Two different types of divorce exist in Maryland: (1) absolute divorce, which ends the marriage and is what many people think of when they think of a "divorce"; and (2) limited divorce, which is called legal separation in some other states. In either type of divorce proceeding, the court issues a variety of orders dealing with a range of divorce-related matters.
A Maryland court grants a limited divorce on a variety of fault grounds, including desertion or cruel treatment of a spouse or children. A no-fault limited divorce is possible if the parties have lived separate and apart without cohabitation and there is no reasonable likelihood of reconciliation. A court may require the parties to seek counseling before granting a limited divorce. A judge grants a limited divorce for a specific period of time or indefinitely, depending on the desires of the parties and circumstances of the case. The court will also establish orders dealing with marital issues, such as alimony, child support and custody, as appropriate under state law and facts of a particular case. Marital property typically remains under the ownership of both spouses in a limited divorce.
A Maryland court grants an absolute divorce on fault grounds that include adultery, desertion, criminal conviction with a minimum three-year sentence, or insanity involving institutional confinement of three years or more. In order to obtain a no-fault absolute divorce, the parties must live apart for at least one year. The divorce decree renders a final decision regarding marital assets and debts. The order addresses child custody, support and visitation as well. You need not file for a limited divorce before seeking an absolute divorce.
Maryland courts apply the "equitable division" standard when addressing a division of marital assets and debts. This means that marital property is not necessarily distributed 50-50 between spouses, as it would be in a community property state. Rather, the court considers all the circumstances of the marriage in order to distribute assets and debts in a way that is fair and reasonable. In practice, most couples typically receive a fairly equal division of property.
Custody and Best Interests of the Child
In determining child custody issues, a Maryland court focuses on what is in the best interests of the child, considering a number of factors. For example, Maryland courts consider the sincerity and willingness of each parent to communicate and cooperate with the other parent, preference of the parents and child of a sufficient age regarding custody, and the relationship between the child and each parent.
Alimony in Maryland
No specific formula or hard-and-fast set of criteria exists for awarding alimony in a Maryland divorce case. However, Maryland courts will consider a variety of factors, including the requesting spouse's ability to earn a living, age and health of each spouse, duration of the marriage, contributions each spouse made to the marriage, and standard of living enjoyed during the marriage.