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