What Is An Absolute Divorce in Maryland?

Carrie, a resident of Rockville, Maryland, finds herself at a crossroads. Her once-vibrant, loving, and fulfilling 15-year marriage has slowly deteriorated over the past few years, finally hitting the rocks due to irreconcilable differences. She and her husband used to be supportive partners, but have become strangers who only stay in their marriage out of concern for their children and perceived convenience. 

Having only recently rejoined the workforce after taking time off to raise her children, Carrie worries about spousal support since her earnings alone may not adequately support the lifestyle she and her two young children have enjoyed thus far.

Knowing divorce will significantly impact her dependent children emotionally and financially, she delicately balances her fears, reservations, and hopes for the future while she seeks clarity about Maryland’s divorce laws. With each passing day, the weight of her decision grows heavier, demanding an informed choice that will shape her life and the lives of her beloved children.

Should she consult a divorce lawyer to legally end her marriage? Is legal separation an option under the law? How do Maryland courts determine physical custody and joint custody?

Like Carrie, are you wondering, “What is an absolute divorce in Maryland?” Do you have concerns about how it may affect crucial issues like child custody, child support, and alimony?

This blog from a knowledgeable and experienced divorce lawyer explains the intricacies and implications of absolute divorce, the grounds for divorce, and everything you need to know before you can officially obtain a divorce decree.

Continue reading to learn about the legal process for divorce in Maryland, then contact us at (301) 251-0100 to schedule a consultation.

How Does Maryland Law Define Absolute Divorce?

Significant changes to Maryland Divorce Law took effect on October 1, 2023, eliminating the option of limited divorce and modifying the grounds for absolute divorce.

Previously, Maryland recognized two types of divorce: limited divorce and absolute divorce

Limited divorce provided temporary relief for individuals uncertain about ending their marriage or having other reasons for waiting. It allowed for the resolution of child custody, child support, and spousal support but did not address property or asset distribution. Limited divorce did not terminate the marriage and did not allow for remarriage. The new legislation has completely repealed the option for a limited divorce, leaving absolute divorce as the sole viable option.

However, the requirement that one of the parties must have been a state resident for at least six months still applies. There is no such thing as legal separation in Maryland.

How Does Maryland’s New Divorce Legislation Affect Couples Seeking Divorce?

This new legislation significantly impacts those seeking divorce and the lawyers representing them. The advantages of the new law include:

  • A quicker and easier process for obtaining a divorce
  • The option to continue living in the shared home during the separation period while waiting for the 6-month separation period to lapse as long as the parties live separate and apart 
  • A reduction in the conflict and stress between the parties that affect their children, enabling an easier transition for families  
  • Regarding child custody, alimony, and other issues related to the divorce, the previous grounds for absolute divorce, although no longer in effect, can still be considered relevant factors

Grounds for Absolute Divorce

The grounds for absolute divorce have also changed. Previously, grounds for absolute divorce included:

  • Adultery
  • Desertion
  • Conviction of a felony or misdemeanor with incarceration
  • 12-month separation
  • Insanity
  • Cruelty of treatment or excessively vicious conduct without reasonable expectation of reconciliation

Under What Circumstances Can the Court Grant a Divorce under Maryland’s New Law?

Below, we’ve clearly outlined the grounds on which a divorce can be obtained through the court under Maryland’s new law. These conditions ensure that both parties have reached a fair and mutually agreeable resolution.

  • 6-Month Separation: If the couple has been living separate lives for six months without any interruptions before filing for divorce, Maryland courts may grant a divorce order.
  • Irreconcilable Differences: If irreconcilable differences between the couple lead to the decision to permanently end the marriage, it can be a basis for divorce.
  • Mutual Consent: If both parties are in agreement, a divorce can be granted. To qualify, they must meet the following conditions:
    • Both parties must sign a written agreement that resolves all issues surrounding alimony, property division, and the care, custody, access, and support of minor or dependent children.
    • If the agreement includes child support, they must provide a completed child support guidelines worksheet.
    • Neither party can contest the agreement before the divorce hearing.
    • The court must review the agreement and determine that the terms regarding the children are in their best interests.

This new legislation allows parties to live under the same roof during the 6-month separation period as long as they are living separate lives from one another.

How Does Alimony Work?

Alimony, also known as spousal support, is a legal duty where one person is required to financially support their spouse before or after a separation or divorce. The responsibility to provide support typically falls on the party with the financial means.

Although the idea of alimony seems simple, determining the specifics can become quite complex. Several factors, such as the amount, duration, and method of payment, can be sources of disagreement between the parties involved.

Child Support

Child support ensures the well-being of the child, regardless of whether the parents have separated or not. It involves regular payments from one parent to financially support the child’s needs, including education and necessities. In Maryland, a straightforward Child Support Guidelines worksheet can help you calculate the exact amount.

Child Custody

For parents, child custody and its devastating implications for their children is the most harrowing aspect of divorce. Even when the parties can stop arguing and work toward a peaceful resolution, it’s still a difficult transition. Maryland offers several types of child custody.

Temporary Custody

Before awarding temporary custody, Maryland courts consider the child’s best interests. However, temporary custody is practical and does not directly impact the court’s final custody decision.

Physical Custody

Physical custody focuses on the day-to-day care of the child and how much time each parent gets to spend with them. For example, if the child attends school, they may stay with one parent for the majority of the week while the other parent has them on weekends.

Legal Custody

Legal custody reaffirms the parents’ right to make important decisions for the child, including the child’s health, education, religion, and upbringing.

Joint Custody

The court can award joint legal custody and sole physical custody, or vice versa.

Sole Custody

Sole legal custody gives one parent the authority to make decisions about the child’s future, while sole physical custody allows only one parent to spend time with the child.

Split Custody

In some cases, the court may award sole custody of one child to one parent and sole custody of another child to the other parent. However, courts generally prefer to keep siblings together whenever possible.

How Long Does It Take for an Absolute Divorce in Maryland?

While there is no set time frame, the process generally takes several months to conclude and involves various steps, such as:

  • Filing the necessary paperwork
  • Serving the divorce complaint to the spouse
  • Negotiating settlements
  • Addressing child custody, support, and property division matters
  • Attending court hearings if required

As each case is unique, the specific circumstances surrounding the divorce can influence the overall duration.

Do I Need a Divorce and Family Law Attorney?

Going through a divorce extracts a significant emotional and financial cost. While you cope with intense emotions, you must also confront issues affecting your financial stability, such as:

  • Property distribution
  • Spousal support
  • Issues related to a minor child or children

A knowledgeable divorce lawyer can offer sound legal advice and provide the emotional support you need as you move through the process of obtaining a divorce decree.

Let Fait & DiLima, LLP Help You Navigate Your Divorce in Maryland

Even when couples agree, divorce is fraught with emotional and financial challenges due to issues relating to alimony, custody, child support, and visitation rights if a minor child or children are involved, property distribution, and many other factors. The success of your divorce depends on consulting a seasoned divorce and family lawyer who can give you the best advice and protect your rights.

With over 100 years of combined legal experience, our knowledgeable divorce attorneys at Fait & DiLima, LLP can guide you through the process, offer support, and reach the best possible outcome for your case. Contact us at (301) 251-0100 or complete our online form to schedule a consultation.

Copyright © 2023. Fait & DiLima, LLP. All rights reserved.

The information in this blog post (“post”) is provided for general informational purposes only and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information in this post should be construed as legal advice from the individual author or the law firm, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting based on any information included in or accessible through this post without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country, or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.

Fait & DiLima, LLP 
One Church St., Suite 800
Rockville, MD 20850
(301) 251-0100
https://fdfamilylaw.com/ 

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