Maryland has some unique divorce laws. Did you know, for example, that there is no such thing as a “legal separation” in Maryland? If you and your spouse live separately, do not have sexual relations, and intend to get divorced, that constitutes a separation in Maryland—no legal paperwork necessary. In Maryland, there are two kinds of divorce: absolute and limited. If you are new to the state, this probably sounds a little intimidating, so let’s break it down and examine each of these types of divorce.
In simple terms, an absolute divorce legally terminates your marriage. It is the most common kind of divorce in Maryland and resolves property division, child custody, and child support issues. After an absolute divorce is finalized, you may remarry and change your last name as well. This type of divorce culminates in the issuance of a decree of absolute divorce. Once this document is finalized, anything once owned as community property is now owned 50/50 like a partnership (“in common”).
Furthermore, one cannot, for example, inherit property automatically from the other anymore. In short, an absolute divorce in Maryland is like any regular divorce in another state.
To qualify for absolute divorce, certain qualifications need to be met:
If you and your spouse were hoping to part on the grounds of “irreconcilable differences,” that is not an option in Maryland. If you do not currently meet any of the above criteria, you can start by filing for a limited divorce, or you can wait out a 12-month separation.
A limited divorce in Maryland is essentially what other states would consider a legal separation. You could also think of it as a separation that is being overseen by the court. Limited divorce does not dissolve your marriage, but it does give you grounds for an absolute divorce, which would dissolve it. Filing for a limited divorce is not mandatory in order to get an absolute divorce. Like an absolute divorce, the court will determine whether one party is at fault or not.
Furthermore, a limited divorce also serves to put in place temporary financial guidelines should one spouse require financial assistance in order to live apart (alimony/child support/health insurance). There is no specific time constraint on a limited divorce—couples can maintain this relationship status indefinitely if desired. On the other hand, couples can also have their limited divorces terminated and return to being married and cohabitating if they both jointly petition the court.
One thing Maryland’s divorce law does have in common with other states is residency requirements. Whether you are filing for an absolute or limited divorce, you or your spouse must be a resident of Maryland (It is not necessary that both spouses be Maryland residents). For divorce purposes, you will need to prove to the court that Maryland is where you (or your spouse) reside.
Maryland has different residency requirements for different divorce grounds (reasons). For example, if you were cheated on or an abusive act occurred, as long as those incidents took place in Maryland, you only need to be living in Maryland at the time of filing for divorce. If the at-fault act triggering the divorce occurred outside the state, then six months of Maryland residency is required by one spouse.
If you are looking to get divorced in Maryland, it can be a lot easier and more effective to navigate our state’s unique laws with an experienced Maryland divorce lawyer. Come in and see if we are a good fit for your needs. Schedule a free consultation with Maryland divorce lawyer Patrick Crawford today by calling (410) 787-6546 or using our web contact form. We look forward to meeting you and assisting you with this challenging transition.