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The Maryland General Assembly is weighing the prospect of making this state a “no-fault” jurisdiction in terms of divorce actions. For some couples contemplating the prospect of divorce, such a change may have little impact; for others, it may matter a great deal. The bill is a reminder that, like all areas of the law, divorce law is frequently evolving. To put yourself in the best position possible, retain an experienced Maryland divorce lawyer who is fully up-to-date on all the changes in the law.

The bill, House Bill 14, would allow spouses to seek a dissolution based solely on their “irreconcilable differences.” Additionally, Maryland judges could grant divorces based on six months’ separation or medical proof that the other spouse is permanently incapacitated and incapable of making decisions.

Currently, Maryland has two forms of divorce: limited divorce and absolute divorce. Limited divorce doesn’t end the marriage and doesn’t allow you to remarry someone else, but somewhat functions like a form of legal separation, allowing you to obtain certain relief like an award of support. The bases that Maryland law currently recognizes for the award of a limited divorce are (1) cruelty (toward you or a minor child), (2) excessively vicious conduct, (3) desertion, or (4) voluntary separation.

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Recently a potential client came to our office to discuss his options for seeking a divorce.  In Maryland, there are several grounds for an absolute divorce including a one (1) year separation, desertion (actual and construction), insanity, conviction of a crime, cruelty of treatment / excessively vicious conduct, and adultery.  During the consultation, our family law attorney obtained information about the marriage, the reason for separation, the length of separation, etc. to determine what ground(s) may be applicable in this case.

Unfortunately, the potential client was not yet eligible to file a Complaint for Absolute Divorce because the applicable grounds in his case all required that he and his wife be separated for at least twelve (12) months prior to filing the Complaint.  However, just because he couldn’t file his Complaint yet didn’t mean our family law attorneys weren’t able to start helping him with his case immediately.  Our attorneys suggested entering in to negotiations to try and reach a type of agreement called a Voluntary Separation and Property Settlement.

A Voluntary Separation and Property Settlement Agreement can be a global agreement, which means the agreement resolves all outstanding issues related to the Parties divorce.  Or, it can only resolve some issues leaving the remaining contested issues for the Court to decide – this is called a partial agreements.  Issues that are commonly covered by a Voluntary Separation and Property Settlement Agreement include the grounds for divorce, alimony / spousal support, custody, child support, and division of marital property.

It’s extremely rare for someone to request alimony separate from divorce these days, but it is possible. In an interesting 2009 case that illustrates the importance of having a family lawyer represent you through your divorce, a couple were married and had two children. The husband filed for limited divorce after a one-year separation from his wife. Next the wife counter-claimed for absolute divorce on the basis of adultery and abandonment. The wife requested alimony.

Both of the spouses needed an interpreter and were not represented by counsel. By law, requests for divorce are granted only with a corroborating witness. Neither the husband nor the wife had brought one. The court wasn’t able to award a divorce or a limited divorce. Additionally neither spouse offered testimony to corroborate grounds for divorce. The trial judge nonetheless heard testimony on child support and alimony.

Although the divorce case collapsed, the judge awarded custody of the two kids to the wife and ordered the husband to pay child support of $764. The judge ordered the husband to pay $1500 to the wife every month as indefinite alimony. The court did not characterize the alimony or child support as pendente lite (temporary pending litigation). The case was closed with the requests for divorce denied. Continue reading

Our office was retained to assist with a divorce matter in Baltimore County.  The client was older, in her sixties, and made her living working with children on their religious studies.  Although she loved teaching her students, due to serious health problems, she was forced to retire.   Her only source of income was the small disability check she received each month.  Since the separation she had received no support from her husband.

On the other hand, her husband had been earning a substantial yearly income.  He had been employed by this same company for a number of years and earned significant benefits in addition to his income.   The client actually helped her husband secure this job after he obtained a two year conditional legal permanent resident card (also known as a conditional green card) on the basis of their marriage.

However, shortly after filing for divorce, the husband was laid off because he no longer had a valid immigration status and work authorization.  Instead of seeking assistance from qualified immigration attorney like the attorneys in our office, the husband attempted to apply for citizenship on his own before he was eligible.   Believing it was unnecessary, he never filed to remove the condition from his green card.  Upon learning he no longer had a valid immigration status, the employer had no choice but to lay the husband off.

Recently our office was retained by a busy professional who had been separated from his wife for several years.  After the separation, he had continued to reside in Maryland, but his wife had returned to Thailand to live permanently.  By the time he came to our office, the client had accepted that there was no hope of reconciliation and he wanted help filing for an absolute divorce on the basis of a one year separation.

Serving a Party who is residing outside of the United States can be tricky.  If not accomplished in the proper manner, it’s not only money that’s wasted, but also months and months of valuable time.  Our knowledgeable family law attorneys have extensive experience successfully serving Parties in countries all over the world and have spared countless clients the headache of attempting this on their own.

The first step in serving a Party who resides overseas is to thoroughly research the rules governing proper service in that country.  In Maryland, if the person being served resides outside of the state, service is proper if done by any method allowed under the Maryland Rules or by any method that is considered proper by the foreign jurisdiction.

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