There are many approaches to a divorce. Things are never as simple as filing for divorce on your own, and then having a judge sign-off. In many cases, one side may not be ready to get divorced, creating conflict between the parties. In any case, filing for divorce is a complex process. Seeking advice and legal representation from an experienced divorce attorney is the best way to ensure that your divorce goes as quickly and smoothly as possible, and that you are able to protect all of your rights and property during the process.
Baltimore divorce attorney Ken Gauvey represents husbands and wives in the Baltimore area who are seeking a divorce. Talk to an attorney as early in the divorce process as possible. Legal advice on what type of divorce to seek, when to talk to your spouse about the divorce, and what to do regarding finances and child care can be indispensable in your divorce case. Call 443-692-7685 today for a free consultation regarding your divorce case.
Types of Divorce in Maryland
Maryland has a somewhat unique system, offering two types if divorce: limited divorces and absolute divorces. Limited divorces only achieve a temporary, partial divorce, much like legal separation in other states. The purpose of a limited divorce is usually as a stepping-stone toward an absolute, permanent divorce. This may even help speed the divorce process. Alternatively, a limited divorce could entitle a party to temporary alimony payments, giving them greater financial flexibility.
In Maryland, you are either married or divorced – there is no legal middle-ground. Until you have a court grant you an absolute divorce, you are still considered legally married. This means that your finances, property, and income are still tied to your spouse, even during a limited divorce. This also means that any extramarital relations could be considered adultery, even if you were separated or granted a limited divorce. Lastly, this means that there is no such thing as “legal separation” in Maryland, though separation can be an important step in seeking a no-fault divorce.
Grounds for Divorce in Maryland
Many states are either “fault” or “no-fault” states for divorce. “Fault” grounds for divorce require one party to sue for divorce, requiring proof that the other party wronged them, entitling them to a divorce. On the other hand, “no-fault” grounds allow parties to get divorced based on mutual agreement or because the marriage simply does not work anymore. Maryland allows both types of divorce under Title 7 of the Maryland Family Law Code.
The following grounds entitle a spouse to a limited (temporary) divorce:
- One spouse treated the other (or the other’s child) cruelly;
- One spouse treated the other (or the other’s child) with “excessively vicious conduct”
- One spouse deserted the other; or
- The parties are separated.
For an absolute divorce, the following grounds entitle a party to divorce:
- Desertion that:
- Lasts for 12 months,
- Is “deliberate and final,” or
- Has “no reasonable expectation of reconciliation”;
- Conviction for a crime for at least three years (available after 12 months have been served);
- Separation for 12 months;
- Insanity that is unlikely to be cured, and already involved at least three years of institutionalization;
- Cruel treatment toward the other spouse or their child;
- “Excessively vicious” conduct toward the other spouse or their child; or
- Mutual consent.
Maryland Fault Divorces
Many of these grounds are “fault-based” grounds. Proving fault-based grounds for divorce requires demonstrating the other party committed adultery, deserted you, was convicted of a crime, treated you poorly, or otherwise fulfilled the requirements of one of these fault grounds.
The other side is allowed to defend themselves against these accusations, and some defenses may prevent divorce. The following defenses may be available under fault divorces, with some restrictions listed in the Maryland Code:
- Recrimination – The party suing for divorce also committed the same kinds of actions (e.g. both parties committed adultery). This is only considered in adultery cases in Maryland.
- Condonation – The other party knew of the fault grounds, but forgave them and continued the marital relationship (e.g. forgave the spouse’s extramarital relations).
- Connivance – The other party actually participated in or encouraged the fault grounds (e.g. encouraged polygamy or polyamory).
- Provocation – The party suing for divorce caused the grounds for divorce (e.g. an abusive spouse who drove the other spouse away cannot claim desertion).
- Collusion – Both parties worked together to falsify the grounds for divorce.
Note that a limited divorce on the grounds of desertion can occur after any length of time. Once the desertion reaches 12 months, the deserted party can ask for the limited divorce to be converted into an absolute divorce.
Maryland No-Fault Divorces
The grounds for divorce in Maryland include grounds based on separation or on mutual consent. These divorces do not require any proof that one party or the other caused the divorce. Instead, couples who simply cannot maintain their marriage and want to be divorced are able to use these grounds to return to their single lives. These are considered “no-fault” grounds for divorce.
Separation is a possible reason for a limited or absolute divorce. For a limited divorce, the parties merely need to be separated, with no time requirement. For an absolute divorce, the parties must be separated for at least 12 months before the divorce is granted.
To be “separated” in Maryland means to live “separate and apart.” During this period, you are still married, still share finances, and extramarital relations may legally count as adultery. Staying “separate and apart” also means living in different homes; merely sleeping in different rooms is not enough.
A divorce based on mutual consent requires four additional requirements:
- The parties must not have any shared children under 18 years old. The law tries to keep families together, so divorcing by consent is not allowed until your children turn 18 (if you have children).
- You must come to an agreement with your spouse regarding alimony and the distribution of property. Courts expect that if you truly agree to the divorce, you can agree to the financial aspects as well.
- There cannot be a different filing with the court. You may only use the mutual consent grounds, and neither party can separately file for divorce based on other grounds.
- Both parties must appear at the hearing. If someone fails to show up, it shows reluctance to agree to the divorce.
If you can meet either the mutual consent requirements or the separation requirements, you can seek a relatively simple divorce. However, the financial aspects regarding alimony (spousal support) and division of property may still require negotiations between each party’s lawyers.
Baltimore Divorce Attorney
Baltimore divorce lawyer Ken Gauvey can help you select the best grounds for divorce, file your divorce, and represent you through court hearings. On top of the technical aspects of divorce, Ken can also represent you on the financial aspects, fighting for your right to a fair division of your marital assets and fair spousal support payments, if necessary. Call 443-692-7685 today for a free consultation on your Maryland divorce case.
Columbia, MD 21046