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Divorce

Residency Requirement

A party may file for divorce in Maryland if the grounds for divorce occurred in Maryland.  At least one of the parties must live in Maryland at the time of filing for divorce. If the grounds for divorce occurred outside of Maryland, a party can file for divorce in Maryland only when one of the parties has resided in Maryland for at least 1 year before the Complaint for Divorce is filed. On October 1, 2015, a new law will go into effect, reducing the 1 year residency requirement to 6 months.

Absolute Divorce Grounds

A Judgment of Absolute Divorce terminates the parties’ marital relationship. Before the court can enter a Judgment of Absolute Divorce, all issues arising out of the parties’ marriage have to be resolved, either by agreement of the parties or court order, and one of the parties has to have a viable ground for absolute divorce. The State of Maryland recognizes no-fault and fault grounds for absolute divorce.

The no-fault ground for divorce is:

  • 1-year separation

The fault grounds for divorce are:

  • Adultery
  • Desertion, if desertion has continued for 12 continuous months
  • Conviction of a felony or misdemeanor where the party has been sentenced to serve at least 3 years and has served 12 months of the sentence
  • Insanity if the spouse has been institutionalized for at least 3 years and the insanity is incurable
  • Cruelty of treatment
  • Excessively vicious conduct

On October 1, 2015, a new law will go into effect, establishing a new ground for divorce of “Mutual Consent”, which requires the parties to have a signed, written agreement resolving all issues, no minor children in common, and both parties must appear at the uncontested divorce hearing.

Limited Divorce

Maryland also recognizes the concept of a “limited divorce” when the parties do not have grounds for an absolute divorce. A limited divorce allows the court to address pressing issues in dispute when the parties may not have grounds for absolute divorce or may not wish to terminate their marriage. In a limited divorce, the parties remain married and the court cannot determine a division of the marital property. In addition, the limited divorce allows the court the opportunity to determine some, but not all of the issues arising out of the marriage including custody, support, and use and possession of the home and personal property. A court cannot determine a division of marital property in the context of a limited divorce. It may be necessary to seek a limited divorce, initially, and as the case progresses and grounds for absolute divorce ripen, to amend the court documents to seek an absolute divorce.

The attorneys at Dragga, Hannon, Hessler & Wills, LLP are experienced in guiding clients through the divorce process and helping client assess advantages and disadvantages of seeking limited and absolute divorce.