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How Do Limited Divorces Work Under Maryland Family Law?


Maryland family law does not provide a one-size-fits-all approach to divorce. Instead, there are separate options for limited and absolute divorces. An absolute divorce is permanent and signifies a formal end to marriage. On the other hand, a limited divorce allows for the possibility of reconciliation and the continuation of marriage.

What are the Grounds for a Limited Divorce?

The acceptable grounds for a limited divorce appear at Maryland Code of Family Law Section 7-102. Under this section, either spouse may request a limited divorce based on:

  • Cruel Treatment — Available if one spouse treats the other spouse, or the other spouse’s minor child, in a cruel manner;
  • Vicious Conduct — Available if one spouse treats the other spouse, or the other spouse’s minor child, in an excessively vicious fashion;
  • Desertion — Available if one spouse abandons the other spouse in a seemingly deliberate and potentially final way; or
  • Separation — Available if both spouses are living separate and apart without cohabitation.

Section 7-102 also provides that the Maryland courts may award a limited divorce, even if the spouses applied for an absolute divorce. But this power is reserved for situations where the evidence is sufficient for a limited divorce, but not enough to justify an absolute divorce at that time.

How Long Does a Limited Divorce Last?

The timeline of a limited divorce also appears under Section 7-102. This section enables the Maryland courts to award a limited divorce for a specified amount of time or an indefinite period. In either case, the Maryland courts may revoke a limited divorce at any time, if the spouses file a joint application to that effect.

Ultimately, limited divorces are not permanent, making it possible for the spouses to reconcile their differences and resume their marriage. But as outlined in Maryland Code of Family Law Section 7-104, an offer of reconciliation does not necessarily prevent an award of divorce.

More specifically, the following do not constitute a defense to, bar to, or ground for divorce:

  • One spouse refusing to accept an offer of reconciliation from the other spouse; or
  • One spouse rejecting an attempt at reconciliation from the other spouse.

At the end of the day, a limited divorce provides the option for spouses to resolve their issues. But limited divorce does not require spouses to achieve reconciliation. And if such spouses desire to push forward with the process, they can request an absolute divorce to end their marriage on a permanent basis.

Do You Need Legal Help?

If you need legal assistance with divorce or other aspects of Maryland family law, it can be extremely helpful to contact an adept Bel Air divorce attorney. The attorneys at Schlaich & Thompson, Chartered have more than 60 years of combined legal experience in family and criminal law, including divorce. If you need legal help, contact us today for an initial consultation.




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