Marriage rings resting over divorce papers

What is a Limited Divorce in Maryland?

patrickcrawford | April 13, 2023

Some states recognize legal separation. In Maryland, there is no such thing as a legal separation. However, a couple may be eligible for a limited divorce if they meet certain criteria.

If you are considering getting a divorce in Maryland or have questions about the process, Attorney Patrick Crawford is here to answer any of your questions.


What are the Types of Divorce in Maryland?

There are two types of divorce in Maryland:

  • Absolute divorce
  • Limited divorce

While an absolute divorce formally ends your marriage, a limited divorce involves a couple living apart while remaining legally married.

A limited divorce simply is as it sounds: it is for a limited amount of time. In a limited divorce, the divorce is not permanent. At any given time, both parties may request that the court revoke the limited divorce. 


What are the Grounds for Divorce in Maryland?

The “grounds” for divorce are the circumstances that qualify a couple to obtain a divorce. Divorce grounds essentially are the reason that the couple is ending their marriage. 

Absolute and limited divorce have different requirements for grounds.

For an absolute divorce, one of the following grounds must exist:

  • Mutual consent
  • Adultery 
  • Imprisonment for a crime
  • Insanity


For a limited divorce, one of the following grounds must exist:

  • Separation*
  • Cruelty toward a spouse or child
  • Excessively vicious conduct toward a spouse or child
  • Desertion**


*A couple must be separated for at least 12 months in order to file for a limited divorce on a separation ground.

**Legally, a person is considered to have deserted his or her spouse if they leave or abandon the other. There is no specified amount of time that is required to prove desertion in a limited divorce.


Additionally, the court may grant a limited divorce if certain issues, such as child custody or finances, have not been settled by the couple. The court may also grant a limited divorce if the couple does not meet any of the required grounds for an absolute divorce. 

A couple may file for a limited divorce if they are unable to settle a dispute on their own. This may serve as a temporary solution until they can work out their differences.


What Temporary Issues Are Addressed?

A limited divorce can decide on certain issues, such as:

  • Alimony
  • Child support
  • Child custody
  • Health insurance coverage
  • Division of real and personal property

Maryland is an equitable distribution state, so a judge will divide assets in the fairest way between both parties. Any property that was acquired during the marriage by both spouses is considered marital property. All marital property must be disclosed to a judge so that it can be divided equitably between the divorcing couple.


How Can I Request a Limited Divorce?

Besides meeting the requirements for grounds, at least one spouse must be a Maryland resident. 

If the reason for your divorce (“grounds”) took place within Maryland, you must be currently living in Maryland at the time you file for divorce. However, if the reason for your divorce took place outside of Maryland, then either you or your spouse must have lived in Maryland for a minimum of six months prior to filing for divorce.

A limited divorce can be requested by filling out a Complaint for a Limited Divorce. The divorce can be requested in the county where the plaintiff (the spouse filing for divorce) lives or where the defendant (person being sued for divorce) works or has a place of business.

couple discussing divorce

What Rules Must Be Followed in a Limited Divorce?

In a limited divorce, there is a specified date of separation. After the separation date, the couple must adhere to the following:

  • Neither spouse may remarry.
  • The spouses cannot have sexual intercourse with each other. If they do, then the original date of separation is void, and the clock will restart again for the required 12-month period of separation.
  • Sexual relations between one spouse and another person during a limited divorce are considered adultery. This means neither spouse is allowed to date or remarry until they are granted an absolute divorce. 
  • If one spouse dies while a limited divorce is in place, the other spouse may still inherit property.
  • The form of ownership for any property spouses own jointly will remain the same. 


How Long Does the Divorce Process Take?

If a couple is able to draft a marital settlement agreement, the entire process can be sped up. 

A marital settlement agreement is a contract that specifies how finances (both assets and debts), property, child custody, child support, and alimony will be handled when the limited divorce is issued.

Depending on which issues need to be resolved, a limited divorce can be finalized anywhere from 30 to 120 days after the marital settlement agreement has been signed.


How Long Does a Limited Divorce Remain in Effect?

A limited divorce is usually in effect for six months. A judge can extend the time period after six months. In order to officially end your marriage, you must request the court grant you an absolute divorce.


What is the Difference Between “No-Fault” and “Fault-Based” Divorce?

A limited divorce can be either a “no-fault” or a “fault-based” divorce.

A “no-fault” divorce means that neither party is to blame for the divorce. There were “irreconcilable differences” between the couple. Simply stated, they could not work out their problems and needed to end their marriage.

In a “fault-based” divorce, one or both spouses displayed some form of marital misconduct, and that is the specific reason that the plaintiff is seeking to end the marriage.

In a limited divorce, separation is the only criteria that is considered “no-fault” ground. All other criteria, such as cruelty, excessively vicious conduct, and desertion, are grounds for a “fault-based” limited divorce. 


Do I Need a Lawyer for a Limited Divorce?

While it may sound appealing to save legal fees and represent yourself, it is not a wise choice. Since certain issues still need to be resolved in a limited divorce, it is in your best interest to seek legal representation.

A party that is representing himself or herself, known as a pro se litigant, is almost guaranteed to have an unfavorable outcome compared to if they hired an attorney.

In the long run, you will save yourself money if you hire an Annapolis divorce attorney. An attorney will guide you through the entire process, make you aware of your rights, and allow for the fairest property and asset division.


An Annapolis Divorce Lawyer Working for You

No matter the type of divorce you are considering, you are probably overwhelmed. Don’t hesitate to contact the Law Office of Patrick Crawford today to schedule your consultation. Help is waiting for you.

Patrick Crawford

Patrick is an Annapolis Family Lawyer dedicated to helping you through the most complex and emotional family law matters. During his career, Patrick has successfully represented countless people in divorce, child custody, child support, domestic violence and other family law cases of diverse complexity.

Years of experience: 20+ years.
Maryland Registration Status: Active and authorized to practice law.

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This page has been written, edited, and reviewed by a team of legal writers following our comprehensive editorial guidelines. This page was approved by attorney Patrick Crawford, who has more than 16 years of legal experience practicing family law.