MARYLAND GROUNDS FOR DIVORCE
Founder/Owner THE FIRM, LLC
This brief article will discuss some of the more commonly used basis for divorce in the State of Maryland.
To view a complete list of the grounds for an absolute divorce (as of January 1, 2017), you may refer to the Maryland Family Law Code §7–103.
Unlike marriage–which requires no basis, grounds, or reasons for marriage–divorce is not as simplistic a matter. The Court requires a basis (known as a ground) for divorce.
1. Maryland Grounds for Divorce.
There are two (2) basic types of divorce in Maryland…
a. No Fault Grounds: If you and your spouse have been living separate and apart for one year or more, continuously, and have not had relations, you qualify for a divorce based on being separated.
Also, if you and your spouse do not have minor children in common (together), and there are no disputes as to any property, alimony, etc., and you draft an Agreement and both spouses sign the Agreement, you may also get divorced based on the ground of Mutual Consent of the Parties. Although, the number one REAL reason for divorce is irreconcilable differences; Maryland (as of January 1, 2017) DOES NOT accept irreconcilable differences as a reason for divorce.
Couples who get along usually don’t file for divorce…separation, cruelty, desertion, adultery and the other basis stem from the fact the partners have differences (financial, emotional, and the like). Maybe one day Maryland will adopt/allow what other states have adopted but it has not done so yet.
b. Fault Based Grounds: The most commonly used fault based ground for divorce is adultery: a claim that the other spouse is/was unfaithful.
Adultery is not easy to prove and unless there is a significant chance of success, the recommendation may be that you and your spouse are separated prior to trial–even if the separation has not been for a full year.
Failure to prove adultery and having no other basis could mean that the court may be unable to grant a limited divorce (see below for explanation of limited divorce below) OR prevent the Court from giving any other relief sought; such as child custody, child support, temporary alimony, use and possession of the family home, and the like.
Significant chance of success for adultery means that a spouse can prove that their husband or wife had the (1) opportunity AND (2) disposition to be unfaithful (the cheating mind and cheating time so to speak). The more evidence one has that there is opportunity and disposition, the more likely one is to prevail at trial on the allegation of adultery.
It is the right combination of a chance to be unfaithful and the mindset to be unfaithful that the Court seeks to award an adultery based divorce. One need not catch someone “in the act” but a Judge may find (for instance) that there are enough public displays of affection witnessed (kissing, hugging, holding hands) and there is evidence that the spouse spent the night at their lover’s home and award a divorce based on adultery given the evidence.
This is just an example of what the Court may consider enough to prove adultery. Each case is different and distinct and every Judge has his or her own qualification(s) on how to properly view and weigh evidence of adultery. The most full proof evidence one may offer for adultery is when the “accused” has a child for another person who is not their spouse.
With DNA evidence being widely accepted by the Courts to prove biological ties to the child, it is almost impossible to refute birth of a child for someone other than your spouse during the marriage was not due to adultery. Notwithstanding, the above mentioned adultery, a Judge may consider defenses to the act of adultery, such as forgiving the adultery and/or condoning the adultery.
Therefore, the timing of the filing AFTER discovering the evidence is of major importance to the defense the spouse forgave or condoned the action(s).
2. A Limited Divorce (Incomplete Divorce or Legal Separation).
One may be able to file for a Limited Divorce, based on a separation that has continued and remained uninterrupted BUT the separation is for less than one full calendar year. If sufficient evidence is provided, the Court may grant a Limited Divorce.
Notwithstanding, when the time has arrived to file for an Absolute Divorce, another Complaint will have to be filed to obtain an Absolute or complete divorce. There are various reasons clients proceed to get a Limited Divorce. Many of these reasons are based on finances and children.
Discuss the different avenues and potential “pitfalls” with an attorney.
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