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Understanding Divorce in Maryland

Although Maryland law offers a limited divorce which allows the court to settle certain issues, most people are interested in an absolute divorce that ends the marriage so they can start fresh. Maryland requires you to prove that you have a valid reason for terminating your marriage. This is referred to as grounds for divorce. The following legal reasons are acceptable grounds for divorce in Maryland:

  • Separation – living separate and apart for at least one year with no sexual relations
  • Mutual consent – no separation period is required if spouses submit a detailed settlement agreement resolving all issues
  • Adultery
  • Desertion
  • Cruelty
  • Insanity
  • Imprisonment

Most people seek a no-fault divorce, which could either be based on grounds of separation or mutual consent. While a mutual consent divorce provides the most direct dissolution of a marriage, it takes considerable effort to develop a separation agreement that covers division of all property and debts, alimony, custody, child support and other issues. A couple can obtain a limited divorce to clarify certain obligations such as custody or monetary support if they are not yet ready for an absolute divorce.

Terms Settled in an Absolute Divorce

It is crucial to establish the right terms in your divorce settlement because those terms will be legally binding. You should work with an attorney who understands how to protect your interests and who can skillfully advocate to achieve your goals. 

While your lawyer can negotiate to get the best terms on your behalf, if you are unable to reach an agreement on every issue, your attorney will need to present your best arguments to the court for the judge to decide.

Critical issues that will be resolved either through negotiation or litigation include:

  • Dividing up property acquired during the marriage including real estate, retirement benefits, vehicles, and even pets. Debts will also be allocated between spouses.
  • Alimony/spousal support paid for a short time to allow one spouse to build up their earning capacity or on a long term basis for spouses who need support
  • Child custody which can be awarded to one parent or shared between them. Both physical custody (living arrangements) and legal custody (decision-making authority) need to be settled, along with the details of visitation arrangements for a noncustodial parent
  • Child support paid from a parent with greater assets or earning capacity to the other parent

A couple may present a plan to the court for approval and seek an uncontested divorce. If they can agree on some but not all terms, the divorce is considered contested, but the court will only need to decide the issues that parties were not able to agree on themselves. We help clients gain a realistic understanding of their legal situation so together we can develop a plan that secures secures their most important goals.