively vicious conduct to a spouse or to a minor child.
4. Desertion or constructive desertion. In this instance, you can live under the same roof, but in separate areas of the residence.

You still must have a witness over the age of 18, and who has personally knowledgeable about the living situations.

In limited divorce cases the court also must receive evidence that there is no hope or expectation of reconciliation.

If I am not eligible for a Limited or Absolute Divorce, can I seek an Annulment?

Although uncommon, a party has a right to seek an annulment from the Court. To do so the party seeking annulment must provide enough evidence to the court to have the court find at least one of the following:

  • The marriage was between two people within certain degrees of family relationship such as a sibling or a first cousin (there can also be criminal charges brought if this occurs);
  • The marriage was obtained fraudulently (i.e. due to criminal history, impotence, STDs, etc.);
  • One party was ‘mentally incapable’ of knowingly entering into a marriage;
  • A party was threatened to enter into marriage; and/or
  • One party was already married.

If the court grants an annulment, it can provide the same relief as an absolute divorce matter. The only difference is that with an annulment, the end result is that both parties can say they were never married to that person.

Now that you know the qualifers, which type of divorce are you eligible for?

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