For many people, going through a divorce is the most confusing and difficult time of their lives. If you are facing divorce, contact us at Wendy Satin Law. Our law firm is conveniently located in Rockville, MD within the heart of Montgomery County, as well as the District of Columbia and our attorneys have significant experience in the many areas of divorce law including traditional divorce (limited or absolute divorce) as well as collaborative law.
The state of Maryland recognizes two types of divorce: a Limited Divorce and an Absolute Divorce.
A Limited Divorce does not finally and absolutely dissolve the marriage, nor does a limited divorce resolve any issues related to marital property. A Limited Divorce is a statutory creation designed to allow petitioners in a family matter to resolve the issues of custody, visitation, child support, and alimony without the necessity of maintaining a physical separation for protracted periods. Individuals who obtain a Limited Divorce cannot re-marry, change their names, nor are property rights and claims adjudicated or terminated. Many suits for divorce begin as petitions for Limited Divorce and are later upgraded to an Absolute Divorce. If there is no need to obtain a custody/visitation determination or a child support/alimony termination, then there may well be no need to make a request for Limited Divorce.
In order to obtain a Limited Divorce, you must meet certain criteria such as Maryland residency and you will also need to establish at least one of the following:
- Cruelty of treatment of the complaining party or of a minor child of the complaining party
- Excessively vicious conduct to the complaining party or to a minor child of the complaining party
- Actual Desertion
- Constructive Desertion
- Mutual or voluntary separation, if the parties are living separate and apart without cohabitation, and there is no reasonable hope of a reconciliation
Desertion is the most commonly used grounds for limited divorce. There are two types of desertion, actual and constructive. Actual is when one party unjustifiably leaves or abandons the other party, or forces the other party to leave the home. Constructive is when one party is forced to leave the home due to the misconduct of the other. There is no time limit needed to prove desertion as any reasonable time the judge agrees to will justify the action of the court.
During a limited divorce, the parties must live apart although they do remain legally married and they cannot resume their marital relationship. An individual who is granted a Limited Divorce should be aware that they are not unmarried and any sexual relation in which they may engage, outside their marriage, will be considered adultery and may provide grounds for an Absolute Divorce. The Court may require, as a condition of Limited Divorce, the parties to participate in good faith in the efforts to achieve reconciliation. A decree of Limited Divorce may be revoked by the Court upon joint application by the parties.
An Absolute Divorce is a complete and final sundering or the marital relationship and those rights and entitlements associated with the marriage. Parties who are granted an Absolute Divorce are free to live in an unmarried state, may re-marry, resume their maiden names, and all claims to property are terminated. At the time an Absolute Divorce is granted all issues incident to the marriage which are not resolved by Agreement, must be adjudicated such as: legal custody, residential custody, visitation/access, child support, alimony, valuation and division and/or sale or transfer of marital property, and attorney fees.
The grounds for an Absolute Divorce include the following:
- Desertion (actual or constructive) that has continued uninterrupted for 12 months.
- One year continuous separation
- Cruelty of treatment toward the complaining spouse or minor child of the parties.
- Excessively vicious conduct toward the complaining souse or the parties’ minor child.
- Conviction of a felony or misdemeanor if the Defendant has been sentences to serve at least 3 years or an indeterminate sentence in a penal institution and the Defendant has served 12 months of the indeterminate sentence.
- Insanity resulting in at least 3 years confinement in a mental institution hospital, or similar institution, along with certain other requirements.