The Grounds for Divorce in Maryland
By: Susan Berry
If you are planning to file for Absolute Divorce in the state of Maryland, you must state your grounds for divorce. A ground for divorce is the reason you and your spouse are filing for divorce. Whichever ground that you use be prepared to provide proof, or the court may not deem your Complaint proper and deny your request for Absolute Divorce. There are eight possible grounds for Absolute Divorce in Maryland.
1. MUTUAL CONSENT
To use Mutual Consent as a ground for Absolute Divorce, you must have a written and signed Marital Settlement Agreement. The Marital Settlement Agreement must resolve all issues pertaining to the divorce, including alimony, distribution of any marital property, and the custody, access, and support of any dependent children. Both parties must agree to all portions of the Marital Settlement Agreement and not ask to set any portion aside.
A Marital Settlement Agreement should be prepared by an attorney not only to make sure that it is prepared correctly but that all issues are properly resolved and prepared to the court’s standards. Speaking with an experienced Maryland divorce attorney can help you through this process.
2. 12-MONTH SEPARATION
12-Month Separation is the most common ground for Absolute Divorce. To use 12-Month Separation as a ground for divorce, you and your spouse must have separated for at least 12 months before filing the Complaint for Absolute Divorce. In Maryland, you may not participate in sexual relations with your spouse or share the same residence with your spouse for 12 consecutive and uninterrupted months. If you share a night in the same residence or have sexual relations with your spouse one time, the clock will restart. So, remember, once you separate, do it with the intention of ending your marriage to use 12-Month Separation as a ground for Absolute Divorce.
Adultery is often used as a ground for Absolute Divorce but rarely proven in the end because of the difficulty in proving this ground for divorce. Your spouse committing adultery is not enough to prove to the court that adultery took place. Your spouse will need to testify to the adultery, or you must have irrefutable proof that your spouse committed adultery.
4. ACTUAL DESERTION
To use Actual Desertion as a ground for Absolute Divorce, your spouse must have deliberately abandoned or deserted you with the intention of ending the marriage. The desertion must have continued without interruption for at least 12 months before the filing of a Complaint for Absolute Divorce. If your spouse returns to the home for any length of time, then there is no desertion or intention of ending the marriage.
5. CONSTRUCTIVE DESERTION
To use Constructive Desertion as a ground for Absolute Divorce, you must have left your spouse for the persistent conduct or cruel and vicious treatment towards you, which makes continuing your marriage impossible in order to preserve your health, safety, or self-respect. The conduct was your spouse’s final and deliberate act, and there is no reasonable expectation that you will reconcile. The separation must have continued without interruption for at least 12 months before the filing of a Complaint for Absolute Divorce. If you return to your spouse for any length of time, then there is no intention of ending the marriage.
6. CRIMINAL CONVICTION OR A FELONY OR MISDEMEANOR
To use Criminal Conviction of a Felony or Misdemeanor as a ground for Absolute Divorce, your spouse must be sentenced to serve at least three years, or an indeterminate sentence, in a correctional institution and has served 12 or more months of the sentence before the date of filing the Complaint for Absolute Divorce.
7. CRUELTY/EXCESSIVELY VICIOUS CONDUCT AGAINST YOU AND/OR YOUR CHILDREN
To use Cruelty/Excessively Vicious Conduct as a ground for divorce, you must provide proof that your spouse’s conduct has been cruel, excessively vicious, or violent toward you and or your children. This can be proven through protective orders or any criminal charges stemming from your spouse’s conduct towards you and/or your children. Your spouse’s conduct must have made continuing the marriage impossible and there can be no reasonable expectation of reconciling.
To use Insanity as a ground for Absolute Divorce, your spouse must have been confined to a mental institution or hospital and confined for at least three years before the date of the filing of the Complaint for Absolute Divorce. Two psychiatrists must testify that the insanity of the spouse is incurable and there is no hope for recovery. Another component is that both spouses must be residents of Maryland for at least two years before filing the Complaint as well.
If you are considering getting a divorce and your or your spouse is a Maryland resident, you should consult an attorney to make sure you meet the requirements for Absolute Divorce in the state of Maryland.
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.