What is the Difference Between Limited & Absolute Divorce in Maryland?
When a couple decides to end their marriage and pursue a divorce in Maryland, there are several different legal routes available. Maryland family law provides for both limited (temporary) and absolute (permanent) divorces. Furthermore, either spouse can request an at-fault absolute divorce, or both spouses can agree to a no-fault absolute divorce.
Under Maryland Code of Family Law Section 7-102, a limited divorce is a temporary mechanism. Although the Maryland courts can grant a limited divorce for an indefinite time period, the spouses can always reconcile and return to their marriage.
In order to obtain a limited divorce, one of the legal grounds below must be present:
- Desertion — If one spouse seemingly deserts the other;
- Separation — If the spouses live apart and without cohabitation;
- Cruel Treatment — If one spouse treats the other spouse or their minor child in a cruel manner; or
- Vicious Conduct — If one spouse treats the other spouse or their minor child in an excessively vicious manner.
Under Maryland Code of Family Law Section 7-103, an absolute divorce is permanent. Once the process is complete, the people involved become former spouses. There is no opportunity for reconciliation after finalization of an absolute divorce in Maryland.
There are two major types of absolute divorces under Maryland family law — at-fault and no-fault. In order to obtain an at-fault, absolute divorce, one of the legal grounds below must be present:
- Adultery — If one spouse engages extramarital sexual relations;
- Desertion — If the desertion already lasted for at least 12 months, and there is no reasonable expectation of reconciliation;
- Felony — If one spouse has already served 12 months of a felony sentence that includes at least three years of imprisonment;
- Separation — If the spouses live apart and without cohabitation for at least 12 months;
- Insanity — If one spouse was already committed to a mental institution for at least 36 months, and there is no reasonable hope of recovery;
- Cruelty — If one spouse treats the other spouse or their minor child in a cruel manner, and there is no reasonable expectation of reconciliation; or
- Viciousness — If one spouse treats the other spouse or their minor child in an excessively vicious manner, and there is no reasonable expectation of reconciliation.
Section 7-103 also creates the parameters for no-fault divorces. In these situations, a married couple reaches a mutual agreement to end their marriage. To formalize their agreement, the spouses must execute a settlement contract that resolves all issues relating to:
- Child Custody;
- Child Support;
- Child Visitation; and
- Property Division.
Let Us Help You Today
If you need legal assistance with limited or absolute divorce in Maryland, it can be highly worthwhile to contact 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 limited and absolute divorce. If you need legal help, contact us today for an initial consultation.