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Shedding some light on the divorce process here in Maryland

While the vast majority of people understand and appreciate the gravity of a divorce, and what it means in terms of impact on a family’s structure, they may not fully grasp the intricacies of the legal process itself.

In other words, many people know the end result of divorce but understandably don’t know much about what divorce actually entails.

In today’s post, the first in a series, we’ll provide some basic background information on the divorce process in the state of Maryland in an attempt to shed some light on an important legal process and debunk any misconceptions.

Ending a marriage in Maryland

At the outset, it’s important to understand that Maryland views marriage as a civil contract between two people and divorce as the court-ordered termination of this civil contract.

In addition, the state recognizes two different types of divorce, absolute divorce and limited divorce.

Absolute divorce   

An absolute divorce is likely what most people think of when they envision a divorce in that it is the ultimate legal dissolution of a marriage. Indeed when a court issues a decree of absolute divorce, the spouses are free to remarry and also lose to ability to automatically inherit property from one another in the event of their demise.

Interestingly, Maryland allows a couple to divorce on either fault-based or no-fault grounds.

As far as no-fault divorce is concerned, the filing spouse doesn’t have to cite irreconcilable differences like in other states, but rather that they have lived apart from their spouse for the 12 months preceding the filing without interruption and without cohabitation (i.e., no sexual relations).   

While most spouses will not seek a divorce on fault-based grounds given the difficulty involved with proving the alleged marital misconduct, it is still possible under state law. To that end, a spouse can seek a fault-based divorce on the grounds of adultery, desertion and cruel treatment among others.

It is important to note that a decree of absolute divorce will typically address such important issues as alimony, child custody, child support and property division.

We will continue to discuss this topic in our next family law post, examining what exactly a limited divorce is under Maryland law.

Source: The People’s Law Library of Maryland, “Overview of divorce in Maryland,” June 2014

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