Written by attorney Thomas E Mulinazzi

Two Types of Divorce in Maryland


  1. Limited Divorce --- A limited divorce is not a divorce at all; instead, it’s a legal separation from “bed and board" – pending the outcome of the final divorce (called “Absolute Divorce" see below). In a Limited Divorce spouses can receive relief from the Court on only certain specific issues. These include: custody, child access, child support, exclusive use and possession of the family home, alimony, and attorney’s fees. It is important to know, that property issues are NOT resolved at this time (pensions, 401ks, sale of marital home and other real property, etc.).

a. There are only a few grounds or reasons upon which a Court can grant a Limited Divorce.

i. No-Fault: A voluntary separation for less than one year is the only no-fault ground (this is the most frequently used ground/reason)

ii. Fault: (1) extreme cruelty of treatment to the spouse or child, (2) excessively vicious conduct to the spouse of minor children, or (3) desertion that has occurred for less than 12 months.

Sometimes it is wise to file for a Limited Divorce in order to get the court process started and during the pendency of the court process, the lawyer will later advise you to amend your Complaint after you have been separated for 365 days to ask the Court for an Absolute Divorce. Some Courts can take as long as 2 years for a Jduge to award you a final or Absolute Divorce. Depending on the Court and on the circumstances of your case this may be an excellent strategy to get you some court-ordered help as soon as possible.

  1. Absolute Divorce --- An absolute divorce is a real divorce and all issues (incl. property issues) will be addressed as a final determination of all your rights attendant to your marriage: custody, child access, child support, exclusive use and possession of the family home, alimony, attorney’s fees, monetary award, determination of marital vs. non-marital property and disposition of all marital property (money, pensions, IRA, personal property, cars, boats, etc.) and real property (house, vacation home, timeshare, land, etc.).

You must prove the elements of one of the enumerated grounds or reasons for an Absolute Divorce before the Court can grant you an absolute divorce. Those grounds can be organized as fault grounds and no-fault grounds. It is important to note that you can plead more than one ground or reason for divorce even if those reasons contradict one another: that is called “pleading in the alternative" and it is permissible in Maryland.

· No-Fault Grounds:

o One Year Mutual and Voluntary Separation

o Two Year Separation

· Fault Grounds:

o Extreme Cruelty of treatment to the spouse or child;

o Excessively vicious conduct to the spouse of minor children;

o Desertion that has occurred for more than 12 months

o Adultery

o Insanity (with confinement in mental institution for 3+ years)

o Incarceration (with confinement for 1+ year on a 3+ year sentence)

Do you have to be separated when you file for divorce?

It is almost always the case that you have to be separated to file for divorce and it is always the case that it is better if you do not live with the person against whom you have just filed for divorce.

The most common situation where Maryland Courts see a litigant filing for divorce while they are still living with their spouse is in situations where the other spouse is committing adultery. In that situation, you do not have to be physically separated to file for divorce.

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