Legal Separation Enforcement in Maryland vs. Divorce

By Rebecca Hayley

Maryland offers two types of divorce: limited and absolute. When a couple wishes to separate and is not ready to formalize a permanent divorce, they may obtain a limited divorce. Although Maryland does not provide for an actual legal separation, a limited divorce in Maryland is similar to what is called a "legal separation" in other states. A limited divorce is the court’s recognition of the parties maintaining separate residences; however, it does not dissolve the marriage. Court orders issued in a limited divorce may prove helpful as parties transition to an absolute divorce, serving as temporary orders until the waiting period for an absolute divorce is met.

Maryland offers two types of divorce: limited and absolute. When a couple wishes to separate and is not ready to formalize a permanent divorce, they may obtain a limited divorce. Although Maryland does not provide for an actual legal separation, a limited divorce in Maryland is similar to what is called a "legal separation" in other states. A limited divorce is the court’s recognition of the parties maintaining separate residences; however, it does not dissolve the marriage. Court orders issued in a limited divorce may prove helpful as parties transition to an absolute divorce, serving as temporary orders until the waiting period for an absolute divorce is met.

Absolute Divorce

Whether seeking a no-fault absolute divorce or absolute divorce on fault grounds, such as adultery or insanity, Maryland requires couples to live in separate residences and have no sexual relations for a period of at least 12 months before it will grant an absolute divorce. Absolute divorce decrees include orders regarding division of property, custody, visitation and support. The courts can issue a limited divorce that provides for child custody, support and the division of some assets while a final divorce is pending.

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Limited Divorce Orders

In a limited divorce, the court grants custody, visitation and support orders, although real property is not divided. A limited divorce is not a prerequisite to an absolute divorce. Orders decreed by the court in a limited divorce are enforceable until they are modified or set-aside by the court. The parties may move forward after the required separation period to an absolute divorce, dissolving the marriage.

Reasons for a Limited Divorce

A limited divorce can be a good alternative to absolute divorce for those who no longer wish to be a married couple, but do not want to divorce for religious reasons -- or if there is a possibility of reconciliation. If the couple reconciles, they can file a motion to set-aside the limited divorce and the marriage will remain enforced. In cases where a couple isn't ready to divide property, a limited divorce may also provide a good option. However, when a limited divorce is granted, the parties are not free to remarry.

Enforcing Court Orders

Whether the court orders a limited or absolute divorce, all orders made by the court are legally enforceable. When the other party fails to comply with an order of the court or violates a court-approved settlement agreement, you may seek to have the order or agreement enforced. Prepare a petition for contempt using the forms found on the court website or through a third-party document preparation service. File your petition with the clerk of the court who issued the original order.

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How to Obtain a Legal Separation in Maryland

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What Is a Limited Divorce in Maryland?

In Maryland, a “limited divorce” may be considered the best of both worlds. Some call Maryland’s limited divorce a type of legal separation if you and your spouse just cannot live under the same roof but want some form of legal documentation that designates your independent status. However, like the term suggests, there are limitations.

Ways in Which to Divorce in Baltimore, MD

At first glance, Maryland seems to offer a lot of different ways to divorce, but it's not really that much more creative than other states. The Annotated Code of Maryland governs divorces in each of the state's counties, so Baltimore isn't unique from other locations. The Circuit Court in Baltimore City accepts divorce filings, and you can file there if either you or your spouse resides, owns a business or is employed in the city. Either you or your spouse must have lived in the state for a year.

What Is an Absolute Divorce?

An absolute divorce is what most people simply refer to as a divorce, the termination of the bonds of matrimony. History provides the reason some states still use the term absolute divorce, rather than adopting the simpler term, divorce. Due to the heavy influence of British common and ecclesiastical law at present when the U.S. was forming laws, concepts such as limited and absolute divorce were borrowed from those systems and remain part of American jurisprudence in some states today.

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