Learn about the difference between an absolute divorce and a limited divorce.
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An absolute divorce is the final ending of a marriage. A limited divorce does not end the marriage. Instead, a limited divorce establishes certain legal responsibilities while the parties are separated.
An absolute divorce actually ends the marriage. Once a decree of absolute divorce is entered, the parties are free to remarry. The decree of absolute divorce is a formal order issued by the court to end the divorce proceeding.
After an absolute divorce, one party can no longer inherit property from the other. Any property owned by the parties jointly as husband and wife automatically becomes property held in common (each owns one-half).
As part of an absolute divorce, a spouse may ask the court to allow the spouse to resume his or her former name.
Read the Law: MD Code, Family Law § 7-103
A limited divorce is a legal action where a couple’s separation is supervised by the court. A limited divorce does not end the marriage. A limited divorce is generally used by people who:
- do not yet have grounds for absolute divorce;
- need financial relief; and
- are unable to settle their differences privately.
To obtain a limited divorce in Maryland, you must meet residency requirements, grounds, and other legally prescribed laws just as you would in a case for absolute divorce. You are not required to get a limited divorce before you can get an absolute divorce.
When the court orders a limited divorce, it means that the divorce is not permanent. Some people call this legal separation.
- Remarriage is not permitted.
- A limited divorce does not terminate property claims, although the limited divorce may settle these claims.
- A limited divorce documents the date of separation.
- A limited divorce can make temporary decisions about custody, child support, alimony, use and possession of property.
- The limited divorce may be permanent or for a limited time only.
- The court may revoke a limited divorce at any time the parties jointly apply to be discharged. In such cases, the parties would return to the state of being legally married.
- The court determines which party is at fault, if either, is at fault.
The limited divorce can resolve questions of:
- child custody;
- child support;
- health insurance coverage and
- division of personal and real property.
During a limited divorce, the parties live apart, but remain legally married. This means:
- Although the parties are still married, they cannot have sexual relations with each other without restarting the time requirements for getting an absolute divorce based on the ground of separation.
- Neither spouse may remarry.
- Sexual relations between either spouse and a third person during a limited divorce is considered adultery.
- If one spouse dies after a limited divorce, the other spouse may still inherit property.
- Unless the divorce decree says otherwise, the form of ownership for any property you own as husband and wife (for example, a house owned as tenants by the entireties) will stay the same.
Read the Law: MD Code, Family Law § 7-102
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