Grounds for Absolute Divorce in Maryland
Maryland is a fairly unique state for divorce. Unlike most states, Maryland allows you to file for a Limited Divorce or an Absolute Divorce. The process for both is similar, but the outcome is very different. A limited divorce does not result in a legal divorce. A couple that goes through a limited divorce will essentially be legally separated, however, it may be a good option if you need the court to address issues such as child custody or finances before you are eligible for an absolute divorce, which will legally dissolve your marriage.
What are the Grounds for Absolute Divorce?
In order to receive an absolute divorce in Maryland, you must prove that one of the following grounds exists:
- Adultery. This is a fault ground for divorce, so one party must be found at fault for having committed adultery in order for a divorce to be granted. Under Maryland law, adultery is voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and a person other than the offender’s spouse. However, to prove adultery, the plaintiff must only show evidence that their spouse had the disposition and opportunity for extra-marital intercourse. A divorce attorney can help you determine whether your case is likely to meet the legal requirements for adultery.
- Desertion. Desertion is another fault ground for divorce. The desertion may be actual or constructive, meaning that the deserting spouse may have left without cause (actual) or with justification (constructive).
- Conviction of a crime. The court may grant an absolute divorce based on any criminal conviction in a United States court, provided it carries a sentence of at least 36 months and that at least 12 of those months have already been served.
- One-year separation. In order for this ground to apply, you and your spouse must have been living apart, in separate homes, without sexual relations, for twelve months without interruption prior to filing. This a no-fault ground, meaning that neither party needs to prove or claim fault. It’s one of only two no-fault grounds for absolute divorce under Maryland law.
- Insanity. This is an at-fault ground and has a number of conditions. In order to apply, one spouse must have been a Maryland resident for at least 24 months prior to filing. Additionally, one of the spouses must have been confined to a mental institution or similar facility for at least 36 months, and at least two medical experts must testify that the insanity is permanent and incurable.
- Cruelty of treatment. The court may grant an absolute divorce if one spouse is found to have acted cruelly or viciously toward the other spouse or any minor children.
- Mutual consent. The second no-fault divorce available in Maryland is based on mutual consent. In order for this basis to apply the couple must (i) enter into a written marital separation agreement that fully resolves alimony, property division, and related concerns; (ii) if the parties have minor children, the agreement must resolve all issues of custody and child support; (iii) not contest the marital separation agreement before the divorce hearings; and (iv) appear in court for the divorce hearings.
Talk to an Experienced Maryland Divorce Attorney
Every divorce is different; the one thing that all divorces have in common is someone who knew in their gut it was the right choice for them. If you have that sense, reach out to a divorce lawyer for a consultation. It’s easy to get intimidated and overwhelmed when you start researching divorce, but the experienced Prince Frederick divorce attorneys serving southern Maryland at Meng Law will assess your unique circumstances and help you determine if divorce is the best option for you.