Maryland Absolute Divorce: At-Fault Vs. No-Fault
There are two types of divorce under Maryland family law — limited and absolute. Generally speaking, limited divorces are temporary and enable the parties to reconcile their differences. On the other hand, absolute divorce is permanent, without any avenue to resuming marriage thereafter.
In addition, there are two main categories of absolute divorce — at-fault and no-fault. In an at-fault divorce, one party needs to bear responsibility for the conditions that contributed to estrangement. Whereas a no-fault divorce enables the parties to reach mutual agreement to end their marriage.
At-Fault Absolute Divorce in Maryland
Maryland Code of Family Law Section 7-103 establishes the legal grounds for an at-fault absolute divorce. In these cases, at least one spouse must act in a way that threatens the safety and security of the marriage.
Under Section 7-103, the Maryland courts may award an at-fault absolute divorce based on:
- Adultery — If either party engages in sexual relations outside of the marriage;
- Desertion — If either party deserts the marriage for at least 12 continuous months and such desertion is deliberate, final, and without reasonable hope of reconciliation;
- Conviction — If either party is convicted of a misdemeanor or felony offense that included a sentence of at least three years and has served at least one year;
- Separation — If both parties have lived separate and apart, without cohabitation, for at least 12 continuous months;
- Insanity — If either party has been confined to a mental institution for at least three years, at least two physicians declare the insanity incurable, and at least one party has lived in Maryland for at least two years;
- Cruelty — If one party or their minor child suffers cruel treatment at the hands of the other party, and there is no reasonable hope of reconciliation; or
- Viciousness — If one party or their minor child suffers vicious conduct at the hands of the other party, and there is no reasonable hope of reconciliation.
No-Fault Absolute Divorce in Maryland
Section 7-103 also furnishes the legal grounds for a no-fault absolute divorce in Maryland. In these cases, the spouses may reach mutual consent to end their marriage, without requiring fault from either party.
Under Section 7-103, the Maryland courts may award a no-fault absolute divorce based on mutual consent if:
- Both parties execute a written agreement to end their marriage; and
- The written agreement resolves any and all issues related to alimony and property division as well as, if applicable, child access, care, custody, and support.
If such a marital separation agreement involves minor or dependent children, there is an additional requirement. The Maryland courts must ensure that the agreement safeguards the best interests of the minor or dependent children involved.
Do You Need Legal Help?
If you have legal questions about divorce in Maryland, it can be hugely beneficial to speak with a capable 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.