Absolute and Limited Divorce in Maryland: What’s the Difference?

What? There are two kinds of divorce in Maryland? While it might be hard to fathom, it is true. Knowing the difference between the two types and what each of them requires can be a critical step for anyone considering divorce.

Depending on your particular circumstances, it could mean the difference between a dissolution wracked by messy, bitter conflict and one that gets resolved smoothly by anticipating possible pitfalls and negotiating mutually agreeable terms.

To get a clear view of how divorce in Maryland is approached it helps to start with what’s on the books. And perhaps the easiest source of information to tap in this regard is The People’s Law Library of Maryland, maintained by the Maryland Judiciary.

As information on this site explains, the two types of divorce possible in The Old Line State are absolute and limited. The first is probably the one that people are most familiar with. It is the process by which a court issues a divorce decree to formally dissolve a marriage. Grounds for such actions include but aren’t necessarily limited to adultery, spousal desertion and abuse of a spouse or child.

An absolute divorce can also be sought if a couple completely separates for an uninterrupted term of one year. They can’t even engage in sexual relations with each other.

Interestingly, the same prohibition against sexual relations exists in a limited divorce. Sometimes referred to as a legal separation, this process involves a couple going through a court-supervised period of separation. The parties remain legally married during this time but live apart. Because they’re still married, neither party can remarry and if either has sexual relations with someone else during the oversight period, it is considered an act of adultery.

As with an absolute divorce, terms of possible spousal support, child custody and health insurance coverage may be negotiated. Those are steps typically best handled with the help of an attorney to ensure that everyone’s rights and best interests are protected. If a limited divorce is sought and granted, the court can make it permanent. But it can also be revoked at the request of both parties.

Perhaps the key thing to keep in mind is that in the eyes of the law, marriage is a contract situation. As such, disputes stemming from the contract can be pursued in the courts.

Source: clarionledger.com, “NYT: Divorce rate has been declining since 90s” Sam R. Hall, Dec. 02, 2014