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Understanding Maryland’s limited divorce

On Behalf of | Jun 27, 2023 | Divorce, Family Law |

Not all divorces entirely terminate a marriage. Under Maryland law, an absolute divorce only applies on the grounds of mutual consent, adultery, incurable insanity or criminal conviction leading to incarceration.

When these grounds for divorce do not apply and you can’t amicably settle your disputes with your spouse in private, a limited divorce becomes your option.

Elements of a limited divorce

A limited divorce is a court-supervised legal separation that does not end a marriage. Here are crucial factors you must consider:

  • Residency requirements: Like an absolute divorce, either one of you must be a Maryland resident physically living in the state. Either one of you must be currently residing in Maryland at the time you filed for divorce if the reason for the divorce happened in the state. Otherwise, if it occurred out-of-state, you or your spouse should have resided in Maryland for a minimum of six months prior to the divorce complaint.
  • Grounds: Include living separately for 12 consecutive months without sexual relations, excessively vicious conduct and cruel treatment to a spouse or minor child, and actual or constructive desertion. Actual desertion is when one of you leaves for no justifiable reasons or one of you ejects the other from their home. On the other hand, constructive desertion is when one of you forces the other to leave home due to misconduct.
  • Remarriage: Unlike an absolute divorce, remarriage is not possible. Legally, it is also adultery if you’re having sexual relations with a third party.
  • Death: Property inheritance is still possible if one of you dies before the other. Accordingly, your property ownership stays intact, unless stated otherwise in your divorce decree.
  • Revocation: Upon both parties’ joint application, the court granting the limited divorce reserves the right to revoke it.

It is not a requirement to file for a limited divorce before an absolute divorce. Further, a limited divorce also gives you and your spouse the chance to make temporary decisions on significant matters, such as child custody, child support, visitation arrangements, spousal maintenance, health insurance coverage and asset division.

A step toward permanent divorce

Suppose your circumstances change and sufficient evidence proves that your legal separation now qualifies for an absolute divorce. In that case, your limited divorce complaint may undergo amendment, which includes an absolute divorce prayer based on the new ground. With multiple nuances under consideration, it will help to have a legal team clarify complexities and establish your reasons for pursuing the kind of divorce you need.