Marriage Separation: A Road Map to a Clean Break
Relationships are never easy, especially with those you love. Expectations can be too high or low for your partner, you have grown apart, or more dramatically, an affair has occurred.
Divorce is not necessarily the first step in dissolving a marriage. You may want to work on the relationship or need time to work out the breakup details. Marital separation agreements can be your roadmap to a successful and clean break.
- What qualifies as a marriage separation in Maryland is a framework agreement to settle divorce;
- Legal advice is necessary for complicated matters when there are kids, assets vindictiveness or more is involved; and
- Follow these steps when considering an MSA, what you need to do to obtain a separation.
Marriage Separation in Maryland
Marriage separation in Maryland is one no-fault reason for divorce, meaning that the marriage’s breakup was due to neither parties’ misconduct. The other is based on the grounds of mutual consent, which requires a marital separation agreement.
One type of ground for no-fault marriage separation in Maryland:
- Voluntary Separation – Live in separate homes for 12 consecutive months, refrain from having sex with each other, and no reasonable reconciliation hope. (desertion also requires one-year separation, but it is an at-fault ground)
You also have the option for a trial marriage separation, but this is reserved for couples who are unsure if they want to get divorced, whereas the other options are precursors to divorce.
Separation does not mean divorce; it allows time for the parties to work out an amicable agreement that will eventually lead to a divorce.
In general, the use of marriage separation happens in limited divorce proceedings for people who do not yet have grounds for an absolute divorce, need financial relief, and cannot settle their differences privately. A separation agreement in an absolute divorce is required if the parties involved have mutually agreed to go their separate ways; a mutual consent divorce.
A marital settlement agreement (MSA), as known in Maryland, or marriage separation agreement, is an excellent tool for couples who have children, assets, property, etc. They need time to arrange and plan the breakup. The dissolution of a marriage affects much more than just the couple, but the whole family and an MSA goes a long way in helping everyone through an emotional and challenging time.
Do You Need a Lawyer to Separate?
Legal expertise is not necessary for marriage separation in Maryland, but you may need one depending on your circumstances. Do you have children? Do you own property? Do you have retirement assets? All questions need to be answered and cause separations & divorces to become complicated.
When situations get complicated, matters need the expertise to guide you through your options. A lawyer representing you when your case has complex issues or if your spouse has a lawyer can make the process more manageable and more transparent to you.
You may decide to go it alone and represent yourself when matters are simple or because your budget is stretched thin already. Maryland has resources available to you for those circumstances; You can seek legal advice from Maryland Court Help and Family Court Help Centers.
Just remember that it is only legal advice. The lawyers you talk to through those resources cannot represent you in court. The resources help you to represent yourself.
Without knowledge of your legal rights, you may draw up an agreement that creates problems in the future, does not address all the issues, or is unfair to one of the parties. Even a vindictive ex can be a problem that a lawyer can handle and diffuse.
What you need to do to separate in Maryland
Your marriage has, unfortunately, run its course, and now you are ready to start fresh, but to do so in Maryland, you must follow these steps to conclude:
- You must live in separate residences.
- You cannot have sex with each other and anyone else because that is adultery in Maryland as you are still considered married during the separation.
- Be separate for 12 months.
Why is it essential to follow these steps? When the goal is to obtain a divorce, even based on separation, Maryland requires the person seeking the divorce to prove to the court that they met the requirements or grounds for divorce. They include but are not limited to cruelty and excessively vicious conduct, desertion, mutual consent, imprisonment for a crime, insanity, and separation.
Once met and the parties separated for the required time, a person can file for divorce in Maryland.
It seems simple, right!? Not exactly, especially if children, assets, alimony, and more are involved. Here is where you want an MSA. This agreement should include:
- Details about the support, care, and custody of any children.
- The amount of spousal support to be provided.
- Details concerning the continuance of health insurance benefits for children if they are provided.
- Division of property and responsibility for debt during the separation period.
MSA can permanently be revoked by one or both parties when reconciliation happens; this occurs when husband and wife resume living together or through a secondary agreement in writing. Living together does not necessarily mean an automatic end to the MSA, only evidence of the intent to revoke.
Marriage separation is just one of many steps to take when dissolving a marriage and maybe your best option for a clean and smooth break. We are here to help. Contact us for a free initial consultation. The Firm will suggest the best direction to take during your separation.