Maryland divides divorce into two categories: absolute and limited. Absolute divorces are the same as divorce in other states, and end a marriage. Just as in other states, a Maryland absolute divorce can include terms about property, marital support or alimony, child custody and any other issue relevant to the marriage.
A limited divorce is the other kind of divorce in Maryland. A limited divorce is a period of legal separation in which the couple legally lives apart pursuant to a written agreement, which is approved by the court. Limited divorces can precede an absolute divorce, but they are not required.
Maryland allows for both a legal separation process, and unofficial separations. When people refer to legal separations in Maryland, they typically mean limited divorces, since these must be approved and granted by the court. However, Maryland couples can also go through a period of separation that isn't necessarily recognized by the court. In absolute divorces, this time period can serve as the grounds for the divorce.
Absolute divorce can be granted only if specific legal grounds are present. The traditional "fault" grounds are still recognized in Maryland as a sufficient basis for an absolute divorce. These include adultery, abandonment, incarceration and excessive cruelty. Maryland also allows for a one-year period of voluntary separation, or a two-year period of involuntary separation. These last two are considered "no fault" grounds, since no party must be responsible.
Both absolute and limited divorce require at least one of the spouses to be a Maryland resident. If the grounds for divorce occurred outside of the state, at least one of the parties must have been a Maryland resident for a year before filing the divorce complaint.
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