What is the difference between an absolute-divorce and a limited-divorce?

In Maryland, there are two kinds of divorces. There is an “Absolute Divorce” and there is a “Limited Divorce”. What are the differences?

An Absolute Divorce is a real divorce. It is what people think of when they think of divorce, and it is what people who want to get divorced want. An Absolute Divorce is the real McCoy. When two people are granted an Absolute Divorce, they are no longer married, all property issues and alimony issues have been addressed, child custody and child support issues have also been addressed, and
the parties are free to marry other people.

A Limited Divorce, by contrast, is not a real divorce. It is not what people think of as a divorce. And when parties receive a Limited Divorce, they are still married!! That’s right. People who receive a Limited Divorce remain married and cannot marry other people.

So why would anyone who wants a divorce ask for a Limited Divorce? Good question. In actuality, I believe that no one actually goes to court with the goal of obtaining a Limited Divorce. But people do file for Limited Divorce all the time. The reason is as follows:

An Absolute Divorce requires that the parties prove certain “grounds”. Often those grounds are not met when when the parties are ready to start the divorce process, and time must pass before the grounds exist. An example is an Absolute Divorce based on a one-year period of separation, which requires that the parties be separated for an entire year before filing .

A Limited Divorce case can be filed based on 1-day separation, therefore, a Limited Divorce is useful for starting the divorce process while the parties wait for the Absolute Divorce grounds to arise. In other words, a Limited Divorce process allows the parties to get some or all of the issues out of the way, such as property, alimony, child custody, child support, and attorney fees so that when they are ready to get the Absolute Divorce, those issues are already addressed.

In a nutshell, a Limited Divorce allows the parties to litigate certain divorce-related issues before the grounds for an Absolute Divorce arise. When the grounds for the Absolute Divorce do arise, the parties, will have the process well underway and can get the Absolute Divorce faster.

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