The DIfferent Grounds for Absolute Divorce in Maryland
Over the years the grounds for an absolute (final) divorce in Maryland have evolved. However, there are still two primary categories: "at fault" and "no fault" grounds for divorce. This guide will describe the different grounds for an absolute divorce.
At Fault Grounds for Absolute DivorceUnder Maryland Family Law Code Section 7-103, either spouse may file for an at-fault divorce. In order to qualify, one spouse must demonstrate fault by reason of: (1) Adultery; (2) Desertion, if deliberate and final and the separation lasts 12 continuous months and no expectation of reconciliation; (3) Conviction for certain felonies and misdemeanors; (4) Insanity, if committed to an institution for at least three years; (5) Cruel treatment; or (6) Excessively vicious conduct.
If one spouse is at fault for any of the reasons above, then the other spouse may file for an at-fault divorce in Maryland. In those cases, there is no required period of separation before filing.
No Fault Grounds for Absolute DivorceUnder Maryland Family Law Code Section 7-103, a married couple can also pursue a no-fault divorce in Maryland. This means that neither spouse bears full responsibility for ending the marriage. Spouses can pursue a no-fault divorce in one of two ways: Separation or Mutual Consent. Section 7-103 allows spouses to file for divorce on the basis of separation. To qualify for divorce based on separation, the spouses must show that they lived apart for a continuous period of at least 12 months. The spouses must also abstain from having sexual relations with each for the same time period.
Section 7-103 also allows spouses to file for divorce on the basis of mutual consent. If the spouses both agree to end their marriage, then it qualifies as a no-fault divorce. In order to qualify for divorce based on mutual consent, there are certain requirements: (1) The spouses must execute a settlement agreement in writing that resolves any issues related alimony and property division as well as custody and child support issues regarding minor children; (2) Neither spouse asks to cancel the settlement agreement or transition to formal proceedings; and (3) The party who files for the mutual consent divorce must also appear for a brief hearing before the court, whereas the other party only needs to file a written answer that does not contest the divorce or the terms of the written agreement.