A Divorce Case from the World of Reality TV, and a Look at “At-Fault” Versus “No-Fault” Divorce in Maryland

California was the very first state in the U.S. to recognize “no-fault” divorce, doing so in 1970. Today, all states recognize no-fault divorce but some, including Maryland, give you the option of seeking a no-fault divorce or an at-fault divorce. Since Maryland allows both kinds of divorce actions, you may ask yourself, “Which one is better for me?” For answers to that and all other essential divorce questions, get in touch with a knowledgeable Maryland divorce lawyer who can assess your specific facts and give the advice you need for your specific situations.

For the last eight years, fans of reality TV on the TLC network have followed the relationships of dozens of couples on “90 Day Fiance.” While viewers presumably hope for true love for each of the lovebird pairs, not all the couples’ stories end with a “happily ever after.” Indeed, one of the “90 Day Fiance” couples is currently going through the divorce process here in Maryland.

The pair appeared on the show in 2015 when the husband was 58 and the wife was 19. Six years later, the husband filed for divorce, asserting that the wife committed adultery.

This real-life divorce case may lead you to ask a very pertinent question, which is: “If my spouse engaged in conduct that amounts to cause for seeking an at-fault divorce, would pursuing that kind of divorce over a no-fault divorce benefit me?” Everyone’s situation is unique, which is why the correct answer to so many broad questions of law, including this one, is “it depends.” There are, however, some general facts that you can keep in mind.

At-Fault Divorces Have No Mandatory Separation Period

If you want an immediate end to your marriage, an at-fault divorce may be your best avenue. Maryland recognizes seven bases for granting absolute divorces. Those are desertion, adultery, cruelty, insanity, criminal conviction with imprisonment, “excessively vicious conduct”, and one-year separation. The last of those seven is the only “no-fault” basis. If you don’t allege that your spouse engaged in one of those other six, then you have to wait 12 months to get divorced.

So, say you “caught” your spouse in an act of adultery. At that point, you have two divorce options. You can pack up, move out, and stay away for 12 months, after which you can seek a no-fault divorce, or you can seek a divorce right away by asserting adultery.

Again, note that the key element of “move out.” A no-fault divorce requires that you and your spouse live separately and apart. The law allows a spouse seeking a divorce based on adultery, cruelty, or any of the other fault-based reasons to remain living with the other spouse while the divorce goes forward. While it would likely be an unpleasant thought for many couples, personal circumstances and financial necessities might lead some to see this as an important consideration.

Finally, keep in mind that your spouse’s adultery is probably not going to have an impact on the court’s alimony decision… but it might. If you can present sufficient proof that your spouse spent significant marital assets on his/her extramarital partner, then the judge is allowed to consider those spent assets when crafting an order on alimony and/or a monetary award and may render a decision that’s more favorable to you as a result of those “wasted” assets.

The process of obtaining a divorce is marked by many junctures at which you’ll need to make very important decisions. Don’t rely solely on your own decision-making. Instead, make sure you have a knowledgeable legal advocate on your side. The skilled Maryland family law attorneys at Anthony A. Fatemi, LLC are here to help. Our experienced team has helped countless divorcing spouses just like you. Contact us today at 301-519-2801 or via our online form to set up your consultation.

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