The divorce process is rarely an easy one. Making the process more difficult is the prospect of a legal separation. While Maryland makes no requirement for a legal separation before divorce, the law does allow for separations.
Maryland allows for two kinds of divorce: absolute and limited. Limited divorces are typically referred to as legal separation. In Maryland, legal separation allows parties to make temporary decisions about custody of minor children and marital support without being permanently divorced. These legal separations are typically used when couples cannot meet the requirements for permanent divorce.
Before seeking a Maryland divorce, at least one of the spouses must have been a resident of the state for at least a year prior to filing the petition. The state does allow for emergency filings, but only in limited circumstances.
Maryland divorces, both permanent and limited, can be granted only if sufficient grounds are in place. For permanent divorce, these include one-year voluntary separation, two-year involuntary separation, adultery, desertion, cruelty, vicious conduct or insanity. Limited divorce grounds include voluntary separation with no time requirement, cruelty, vicious conduct and desertion.
Custody and Support
Whenever minor children are involved in a legal separation or divorce, Maryland courts can enter orders governing custody and support payments. Courts in Maryland apply the "best interests" test to any issues involving minor children. This requires the court to take into consideration all relevant factors that might impact the child's health and well being. Any custody or parenting agreement the spouses enter into must be judged in this light, and the courts have the power to enter their own orders regardless of parental desires.
Separation and divorces must also provide for divisions of property. These agreements can be made between the parties or ordered by the court. If the parties cannot agree, the court will evaluate all property disputes by taking into consideration various factors, including the length of the marriage, income of each spouse, property of each spouse and the financial needs of each.