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Limited Divorce vs. Absolute Divorce in Maryland

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There are two different types of divorce in Maryland — limited divorce and absolute divorce. While many characteristics and requirements are the same for both types of divorce, there are notable differences between these legal devices.

Limited Divorce in Maryland

As established in Maryland Family Code 7-102, a state court can declare a limited divorce under certain circumstances, including:

  • Cruel Treatment — If one spouse treats a spouse or their children in a cruel manner as would endanger the life, person or health, then a limited divorce may be appropriate;
  • Excessively Vicious Conduct — If one spouse engages in excessively vicious conduct toward the other spouse or their children, then a limited divorce may be appropriate (this does not normally include use of foul language);
  • Desertion — If one spouse deserts the other spouse without any indication of return, then a limited divorce may be appropriate; and
  • Separation — If the spouses stop living together without any indication of returning to cohabitation, then a limited divorce may be appropriate.

Even though a Maryland court can order a limited divorce for an indefinite time period, such an order is not necessarily final. Limited divorces are revocable in Maryland under certain conditions, especially if both spouses can resolve their differences. Furthermore, if the conditions for absolute divorce are lacking, a Maryland court may award a limited divorce instead.

Absolute Divorce in Maryland

As underlined in Maryland Family Code 7–103, a state court can declare an absolute divorce under certain circumstances, including:

  • Adultery — If one spouse has extramarital sexual relations with another person, then an absolute divorce may be appropriate;
  • Desertion — If one spouse deserts the other spouse without any indication of return and the desertion continues for more than 12 months, then an absolute divorce may be appropriate;
  • Separation — If the spouses stop living together without any indication of returning to cohabitation and the separation continues for more than 12 months, then an absolute divorce may be appropriate;
  • Criminal Conviction — If one spouse is convicted of a felony or misdemeanor crime and sentenced to prison under certain circumstances, then an absolute divorce may be appropriate;
  • Insanity — If one spouse is legally insane and subject to long-term confinement in a mental institution or similar facility, then an absolute divorce may be appropriate;
  • Cruel Treatment — If one spouse treats a spouse or their children in a cruel manner as would endanger the life, person or health, then an absolute divorce may be appropriate; and
  • Vicious Conduct — If one spouse engages in vicious conduct toward the other spouse or their children, then an absolute divorce may be appropriate. This does not normally mean the use of foul language.

Unlike a limited divorce, an absolute divorce is final. Once the court issues an award of absolute divorce, the former spouses are not able to reverse course. That is why it is crucial to consider all available options before finalizing an absolute divorce.

Contact Us Today for Help

If you need help with divorce, it can be extremely helpful to retain the services of an established family law attorney. The attorneys at Schlaich & Thompson, Chartered in Bel Air, Maryland are eager to assist you throughout each step of your case.

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