Can I Live With My Spouse While I File for Divorce in Maryland?

The short answer is yes, but it’s a bit complicated. While Maryland does recognize no-fault divorce, you are not permitted to live in the same residence as your spouse while you are waiting for your no-fault divorce to become final. The law requires a 12-month separation for a no-fault divorce in Maryland. In extraordinary circumstances, you do, however, have other options if there moving out is just not an option given your particular circumstances.

Filing for absolute or limited divorce on fault grounds

separation agreement

While you can’t live under the same roof if you are filing for a no-fault divorce, Ricketts V. Ricketts set a precedent allowing for a divorcing couple to live in the same residence. You must live in different parts of the house, not share a bed or have marital relations if you file under the fault grounds of adultery, excessive cruelty or “constructive desertion.” By part of its definition, constructive desertion means that one party is refusing to have sexual relations with the other. If this is case, then there is no worry about violating the law that says there can be no marital relations. Note, however, that the burden of proof is on the person claiming the “fault” and it is not unusual for one spouse to contradict the other. Since this is not the kind of situation where there is a witness, proof can be difficult. If you successfully prove a fault ground for divorcee, under these circumstances the divorcing couple may remain in the same house until the divorce is final. During the one year waiting period the two will effectively be living separate lives under the same roof.

How is custody, spousal support and property division handled if both parties are living in the same household?

Here is where it gets complicated. The Maryland Court does not have jurisdiction to rule on which parent gets physical custody, who will have visitation, whether alimony will be awarded while the spouses are in the same house. While theoretically a court could make a decision on marital assets while the spouses are living in the same house it is not likely given the inter-relationships between the various financial issues. One party must move out before this part of the divorce process can continue.

As you can see, given that each situation is different and complicated, you should seek the advice of a Maryland divorce attorney. Divorce is a complicated process, and the decisions you make now will have a lasting impact on your future.

At Cynthia H. Clark & Associates, LLC, we offer individualized attention to our clients’ specific needs. Contact us today and schedule a consultation to discuss your case.

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

Maryland Separation Agreements

Divorce does not always have to be difficult. Indeed, the bitterness and disagreements that are commonly associated with a divorce can be mitigated through a negotiated legal separation agreement. We assist clients in easing their divorce tensions through such mediated agreements.

One of the biggest issues of a divorce relates to property disputes. For example, if the dispute involves business assets, the value of those assets has to be determined prior to them being divided. These issues can be complex because different business appraisal experts can have a different idea about how much a particular business is worth. This is where experienced legal counsel is key to protecting one’s rights.

Our law firm specializes in the discovery and proper disclosure of marital assets of all varieties. We handle appraisals for real and personal property. Business valuations are also a common area that we handle when it comes to legal separation agreements.

Maryland spouses are always encouraged to utilize mediation services when possible because it can help them resolve divorce disputes through mutual agreement. By avoiding litigation proceedings through a mediated separation agreement, divorces are usually faster, less costly and less emotionally taxing.

Indeed, when a well-organized separation agreement can be drafted, it can be a boon to both sides of a Maryland marriage, while helping them honor their time and history together in the most peaceful fashion possible. Ultimately, every divorce must be handled on a case-by-case basis, but a mediated divorce agreement can further help prevent many of the pitfalls that can occur after a divorce. Our webpages on separation agreements and divorce can provide more information.

Court: Legal Separation Not Compromised by Phone Sex

Maryland couples who are interested in pursuing a divorce should know that the state requires a year-long period of living apart before a marital dissolution can be granted. Legal separation for 12 months means that the couple must live separately for an entire year. Couples are prohibited from cohabiting or having sexual relations with each other during this period.

A recent challenge to this rule has determined, however, that phone sex does not count as official sexual relations. That is, couples can engage in “sexually explicit telecommunications” without having to restart the 12-month waiting period. The decision was handed down by an appeals court on April 30.

The couple in this case had been living apart for a full 12 months, and they had not had physical relations during that time. However, they had phone sex one time during that period. A lower court decided that the divorce case should be thrown out because phone conversation constituted “sexual relations,” even though it was not officially sexual intercourse.

This decision may have significant implications for other couples who engage in explicit communication about sex. Now, electronic communications are not considered official cohabitation, so divorce cases may not be dismissed on that basis alone. The Maryland judges reportedly based this decision on other cases from North Carolina and Louisiana. Courts in those states had determined that phone conversations could not officially be considered adultery.

Maryland does have specific laws related to legal separation before a divorce can be granted. Couples who are concerned about complying with these regulations may benefit from a consultation with a family attorney. These professionals may provide additional information about legal separation requirements in Maryland courts, ensuring that spouses are prepared to pursue a divorce when the waiting period is over.

Source: The Baltimore Sun, “Phone sex is not really sex, Maryland court rules in divorce case” Ian Duncan, Apr. 30, 2014

May My Spouse and I “separate” in The Same House in Maryland

Legal Separation:  Maryland law requires spouses to live separate and apart from one another continuously for twelve months.  Co-habitation within the same house does not constitute a “separation” under the Maryland family law code.

As always, you should confer with your Annapolis, Maryland family law attorney about details.

Posted by Cynthia Clark, Esquire

What’s on Your Mind Wednesdays

Each week Cynthia Clark  will be featuring a question of the week.regarding some issue in Maryland family law that we frequently get asked in our law practice.  Check in with us weekly amd see if we answer one of the questions you’ve wanted to know about custody, alimony, divorce and child support.  Feel free to post a question on our comments section and we may feature your question.  in our What’s On Your Mind Wednesday blog.

‘Teen Mom’ Star Pursues Legal Separation From Husband

Scores of Maryland residents are familiar with the “Teen Mom” show on MTV. Although this show deals with a variety of parenting and family law concerns, legal separation is not always at the forefront of the cast’s issues. However, one of the stars of the show has decided to pursue legal separation after being married to her husband for just two months. The star, Jenelle Evans, reportedly is trying to distance herself from her spouse in order to avoid involvement in his legal problems. The husband, Courtland Rogers, has had some legal issues with drugs.

Evans said her mother and other relatives were shocked that she was thinking about pursuing a divorce from her current husband. Now, the young woman is not only planning to divorce her first husband, but she is also considering marrying another young man. Relatives speculate that Evans is considering the remarriage so quickly because she thinks a stable home life would help her receive full custody of her child. That little boy is currently living with Evans’ mother, according to news reports.

Evans has been active on social media, explaining her excitement about the impending divorce. The young woman and her new beau are reportedly expecting a child. Celebrity news sources indicate that Evans’ first marriage was conducted in secret; the second set of nuptials are likely to be more heavily publicized.

Legal separation can be an important first step toward divorce. Couples who want to learn more about the differences between Maryland divorce and legal separation may benefit from a family law attorney’s advice. These professionals may be able to provide additional information to help couples who are experiencing a wide variety of life changes.

Source: Examiner, “‘Teen Mom’ star Jenelle Evans pushing for divorce from Courtland” No author given, Feb. 18, 2014

Reasons to Avoid Separation and Plunge Into Divorce

Maryland couples who are considering divorce may have instead settled on a temporary separation agreement before they take the plunge. A growing body of evidence shows, however, that a legal separation can be even more destructive than a quick divorce. Even though short-term separations that last a couple months might be beneficial, the longer stints – those lasting years – can take its toll on spouse’s pocketbooks and emotions. Consider some reasons for simply giving in to the divorce instead of holding on during years of legal separation.

First, those who are legally separated will have a hard time avoiding bitterness since their spouse can manage marital assets according to their own preferences. Living separately can limit both spouses’ ability to monitor financial moves such as investing, selling property or even buying big-ticket items. In addition, if you live in a community property state, your spouse could be accumulating debt that will contribute to your financial load. Even in equitable distribution states, you could be responsible if your spouse is making purchases through joint credit cards.

A long-term separation provides a ripe opportunity for the financially advantaged spouse to begin hiding assets. Even though you may not be rushing to legally end your marriage for other reasons, your spouse could be taking the time to ferret away holdings that might be overlooked during divorce discovery. Long separations make it less likely that the non-moneyed spouse will notice financial dishonesty. Additionally, if your spouse’s financial situation changes during your separation – he or she takes a different job, for instance – you could be entitled to far less settlement money. The amount of child and spousal support to which you are entitled could drop dramatically under those circumstances.

Even though a long-term separation may seem to make sense for you, consider the drawbacks of this choice. Qualified divorce and family attorneys can help separated couples learn more about their legal rights and responsibilities.

Source: www.forbes.com, “Putting off divorce? Ten ways long-term separations can do women more harm than good” Jeff Landers, Oct. 03, 2013

Emotional Healing from Legal Separation

If you are in the midst of a Maryland divorce or negotiating a separation agreement, be cautious. Experts in the field say separation is difficult enough, but you need to look out for the fraudulent advice that can cause even more strife in your already stressful situation. Even though you may wish that there was some kind of magic antidote to the discomfort you feel from your legal separation, healing from such an event simply takes time.

Divorce and separation increase your vulnerability to unnecessary tools and dubious support mechanisms that may not actually help you avoid bitterness in the long run. Remember that affirmations and therapeutic exercises are immediately beneficial because they can help you focus your mental energy, but they are not all-curing salvos for the long road ahead.

In fact, you probably feel like you would be willing to pay any amount of money to anyone even remotely trustworthy who could help alleviate your emotional suffering. Everyone going through a divorce experiences this particular feeling, but it is critical to remember that divorce recovery is certain to be slow going. Everyone’s recovery time is different, but it is unlikely that you will resolve your concerns about your divorce in even an intensive weekend. As you continue through your legal separation, remember a few critical tenets that will help you remain focused.

First, if you are experiencing emotional pain during your divorce, it only indicates growth. If you are strong enough to get through an uncomfortable experience rather than avoiding it, you are sure to build confidence that you need to continue through the process with fewer emotional injuries. Second, remember that there is no defined finish line. You will not wake up one day and suddenly be healed. Recovering from divorce is a continuing process that resists deadlines. Your individual recovery will take time, but be reassured that you will emerge as a more resilient person.

Source: www.huffingtonpost.com, “Get out of the race and on the roller coaster to divorce recovery” Andra Brosh, Aug. 20, 2013

Achieve Independence through Legal Separation

If you are suffering needlessly through a difficult marriage, you may be considering drafting a separation agreement. Even though Independence Day has passed, you could still enjoy the freedom associated with seeking legal separation from your current spouse. Today, we bring you several clues you might be in need of a permanent break from your husband or wife.

First, you might need to separate from your partner if obsessive thoughts about your relationship begin to dominate your thoughts. If you find yourself unable to focus at work, missing out on your friendships or fundamentally not enjoying life, you could be due for a breakup. If your relationship is causing you that much stress, you could need a breather. In addition, if you have feelings for someone else, you should definitely consider terminating your relationship. Managing a single relationship is difficult enough; you cannot be expected to share your time and energy with two serious partners.

If your partner has cheated on you a number of times, it may be time to declare independence from your current relationship. Serial infidelity is a major red flag. Everyone deserves more respect and better treatment than that afforded by cheaters. Similarly, if you find yourself losing your identity because you are adopting all of your partner’s decisions, you may need to get out of the relationship. If you are eating at vegan restaurants that you hate or attending a variety of social events that are unpleasant simply for your partner, you could need to check the relationship’s progress.

Your relationships should enhance your life. If you think you are being made more miserable by your current partnership, consider seeking a legal separation. Your qualified family attorney can help you learn more about your legal and financial options, explaining both divorce and legal separation. Do not suffer through a dissatisfying relationship alone; instead, consult an experienced lawyer to help you through the breakup.

Source: www.huffingtonpost.com, “Five reasons you may need Independence this 4th of July” Angela Lutin, Jul. 03, 2013