Learn about the two different types of divorce in Maryland.
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Under Maryland law, marriage is a civil contract between two people. A divorce is a legal ending of a marriage ordered by a court.
In Maryland, there are two types of divorce: absolute divorce and limited divorce.
- An absolute divorce is a permanent end of the marriage. If a court grants an absolute divorce, the final order of the divorce is set forth in a “divorce decree” or “decree.”
- A limited divorce is a legal separation, and does not end the marriage.
To obtain an absolute divorce or limited divorce, a married couple must meet statutory residency requirements.
The permissible grounds, or reasons for divorce, are set out in the Maryland statutes. A divorce can only be granted based on the grounds specified in the statutes.
Read the law: MD Code, Family Law Article, Title 7
An “absolute divorce” permanently dissolves the marriage.
When filing for an absolute divorce, a person must set forth grounds, or reasons for the divorce. Grounds for Absolute Divorce include:
- One-year separation
- Mutual consent
- Cruel treatment
Once a decree of absolute divorce is entered, either person can remarry. Also, any jointly-owned property is divided and distributed in accordance with an agreement (such as a prenuptial agreement or other written contract), or with the Marital Property Act. After property has been distributed, neither person can claim ownership of property belonging to the other.
Read the Law: MD Code, Family Law Article, § 7-103
A limited divorce (or legal separation), is a legal action where a married couple is separated. A limited divorce is NOT a permanent termination of the marriage. Instead, the couple remains legally married while living separate and apart from one another. During a limited divorce, neither spouse may remarry or have sexual relations with another person. If one spouse has sexual relations with another person, that spouse has committed adultery.
A limited divorce is not required before obtaining an absolute divorce. In some circumstances, a court may grant a limited divorce even if an absolute divorce is sought.
A limited divorce is generally used by people who (1) do not yet have grounds for absolute divorce, (2) need financial relief, and (3) are not able to settle their differences privately. Learn more about the difference between absolute and limited divorce.
When filing for a limited divorce, a person must set forth grounds, or reasons for the limited divorce.
Grounds for Limited Divorce include:
- Cruel treatment and excessively vicious conduct
A decree of limited divorce documents the date of separation and can make temporary decisions about custody, child support, alimony, and the use and possession of property.