Limited Divorce in Maryland

What is “limited divorce” in Maryland? The state recognizes both “limited” and “absolute” divorce. The latter is a true divorce. The former is a legal separation that may be pending the absolute divorce judgment. There are only certain issues in a limited divorce that a court can rule upon. Among these are custody, access to children, child support, how the family home is used and possessed, alimony and attorneys’ fees. Unlike absolute divorce, limited divorce does not deal with distribution of property.

Maryland courts grant a limited divorce for a no-fault voluntary separation that lasts less than a year. It also grants a limited divorce on the grounds of: extreme cruelty towards a spouse or child, excessively vicious conduct to a spouse where minor children exist, and a desertion shorter than 1 year.

As with absolute divorce, you generally may not live with your spouse during a limited divorce, even though you are legally married. The court has ruled, however, that there are certain circumstances in which it may be possible to live with your spouse during a limited divorce. You also may not have sexual relations with your spouse or have sexual relations with somebody else. If you do have sexual relations with somebody else while holding a limited divorce status, you will have committed adultery in the court’s eyes. The court might also require you to try to reconcile with your spouse, unless you both petition the court to say that you don’t want to do so.

People who are granted a limited divorce are still considered married and may not marry other people. Where absolute divorces require that certain grounds be proved (such as separation for one entire year), limited divorces can be filed pretty quickly. Only 1 day of separation is necessary to file for this type of divorce. Accordingly, some people may want to file for a limited divorce and address issues such as alimony, possession of the home and child access, while waiting to obtain evidence for an absolute divorce.

You should be aware that there are two types of desertion that qualify a spouse to file for limited divorce. (But as described above, the desertion need not be for the 12 months required for absolute divorce). These types are actual and constructive desertion. In actual desertion, one person leaves, abandons the other person or forces the other person to leave. Constructive desertion, however, is when one party’s misconduct (such as abuse or domestic violence) forces the other to leave.

Divorce, even a limited divorce, can be very painful. It is difficult to adjust to a life separated from your spouse and also possibly from your minor children. Limited divorce is a first step towards absolute divorce. However, filing for limited divorce starts the ball rolling and you should retain an experienced family lawyer to help you through this process. If you fail to retain counsel for a limited divorce, you may have trouble down the road with your absolute divorce.

Retaining a lawyer is expensive, but you can retain a cost conscious attorney to help you strategize once you’ve decided you might want to divorce. The attorney can tell you whether you would be better off filing for a limited divorce first, or whether you may file for an absolute divorce from the outset. Contact an experienced Maryland family law attorney for a legal consultation via the online form.

More Blogs:

Terminating Parental Rights in Maryland, Maryland Divorce Lawyer Blog, August 6, 2013

When Can a Maryland Man Ask the Court for Genetic Testing, Maryland Divorce Lawyer Blog, July 16, 2013

How Does Maryland Handle Foreign Custody Disputes? Maryland Divorce Lawyer Blog, July 12, 2013


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