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What is an Absolute Divorce Under Maryland Family Law?


Even though marriage is supposed to last forever, divorce is a common reality for many spouses. When two spouses are unable to resolve their differences, Maryland family law allows them to pursue an absolute divorce. Unlike limited divorce, which can be reversed, absolute divorce is permanent. In order to pursue an absolute divorce in Maryland, a spouse must be able to satisfy residency requirements and demonstrate a valid legal ground.

Residency Requirement

Maryland Code of Family Law Section 7-101 details the residency requirement to file for divorce. If the grounds for divorce occurred within the borders of Maryland, there is not a stated residency requirement. But if the grounds for divorce occurred outside of Maryland, then one of the spouses must reside in the state for at least six months before filing for divorce.

Grounds for Absolute Divorce

Maryland Code of Family Law Section 7-103 establishes the acceptable reasons for absolute divorce, referred to legally as grounds. Under this section, a person may file for absolute divorce on the grounds of:

  • Adultery — One spouse had sexual relations with someone outside of the marriage.
  • Desertion — One spouse abandoned the other spouse for at least 12 months, if the desertion is deliberate, final, and without any reasonable expectation of reconciliation.
  • Conviction — One spouse was convicted of a misdemeanor or felony offense, if they have already served 12 months of a sentence that is at least three years.
  • Separation — The spouses have lived apart without cohabitation, if the separation has gone on for at least 12 months.
  • Insanity — One spouse was declared permanently insane and confined to mental institution, if the confinement has already lasted for three years.
  • Cruel Treatment — One spouse is unreasonably cruel toward the other spouse or their minor child, if there is not a reasonable expectation of reconciliation.
  • Vicious Conduct — One spouse is excessively vicious toward the other spouse or their minor child, if there is not a reasonable expectation of reconciliation.
  • Mutual Agreement — Both spouses enter into a mutually agreeable contract that addresses alimony and property division as well as child custody, care, and support.

Expectation of Reconciliation

Maryland Code of Family Law Section 7-104 provides additional insight into offers or refusals of reconciliation. As noted in the previous section, certain grounds for divorce are dependent upon a reasonable expectation of reconciliation, or lack thereof.

That being said, the mere fact that reconciliation was offered — or refused — does not prevent absolute divorce from proceeding. In other words, either spouse is free to offer or reject an effort at reconciliation, without barring a request for absolute divorce.

Do You Need Legal Help?

If you need legal help with divorce under Maryland family law, it can be greatly beneficial to reach out to a trusted family law attorney. The Bel Air divorce 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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