In Maryland, separating couples usually need to offer “grounds” – basically a legal term for “justified reasons” – for getting divorced. Establishing grounds for divorce shows the court that you and your spouse have an actual reason to end the marriage.
What type of grounds for divorce applies to your situation depends on the type of divorce you’re seeking. Make sure you pick the right reason for divorcing. If you can’t prove your grounds for divorce, a judge may end up deciding in your partners’ favor.
In this walkthrough, we’ll cover:
Limited divorces occur when both parties can’t resolve their differences, but still haven’t obtained grounds for an absolute divorce. (They are also useful in cases where one party requires financial relief of some kind.)
In a limited divorce, the state recognizes that you and your spouse live apart as a step toward absolute divorce. However, you’re still considered legally married to each other.
For example, if one spouse has sex with someone other than their partner during the separation, that’s still legally considered adultery.
During that separation year, a court can determine which party is at fault for the divorce (if any), specify which party will have custody of the children, resolve alimony issues, and make other important financial decisions.
You and your spouse may file for a limited divorce on the following grounds:
An absolute divorce is what most people associate with a stereotypical divorce: It legally dissolves your marriage. As soon as a divorce decree is filed, you can remarry and divide your property. Absolute divorce is the most common type of divorce in Maryland.
Couples are not required to get a limited divorce prior to seeking an absolute divorce, although the court may decide to order a limited divorce in some circumstances. If you can’t come up with better grounds for divorce, then 12-month separation period of a limited divorce would help offer solid grounds for absolute divorce.
Any of the previous grounds for a limited divorce may be filed to seek an absolute divorce, with the following additions:
Some divorce grounds are deceptively complicated. These grounds include:
To prove adultery in court, you must show the offending spouse had both the “disposition and the opportunity” for relations outside of the marriage.
The court does not accept verbal admissions of adultery. You must prove it through text messages, pictures, e-mails, and similar items. If a cheating partner has either fathered or borne a child whose biological parent is not the other spouse during the marriage, then the court may consider that as proof of adultery.
The law is not completely clear about how adultery relates to same-sex marriages. However, the Maryland Attorney General issued an opinion stating that adultery should include “a spouse’s extramarital sexual infidelity with a person of the same sex.”
Desertion is a fault-based ground for divorce that can be either “actual” or “constructive.”
In “actual” desertion, the deserting spouse generally permanently leaves the family home without justification. To prove actual desertion, the spouse seeking the divorce must prove ALL of the following elements:
In “constructive” desertion, the person who leaves the home is justified in their actions. Therefore, the court actually consider the leaving spouse the “deserted” party, and the spouse who remained the one at fault.
Technically, filing for divorce on grounds for constructive desertion also requires the same proof offered for actual desertion, but in reverse. If a spouse’s actions cause the other spouse to leave the home – such as cruelty or abuse – then the court may consider the spouse who remained in the home to have deserted the relationship, due to their actions.
For constructive desertion cases, the court will consider:
Generally, the court will allow the spouse to leave and obtain a divorce for constructive desertion if remaining in the home would make them lose their self-respect or put them or their children in danger of either physical or mental harm.
A spouse’s cruel treatment is grounds for divorce where the conduct endangers the life or health of the other person, their minor child, or otherwise makes living together unsafe.
A single act of cruelty can be grounds for divorce if it shows the offender wanted to seriously hurt someone or threatens to do so in the future.
Cruelty as a grounds for divorce can also include mental abuse.
Ultimately, the spouse’s conduct must show that:
Cruelty as grounds for divorce is most often used in domestic abuse situations.
As the informal name implies, a mutual consent divorce does not require you and your spouse to be separated before you file for the divorce – vastly speeding up the process.
You and your spouse may qualify for a mutual consent divorce if:
If you meet the above criteria, you can get an absolute, “final” divorce without the one-year separation period. It also means that you can stay living in the same residence while you and your spouse negotiate the terms of your MSA, which can save you both money in the long run.
With so many nuances to consider, it may be hard to pick which grounds best fits your situation. After all, picking the wrong grounds for divorce could sway the court in your ex-spouse’s favor. Just be sure to pick a reason that you can prove with documentation.
Of course, if you need help picking the best one for your case, contact us for a free consultation. We’ll suggest a recommended direction to take during your divorce.