Grounds for Divorce in Maryland
There have been many changes to the grounds for divorce in Maryland in the last 4 years. This guide will give you a summary explanation of those changes and the current grounds for divorce in Maryland.
Mutual Consent grounds for Absolute Divorce in MarylandIn October 2015, the Maryland Legislature made the ground of Mutual Consent available to parties divorcing in Maryland if there were no minor children born or adopted of the marriage. The parties must have a written and signed agreement that resolves all of the issues of their marriage, including alimony and property. Neither party may file a motion to overturn the document if they wish to proceed with the Mutual Consent divorce.
In October 2018, the Maryland Legislature determined that the Mutual Consent ground would be made available to parties with minor children if, in addition to the agreement that resolves the property, financial and alimony issues, there is an agreement that provides for the custody, parenting access (visitation) and support of the minor children. Initially, both parties were required to appear before the court and testify that they had signed the agreement of their own free will and that they wanted the divorce based on Mutual Consent. Now, most courts will accept the testimony of one party as long as there is a written and signed agreement. The Mutual Consent ground does not require a period of separation between the parties. The written agreement for a Mutual Consent divorce should be prepared by an experienced family law attorney.
Other grounds for Absolute Divorce still existIf parties are unable to reach an agreement that resolves all of their property and financial issues, and support and custody of their children, the other grounds for divorce still exist.
If none of the following grounds apply, a party may file for a Limited Divorce in order to ask the court to award child support, use and possession of the family home, family furniture and property and a vehicle; and custody and parenting access with the minor children. The Limited Divorce is often necessary when one party is unable to leave the marriage due to financial insecurity.
One-year separation: If the parties have been living separate and apart for at least 1 year, without interruption and without having marital relations, either party can file for a divorce. The court will then make decisions for the parties about division of their property, finances, and custody and support of any minor children.
Adultery: If one party has committed adultery, the other party can immediately file for a divorce.
Desertion or Constructive Desertion: If one party has left the marital relationship with the intent to end the marriage and the behavior has been continuous for one year or more, the court may grant a divorce to the other party. If one party has forced the other party to leave the marital home because of behavior that makes it impossible to continue the marital relationship and maintain his or her health, safety or well-being, the court may grant a divorce to the injured party.
Cruelty of treatment or excessively vicious conduct toward a spouse or a minor child of the complaining party may be grounds for divorce.
There are also grounds for divorce based on conviction of a felony or misdemeanor if a spouse is confined to a penal institution.
There is a ground for divorce if a spouse is confined to a residential treatment facility for mental health issues.
If you are considering a divorce, it is usually best to at least have a consultation with an experienced family law or divorce attorney. The attorney can explain what you might expect from the court based on your unique circumstances. No two cases are alike. Don't rely on what happened in a friend or relative's divorce to guide your decision making for your divorce.