What to Know About Divorce in Maryland
By: Richard Tappan
If you’re struggling in your marriage and considering divorce, you may have many questions about the process. While it’s never easy, divorce can be more streamlined and less stressful when you know what’s involved. Family law experts can help put you in the best position both during and after dissolution.
What are the steps to getting a divorce in Maryland?
In order to file for divorce in Maryland, at least one spouse must live in the state. If the grounds for the divorce did not arise in the state, at least one spouse must have been a Maryland resident for at least six months to be eligible to file.
When you file for divorce in Maryland, you have a few options for the type of divorce you seek, and you may file for more than one kind. Maryland allows both “fault-based” and “no-fault” divorce, and the type of divorce may make a difference to other issues like alimony. A fault-based divorce means that one spouse committed certain acts that are inconsistent with a healthy marriage. Such acts include adultery, desertion, imprisonment, insanity, and cruelty. When someone proves fault, it can impact whether alimony is paid and how child custody might be determined. There is no required period of separation for a fault-based divorce in Maryland.
Maryland also allows for no-fault divorce. This kind of divorce can be granted when both parties agree to be divorced or when they have been separated for at least twelve months.
Once the person filing decides how to file, there may be a period of time the parties need to be separated before they can be divorced. Beyond that, the parties need to agree on or litigate the other issues in the divorce, like alimony and property distribution, before it can be granted.
How long do you have to be separated in Maryland to get a divorce?
That depends on the type of divorce you are seeking. Some fault-based divorces in Maryland, like those based on adultery, can be granted with no period of separation. Others, like desertion, require that one spouse has abandoned the other for at least twelve months. In a no-fault divorce, the parties must have lived separately and have not maintained a sexual relationship for twelve months. However, if both spouses agree to get divorced and submit a written settlement agreement to the court, there is no waiting period.
What is the fastest way to get a divorce in Maryland?
The fastest way to get a divorce in Maryland is by mutual consent. This ground is when both parties agree to the divorce and submit a settlement agreement to the court. The agreement must cover the property distribution of the marital estate and alimony. If the parties have children, they must also agree on custody and child support and attach child support guidelines if support is to be paid. If the parties agree on all of these issues, there is no further waiting period for a divorce.
While both a fault-based divorce and one based on mutual consent have no separation periods, mutual consent will typically take less time. Fault grounds need to be proved, and that takes evidence and a court hearing. Mutual consent does not require that proof as the parties are agreeing on all legal aspects of the divorce.
Is Maryland a 50/50 divorce state?
Maryland is what is called an equitable distribution state. This means that the property a married couple has is not necessarily split 50/50 between them on divorce. Instead, the court will split property based on what is “equitable” or fair. Also, not all property owned by a couple in Maryland is subject to this distribution—only marital property is. This includes all property that the spouses acquired during the marriage. Some gifts and inheritances may be excluded, but things like the marital home and the income each had during the marriage will be split. Property the spouses acquired before the marriage is typically separate property that will stay with the spouse who owned it before the marriage.
Can I date during the separation in Maryland?
There are significant legal consequences to dating someone while you are separated from your spouse. First, this is adultery, and your spouse can use it against you to get a fault-based divorce. In that case, evidence of adultery can also be used against you when the court determines alimony—especially if the adulterous relationship started before the separation. In addition, while it is rarely prosecuted, adultery is still a crime in Maryland. While many people want to start dating while they are separated, it does come with some risks.
While it might not save you heartbreak, consulting with experts on Maryland family law can save you money, time, and aggravation. Put yourself in the best position you can be in during one of the worst times of your life before you start fresh.
To learn more about divorce, visit our Divorce Law page.
Related: Divorce Law
Richard J. Tappan
Mr. Tappan is an experienced and well–regarded trusts and estates attorney with years of experience spanning dozens of cases. He has served as a member of the Probate Fiduciary Panel since 2007 and has acted as Guardian and Conservator for multiple wards in the District. Mr. Tappan has many years of experience in civil litigation, family law, probate, and trusts and estates law, and serves many D.C. charities by advocating for the homeless populations. To Learn more about Richard Tappan, click here.