Remarriage Before Divorce Is Final in Maryland

By Heather Frances J.D.

Generally, you are considered married until your divorce is final, and you cannot legally remarry before your current marriage is terminated -- even if you are in the process of divorcing. However, Maryland recognizes two types of divorce, which may complicate the issue of what is considered a “final” divorce.

Marriage in Maryland

Maryland law considers marriage to be a civil contract between spouses, and this contract can be dissolved only by a court order. Often, the court’s dissolution will include provisions for child custody, alimony and child support payments, and for the distribution of assets. Once the court has officially dissolved the marriage, which is usually at the end of the divorce case, Maryland law has no restrictions on remarriage.

Absolute Divorce

With an absolute divorce, your marriage is completely dissolved. After the judge enters the divorce decree, both you and your spouse are considered legally single. You are legally free to marry another person, if you wish. However, your divorce decree may contain statements that change your alimony or other settlements if you remarry. If you do not have grounds for absolute divorce, you may file for a limited divorce temporarily, to establish grounds for your absolute divorce.

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Limited Divorce

Maryland recognizes a “limited divorce,” which is similar to a legal separation. A limited divorce does not terminate a marriage, however, so a spouse cannot remarry after a limited divorce order is entered. This may be confusing, since a limited divorce addresses many of the same issues that an absolute divorce addresses -- except the marriage remains legally intact. If you have sexual relations with another person during a limited divorce, it is considered adultery and this could provide grounds for your spouse to file for absolute divorce.

Bigamy

If you knowingly remarry before you have a final, absolute divorce decree, it is considered bigamy, which is a felony criminal charge in Maryland. If you are convicted, your sentence could include jail time of up to nine years.

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What Is a Final Judgment of Divorce?
 

References

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State of Oregon Divorce Decree

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Legal Separation Vs. Divorce in California

Most couples receive no real benefit from a legal separation rather than a divorce. It’s generally only suitable when your relationship has deteriorated to the point where you no longer want to be married but, for personal reasons, divorce is not an option. In California, however, there may be one other advantage. If time is of the essence, you can hasten the divorce process by filing for a legal separation first.

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