Just like every marriage is different – every divorce is different, too.
And, divorces vary per state. Maryland has specific requirements for certain types of divorces. Deciding which type works for your divorce will drastically impact life both during and after proceedings.
In this article, we’ll help you determine your priorities for your divorce, keeping in mind:
- You can choose either a limited or absolute divorce in Maryland. Deciding which type to take can either save your marriage – or help you move on.
- There are variations within the types of divorce – such as fault versus no-fault and contested versus uncontested – that will impact both the ultimate form of your divorce, and whether you should retain a lawyer.
- How you decide which type of divorce is right for you should be based on what you most want out of the process – whether that’s simple and fast, getting the most out of it, or minimizing child involvement.
Official Types of Divorce in Maryland: Limited and Absolute
Divorce in Maryland follows two specific options: limited divorce and absolute divorce.
Limited Divorce in Maryland
Limited divorce is a legal process during which you and your partner are physically separated. You’ll make temporary decisions about child custody, alimony, and property possession. However, you are still legally married as far as Maryland is concerned.
Limited divorce is often a good option for couples who are not yet ready to end their marriage, or who need more time to sort out a permanent divorce.
Again, limited divorce does NOT mean that you are no longer legally married. If one spouse has relations with another person, then that person has committed adultery – and that may impact final divorce decrees.
You may consider limited divorce if you:
- Do not yet qualify for absolute divorce
- Want to settle differences privately over the next year
- Can’t handle the financial burden of absolute divorce
To obtain a limited divorce in Maryland, you must have lived in Maryland for 12 months and meet the legal grounds for limited divorce. If you meet the requirements, then your local circuit court will grant and monitor your limited divorce.
Absolute Divorce in Maryland
Absolute divorce is the total termination of a Maryland marriage. Once an absolute divorce is reached, you are free to remarry.
Grounds for absolute divorce include but are not limited to:
The decree of an absolute divorce is administered by Maryland’s local circuit courts. Once an absolute divorce is finalized, formal court orders end the divorce proceedings.
A limited divorce is not required to obtain an absolute divorce, though it can be a steppingstone toward one.
To obtain an absolute divorce, one party must file for divorce through Maryland’s circuit court system. Either both parties agree to a straightforward divorce without lawyers, or a court presides over and decides the conditions for the divorce.
Other Types of Maryland Divorces
Knowing your exact circumstances in a divorce can save you money. Getting a divorce does not mean that you are required to have a lawyer, but it could make or break your divorce depending on the case.
Contested vs Uncontested Divorces in Maryland
To begin, during an uncontested divorce, both parties agree to be divorced. They will need a written Separation Agreement that covers child custody and equitable division of property, among other details.
To file for an uncontested divorce, both parties must agree for a need to separate with no hopes of reconciliation. If one partner doesn’t want to divorce – or if they can’t come to agreements over many divorce details – then it becomes a contested divorce.
A contested divorce occurs when both parties cannot agree on the terms of divorce, such as child custody, alimony, property division, and who pays for the divorce.
Lawyers are pretty much essential for contested divorces, since they end up in a courtroom. You’ll need to convince a judge that your side of the divorce case is the most valid, and that’s what lawyers do for a living.
However, you may still need a divorce lawyer even during an uncontested divorce. If you can’t agree on how to split up the marriage during mediation to produce a “fair” marriage settlement agreement, or MSA, then you’ll need a lawyer to argue your point for you.
Fault vs No-Fault and Mutual Consent Divorces in Maryland
Basically, a “fault” or “at-fault” divorce means that one party thinks the other person wrecked the marriage through their actions.
Only specific legal reasons, or “grounds,” are accepted for an at-fault divorce filing. This reason must be proven in court before a judge.
However, if a judge agrees that the other party was at fault for the divorce, then the final divorce decree may be weighted in your favor.
On the other hand, a “no-fault” divorce means that the people filing for divorce don’t blame any one person or action for the marriage’s end. That type of divorce means less time in front of a judge.
No-fault divorces are typically granted after a 12-month waiting period, where the spouses have lived completely separately for the whole duration.
If you’re really in sync with your former spouse, then Maryland also allows for absolute divorces on grounds of “mutual consent.” This type of divorce would be a no-fault, absolute divorce without the 12-month waiting period – if you can agree on terms through an MSA.
The MSA would be submitted to the judge along with the mutual consent absolute divorce filing. If a judge thinks it’s “fair,” then they’ll approve your divorce without the courtroom drama and without the waiting period.
Choosing Which Type of Divorce is Right for You
What type of divorce you should pursue depends on your personal situation and priorities.
- The fastest divorce type for Marylanders will be that mutual consent absolute divorce, since you’ll skip the 12-month separation period. However, you’ll need to be extremely agreeable with your former spouse to accomplish this.
- The cheapest divorce type is usually an uncontested, no-fault divorce. This type will also free you from the marriage faster, but the property division or custody arrangements may not be what you were hoping for – especially if you don’t retain lawyers or mediators.
- The “fairest” divorce type may be a contested divorce, which presents the situation before a third-party judge to decide. You may also try an uncontested divorce with a third-party mediator or personal lawyers, which would give you more control over the final outcome through an MSA.
- To get the most out of a divorce settlement, you may pursue an at-fault divorce to tip the final divorce decree in your favor. However, this process will be more expensive, as fault must be proven in court with substantial evidence.
- To pursue justice for your ex’s actions, you’ll probably file an at-fault divorce per one of the available legal grounds in Maryland. There is no guarantee that a judge will find in your favor, though your chances are substantially improved if you hire an experienced divorce lawyer to make your case.
Do You Need a Divorce Lawyer? Maybe.
Along with choosing your type of divorce, you’ll need to decide if you should retain a lawyer.
Retaining a lawyer depends on the complexity of case, how well you get along with your former partner, and whether children are involved.
For example, if you’ve been at home with the kids for the past 10 years while your spouse has built their career, then you may be entitled to half of the family’s total income and assets – plus alimony – as you restart your life.
Of course, you’ll need to prove to a judge that your work in the home facilitated your spouse’s income growth, which is why you deserve a cut. To do that, though, you’ll need someone who’s used to convincing judges that they’re right – that is, a lawyer.
If you’re still not sure your divorce needs a lawyer, then call around to several firms for free consultations to see how they’d handle your case. From there, choose the one you feel most understands your priorities – and can accomplish them in the courtroom or mediation.
You can always start your divorce lawyer search with us! We’re happy to field your questions and tell you how we’d help you achieve your divorce goals over the course of your case. Reach out to us for a free consultation over phone or in person, and we’ll get you moving back to your new normal.