Navigating the intricacies of divorce in Maryland? Whether you're considering filing for a Maryland divorce or have recently been on the receiving end of divorce papers, comprehending the complexities of the process is key.
Undeniably, having clarity on the types of divorce in Maryland that you might be confronting and understanding the legal grounds essential for legitimizing them can make all the difference in your journey through this life-altering proceeding.
Forms of Divorce in Maryland
There are many different legal reasons for a couple to get a divorce. However, to use any of these reasons in Maryland, the spouse who files for divorce must be an official resident currently living in the state. Maryland divorce laws fall under the jurisdiction of family law. Maryland offers two forms of divorce:
Grounds for absolute divorce in Maryland allow parties to remarry other people. An absolute divorce absolutely dissolves the marriage. In order to get a final divorce, you must have proof or evidence of whatever it is you are accusing your spouse of doing. If, for example, your spouse has been in prison for a crime or is guilty of excessively vicious conduct, you must present proof to the court before a judge will grant your immediate divorce in Maryland.
If the grounds for divorce took place in Maryland, you can file for divorce as long as you live in the state. If the grounds for divorce happened in another state, one of the parties must have been a Maryland resident for at least six months before filing. For example, if a husband cheats on his wife regularly in Virginia, either the husband or the wife must be a resident of Maryland for a minimum of six months before either party can file for divorce in Maryland.
By comparison, a divorce in Maryland state categorized as “limited,” which means that the two spouses are still married but share responsibilities, such as child custody, child support, or alimony. In effect, a limited divorce is a form of voluntary separation by mutual consent when a spouse hasn’t necessarily committed excessively vicious conduct or adultery. This type of divorce is more like a settlement agreement while a couple is separated.
If spouses want to file for divorce in Maryland and legally part ways, the law states that the divorce process starts by proving in court that there are “grounds” for the divorce based on a legal reason for the couple to be apart.
Grounds for an Absolute Divorce
The grounds for absolute divorce in Maryland can include any of the following categories, some requiring more proof and others.
When venturing into the arena of divorce in Maryland, couples can select from primary categories for an absolute divorce. The first category is no-fault grounds. In this context, no party is held accountable for the dissolution of the marriage. This is a unique option that becomes available in the state of Maryland only after the couple has undergone a prolonged 12-month separation or encountered a limited divorce in Maryland.
Here within the no-fault grounds, no spouse casts blame upon the other for any legal rationale leading to the termination of the marriage. In such no-fault divorce cases in Maryland, some states use the idiom "irreconcilable differences." This term is tantamount to a Maryland absolute divorce resting on no-fault grounds. Hence, this process often finds itself being termed as a mutual consent absolute divorce in Maryland.
The second primary category underpinning the grounds for divorce in Maryland encompasses fault grounds. This unfolds when one spouse points an accusing finger at the other, holding them accountable for a transgression that, under Maryland law, potentially paves the way for an immediate divorce in the state of Maryland.
The six most frequent fault grounds that heavily influence the course of a divorce process in Maryland are awaiting your exploration in the subsequent sections. This guides you toward acquiring a deeper understanding of the labyrinthine landscape of divorce law in Maryland.
If you commit adultery, the other party can file for an absolute divorce in Maryland using adultery as fault-based grounds. However, to prove that one spouse commits adultery, the other spouse must prove that there was some sort of desire to do so or that there was an inclination.
One spouse also must prove that there was an opportunity, meaning that the guilty spouse spent a lot of time alone with the person they are presumed to have cheated with. There is no waiting for the period with adultery if a spouse has sufficient evidence.
However, if a cheating spouse admits that they cheated, this isn’t sufficient grounds for a divorce in Maryland. A spouse who makes a mistake and cheats without any type of disposition — inclination or desire to cheat ahead of time — isn’t sufficient for a divorce. Other grounds would be necessary if divorce is still desired. A divorce or family attorney can help determine what grounds are adequate and what evidence is required to corroborate those grounds.
In the past, the state required corroboration of testimony to support the party filing for divorce in Maryland. This would mean that a spouse filing for divorce needed a third party to provide testimony to corroborate their story. For example, if you accused your spouse of cheating or desertion, you would need a third party to confirm that the accusation was true. This, however, is no longer a legal requirement.
Desertion is another legal ground for divorce in Maryland state and is one of the fault-based factors that can decide things like custody and alimony. Desertion is categorized as either actual or constructive. Constructive desertion can include situations when a deserting spouse doesn’t physically leave, but their actions cause the other party to have to leave home. This usually includes abuse or putting children in physical or mental harm. Actual desertion requires the divorcing spouse to prove all of the following:
The deserting spouse has been gone for 12 uninterrupted months;
The deserting spouse wants to end the marriage;
There was no justification for deserting the family;
All cohabitation and sexual intercourse have ended;
The deserted spouse did not consent to be deserted;
There is no reasonable hope that the couple will make up.
Excessively vicious conduct
Excessively vicious conduct is any behavior by one spouse that is abusive toward the other spouse, a child, or another person living in the home. In addition to physical abuse, this includes mental abuse, verbal abuse, and emotional abuse. If one spouse creates an unsafe living environment, the other spouse will have grounds for a divorce in Maryland. This conduct can extend to taunting, controlling behaviors, threats, and domestic violence.
Conviction of a crime
If a spouse is convicted of a crime and given a sentence of three or more years in prison, the other spouse can file for divorce in Maryland after serving a minimum of 12 months.
If you can prove that your spouse is now insane and that it is permanent and incurable, you have grounds for a divorce in Maryland. The absolute divorce in Maryland requires that your spouse be confined to a mental institution, usually for at least three years, before you file for divorce. A testimony from a doctor confirming the spouse’s condition is also required.
How Long Does Divorce Take in Maryland?
The length of time a divorce takes is based on the type of divorce filed for, namely a no-fault or fault divorce in Maryland. Filing for a no-fault divorce can take just a few months to finalize because it is uncontested. Filing for a fault-based divorce can take up to 18 months on average because it will be contested. There is also a waiting period of 30 days after the judge signs the final decree, assuming there is no appeal.
Beyond just the realm of divorce in Maryland, another critical legal document warrants your attention — the Cohabitation Agreement. This contract delineates the rights and responsibilities of couples who choose to coexist without formally tying the knot of matrimony in Maryland. This agreement can encompass a broad spectrum of elements, such as property stewardship, financial responsibilities, and division of assets, should the ominous cloud of separation ever loom.
Imagine Sarah and John's scenario, who, while residing in Maryland, have been cohabiting for numerous years and collected joint assets, like a home and a mutual bank account. Despite not being legally wedded, the duo wants to ensure their rights and interests are safeguarded intact. By crafting a cohabitation agreement under Maryland law, Sarah and John hold the power to stipulate just how their property would be disseminated if they part ways and dictate the handling of any financial matters during their cohabitation.
A cohabitation agreement provides clarity and security for both parties involved. People may use a cohabitation agreement template from a reliable provider to establish clear expectations and guidelines based on each couple's specific needs and circumstances.
Overall, there are many grounds or reasons for immediate divorce in Maryland, whether you seek an absolute or limited divorce. It can take a few months to a few years to finalize a divorce, depending on what documentation or evidence has to be presented and whether the other spouse contests the allegations against them. With the help of a qualified divorce lawyer, you can go over the specifics of your case and get an estimate of how long it might take and what evidence you might need to complete your divorce.
Inna Chumachenko is the Content Lead at Lawrina. She is responsible for managing all the content found on the blog, guides, and other website pages. Inna has a degree in philology and a vast interest in law. In her role at Lawrina, Inna oversees the content team, establishes collaborations with writers, and curates content from various contributors.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Can child custody disputes complicate the process of a no-fault divorce in Maryland?
Yes, child custody disputes can complicate the no-fault divorce process in Maryland. Despite considering no-fault grounds for the divorce, child custody battles raise complex issues related to visitation rights, child care, and financial support. It's imperative to prioritize the child's best interest while resolving such disputes, which inevitably prolongs the process.
How is property typically divided in a Maryland divorce?
Property division in a Maryland divorce usually follows the "equitable distribution." This means that all marital property — assets, income, and debts gained during the marriage — is divided fairly, though not necessarily equally. The court considers numerous characteristics, such as each spouse's monetary and non-monetary contributions to the marriage, age, health, duration, and other factors, to make a fair division.
How is alimony determined during a divorce process in Maryland?
In Maryland, alimony or spousal support is determined based on numerous factors, including the duration of the marriage, each spouse's financial means, the standard of living established during the marriage, each party's contribution to the household, age, health, and financial needs of each party among others. The alimony could be temporary, for rehabilitative purposes, or indefinite based on these considerations.
It's advisable to seek professional assistance during these processes. A variety of detailed and downloadable family and personal legal templates are available at Lawrina, which can help guide you through this challenging period.