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No-Fault vs. At-Fault Divorces Under Maryland Family Law

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A question about Maryland family law that arises commonly involves the difference between no-fault and at-fault divorces. On a larger level, a no-fault divorce means that the parties involved reach mutual agreement to terminate their marriage. Whereas, an at-fault divorce means that one party acted in a way that justifies termination of marriage. But there are subtle differences between these types of divorces, as explained below.

No-Fault Divorces

Under Maryland Code of Family Law Section 7-103, a married couple may pursue a no-fault divorce by executing a marital settlement agreement. These agreements must include provisions that address all aspects of:

  • Alimony;
  • Property division; and
  • Child custody, care, access, and support, if the parties have any minor children.

When minor children are involved, there is an additional factor in the approval of a marital settlement agreement. In these situations, the Maryland courts must ensure that the agreement in question serves the best interests of the minor children involved.

When approving a no-fault divorce on the basis of mutual consent, the Maryland courts are allowed to:

  • Merge or incorporate the terms of the marital settlement agreement into the divorce decree; and
  • Modify or enforce the terms of the marital settlement agreement to be consistent with state law.

At-Fault Divorces

There are two types of at-fault divorces in Maryland — absolute divorces under Section 7-103 and limited divorces under Maryland Code of Family Law Section 7-102. Though there are different grounds, or legal reasons, for which a party may request a limited or absolute divorce.

Limited divorces are usually temporary. The parties involved can reverse course and decide to remain married. The grounds for a limited divorce under Section 7-102 include:

  • Separation — If the parties live apart and without cohabitation;
  • Desertion — If one party abandons the other party without any indication of return;
  • Cruel Treatment — If one party treats the other party or a minor child in a cruel manner; or
  • Vicious Conduct — If one party treats the other party or a minor child in an excessively vicious fashion.

Absolute divorces are permanent. After a Maryland court grants an absolute divorce, there is no going back. The marriage is officially dissolved. The grounds for an absolute divorce under Section 7-103 include:

  • Adultery — If one party engages in sexual relations outside of the marriage;
  • Criminal Conviction — If one party is convicted of a misdemeanor or felony and sentenced to confinement for at least three years;
  • Insanity — If one party is declared insane and has been committed for at least three years;
  • Separation — If the parties live apart and without cohabitation for at least 12 months;
  • Desertion — If one party abandons the other party without any indication of return for at least 12 months;
  • Cruel Treatment — If one party treats the other party or a minor child in a cruel manner; or
  • Vicious Conduct — If one party treats the other party or a minor child in an excessively vicious fashion.

Do You Need Legal Help?

If you have legal questions about divorce in Maryland, it can be highly productive to contact a proficient family law attorney. The Bel Air divorce attorneys at Schlaich & Thompson, Chartered have more than 60 years of combined legal experience. If you need legal help, contact us today for an initial consultation.

https://www.stclaw.net/what-is-the-maryland-approach-to-alimony-2/

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