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Two Types of Divorce in Maryland? Which One Applies to Me?


The term “divorce” is most commonly used to refer to a final and legal separation between spouses. In Maryland, however, there are two types of divorce that a court can award to either party– limited divorce and absolute divorce – with each type of divorce having its own set of grounds for divorce (the basis upon which the court can grant the divorce) and relief which can be granted.


The Maryland Legislature, in desiring to cling to the state’s Catholic roots, instituted a form of divorce known as a limited divorce. A limited divorce does not end the marriage, and is essentially a couple’s legal separation. In most cases, people who request a limited divorce from the court do not yet meet the statutory requirements to be awarded an absolute divorce from their spouse, but he or she needs the court to order that they receive financial assistance or some type of custody determination as soon as possible.


Maryland court’s are more likely to grant a limited divorce when the spouses have been separated (meaning living separate and apart without cohabitation) for a period of less than one year; but may also grant a limited divorce on the grounds of cruelty of treatment or excessively vicious conduct toward the complaining spouse or a minor child of the complaining party, or the desertion of one spouse. In granting a limited divorce, the court may grant relief in the form of child custody, child support, alimony, and possession of the parties’ marital property, but may not divide the parties’ marital property as a result of a limited divorce.


Alternatively, an absolute divorce actually ends the marriage, and resolves all of the issues between the spouses in their divorce proceeding. Both spouses are free to remarry after thirty days have passed since the court’s entry of an absolute divorce. A spouse may request the court grant them an absolute divorce on any of the following grounds:

  1. adultery,

  2. desertion (if the desertion has occurred for a continuous twelve months or longer, is deliberate and final, and there is no hope for reconciliation),

  3. conviction of the other spouse for a felony which carries a sentence of three years or more,

  4. separation of twelve months or longer,

  5. insanity of the other spouse,

  6. cruelty of treatment,

  7. excessively vicious conduct, and (more recently)

  8. mutual consent.

While most of these grounds for an absolute divorce are factual claims which must be found to have occurred by a Maryland court, spouses who wish to be granted an absolute divorce on the ground of mutual consent are able to agree to, and execute, a formal document which amicably settles all of the issues in a divorce, including, legal and physical custody of the children, child support, alimony, use and possession of the marital home, distribution of marital property, and attorney’s fees.


If you are currently looking to file for divorce from your spouse, contact an experienced family law attorney at Spencer & Stahl, P.C. who may review your options with you, and work with you to determine the best way to proceed.

Post written by Tyler Brown

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