The divorce process in Maryland: part II

In our last post, we discussed how a Maryland couple may obtain a limited divorce or legal separation and potential benefits and drawbacks of doing so. In this post, we'll take a look at absolute divorce and discuss requirements that must be met in order to receive an absolute divorce as well as the benefits of doing so.

As opposed to a legal separation where a couple remains legally married, an absolute divorce effectively dissolves a marriage which therefore frees ex-spouses to marry again. In order to obtain an absolute divorce, the filing spouse must include a reason or ground for why he or she is filing for divorce. In cases where a divorce is simply the result of a couple growing apart or a breakdown in communication, a ground of no fault may be entered. In order to file for a no fault divorce in Maryland, a married couple must have lived apart for at least 12 months prior to filing a divorce petition.

In cases where an individual plans to file a fault-based divorce, if successful, a divorce may be granted immediately. A filing spouse must be able to provide evidence related to one of the legally accepted fault-based grounds which include adultery, desertion, cruelty, a criminal conviction or mental insanity. Each of these fault grounds has related requirements that must be met and, if proven, each may also effect outcomes related to spousal support and child custody.

For example, a husband who claims his wife cheated would need to prove that his wife "had the disposition and opportunity" to have sexual relations with someone other than her husband. Evidence to support this claim may include the witnessing of physical contact or affections and nights spent away from a marital home at another individual's home. In cases where the court does not deem evidence as sufficient in proving a spouse committed adultery, other grounds for divorce would need to be entered and the requirements of such fulfilled.

Obtaining a divorce is Maryland is more complex and potentially difficult than in other states and requires that spouses abide by strict requirements. Individuals wishing to obtain a legal separation or absolute divorce would be wise to discuss their situation with an attorney who can answer questions and provide advice on how to proceed.

Source: The People's Law Library of Maryland, "Grounds for Absolute Divorce," Mary Jo Lazun, June 13, 2014