Maryland law provides two avenues for divorce, Limited and Absolute.
THE LIMITED DIVORCE
A limited divorce, commonly referred to as a legal separation, is a legal action in which the court coordinates a couple’s separation. It is primarily meant for individuals who do not yet have the grounds for an absolute divorce but still require issues of financial relief to one spouse, child custody, child support, and division of personal and real property to be resolved.
To obtain a limited divorce, a party must first prove at least one of the following:
- Cruelty of treatment of the complaining spouse or a minor child.
- Excessively vicious conduct to the complaining party or a minor child.
- Desertion (Actual: One party unjustifiably abandons the other party or forces the other spouse from the marital home. Constructive: One party is forced to leave the home because of the conduct of the other party.)
- Mutual and voluntary separation.
THE ABSOLUTE DIVORCE
An absolute divorce ends the marriage. In addition, a judgment of absolute divorce may provide for sole or joint physical and or legal custody of any children, payment of alimony and child support, and the disposition of personal and real property and pension distribution.
Grounds for an Absolute Divorce:To obtain an absolute divorce, a spouse must first prove one of the following exists. Some grounds require that the filing party wait a specified amount of time before the filing of a Complaint for Absolute Divorce.
- Adultery (No waiting period to file) Adultery is voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and a person other than the offender’s spouse. To prove adultery, one need not show actual sexual intercourse. Evidence that the offending spouse had the disposition and opportunity will suffice.
- Desertion (1 year waiting Period) As with the limited divorce, desertion may be actual or constructive. To establish actual desertion, you must prove:Your spouse deserted you with the intention to terminate the marriage.
- Cohabitation has ended;
- His/her leaving was unjustified;
- You are beyond any reasonable hope of reconciliation;
- You did not consent to the desertion; and,
- The desertion has continued uninterrupted for 1 year.
- Constructive Desertion (1 year waiting Period) requires proof of the above elements. If cruelty or intolerable conduct by one spouse causes the other spouse to leave the marital home, the spouse remaining in the home could be adjudged to have constructively deserted the spouse who leaves.
- Separation (1 year waiting period) An absolute divorce on the ground of separation requires that the parties live separate and apart in separate residences without any sexual intimacy with each other for a period of one year 12 months and that the marriage be beyond any reasonable hope of reconciliation.
- Cruelty of Treatment (No waiting period) Cruelty of treatment is usually defined as the conduct of one spouse toward the other spouse or minor child that threatens or inflicts bodily harm. Mental cruelty may also be recognized as a form of vicious conduct, but it usually must be coupled with other abuse or misconduct which endangers life, person or health of the spouse or a minor child of the complaining party or causes reasonable apprehension of bodily harm.
- Excessively Vicious Conduct (No waiting period) Excessively vicious conduct generally refers to extreme acts of domestic violence against the complaining spouse or minor child. A pattern of abuse or a single act of abuse may be sufficient to properly plead this cause of action.
- Conviction of a Crime (1 to 3 years) A sentence for a period of three years or more or imprisonment for 12 months following criminal conviction is required. The spouse must have served 12 months of the sentence prior to the other spouse filing.
- Insanity (3 years) Permanent and incurable insanity where the afflicted spouse must be confined to a mental health facility, hospital, or other institution for a minimum of least three years, and where two physicians competent in psychiatry certify that the spouse’s condition is permanent and incurable.