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Limited vs. Absolute Divorce in Maryland

There are two types of divorce in Maryland, an absolute divorce and a limited divorce. An absolute divorce is a final, permanent divorce where all issues related to alimony, child custody, child support and property distribution are handled by the court. After a person is granted an absolute divorce, that individual is free to remarry.

A limited divorce is similar to a legal separation. In a limited divorce, the court can address some specific issues such as alimony, child custody, child support and the use and possession of the marital home, to name a few. Once the parties are granted a limited divorce, their property claims must still be finalized.

There are four grounds by which a person can seek a limited divorce according to the Maryland Family Law Code:

  • Cruelty of treatment of the complaining party or of a minor child of the complaining party
  • Excessively vicious conduct to the complaining party or to a minor child of the complaining party
  • Desertion
  • Voluntary separation if the parties are living separate and apart without cohabitation and there is no reasonable hope or expectation of reconciliation

There are seven grounds by which a party can seek an absolute divorce according to the Maryland Family Law Code:

  • Adultery
  • Desertion – Provided that the desertion has continued for 12 months without interruption before the filing of the complaint for absolute divorce, and the desertion is final and deliberate. There can be no reasonable hope or expectation of reconciliation.
  • 12-month separation – The parties have lived separate and apart without cohabitation for 12 months without interruption before the filing of a complaint for absolute divorce.
  • Conviction of a felony or a misdemeanor in any state or in any court of the United States if before the filing of the application for divorce the defendant has been sentenced to serve at least three years or an indeterminate sentence in a penal institution and has served 12 months of this sentence.
  • Insanity – There are many prerequisites that must be met before a court will grant an absolute divorce based upon insanity.
  • Cruelty of treatment toward the complaining party or a minor child of the complaining party and there is no reasonable expectation of reconciliation.
  • Excessively vicious conduct toward the complaining party and there is no reasonable expectation of reconciliation.

After a couple decides that their marriage is beyond the hope of reconciliation they will often seek legal counsel and file for a limited divorce to get the process started. One can file for a limited divorce immediately provided that they are living separate and apart from their spouse. In many divorce cases the parties have to wait 12 months in order to prove any of the grounds for an absolute divorce. Therefore, divorces typically aren’t finalized until the two parties surpass the 12 month period.  

If you have any questions about divorce or separation in Maryland, contact Sandy Steeves.