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Limited vs. Absolute Divorce in Maryland 

If you want to file for divorce in Maryland, there are two options you can choose from – limited divorce and absolute divorce. Both come with advantages and disadvantages. The one you should pursue depends on your circumstances.

You should know which type of divorce is best for you before filing. It is crucial to know the differences between the two and how they will affect your assets, living arrangements, child custody, and other factors. Working with an experienced divorce lawyer can help you learn about both types of divorce and the requirements you must meet to file.

Elements of an Absolute Divorce

In Maryland, an absolute divorce is final. When you’re ready to legally dissolve the marriage and go your separate ways, it’s the type you choose.

An absolute divorce accomplishes various things, such as:

  • Ending the marriage
  • Changing back to a former name if requested
  • Dividing marital assets
  • Allowing a judge to enter an order for alimony if requested
  • Remarrying after finalizing the divorce
  • Assigning child custody and visitation rights
  • Terminating spousal inheritance rights

Grounds to File for an Absolute Divorce

State law requires meeting the conditions of a fault or no-fault divorce when filing for an absolute divorce.

If you choose to pursue a fault-based divorce, you must include one of these grounds as the reason for ending the marriage:

  • Vicious conduct or cruel treatment, including domestic violence
  • Adultery
  • Permanent, incurable insanity, including in-patient treatment for three years or longer
  • Actual desertion, meaning one spouse deliberately leaves home without justification for at least twelve consecutive months, and no reasonable expectation of reconciliation exists
  • Constructive desertion for twelve months or longer, where one spouse’s behavior forces the other to leave
  • Criminal conviction with over a three-year sentence and at least twelve months served already

Pursuing a no-fault divorce means neither you nor your spouse did something significant to cause the other to want to get divorced. Two grounds are available under a no-fault divorce:

  • Mutual consent divorce
  • Separation for at least twelve consecutive months

Elements of a Limited Divorce

A limited divorce allows a couple to separate legally. It isn’t like an absolute divorce because you eventually must file for divorce to dissolve the marriage.

You must choose one of these grounds to file for a limited divorce:

  • Desertion, whether constructive or actual
  • Separation
  • Cruel treatment or vicious conduct

Unlike in an absolute divorce, you may file for a limited divorce at any time. You don’t have to go through a waiting period first. You can file for a limited divorce even if you and your spouse have separated for only one day.

Understanding the Purpose of a Limited Divorce

Many couples don’t understand why anyone would file for a limited divorce when they eventually have to file for an absolute divorce to end the marriage legally. However, a limited divorce provides various benefits.

Some people can’t wait for the twelve-month waiting period to end before filing for an absolute divorce. In cases where domestic violence, adultery, or other scenarios make staying together unbearable, a limited divorce can provide some relief.

The court can also oversee the couple’s separation and make various decisions, such as:

  • Ordering child support
  • Deciding who can use or possess family property temporarily
  • Child custody arrangements
  • Ordering the payment of spousal support or alimony
  • Awarding suit money or attorneys’ fees
  • Entering a child visitation agreement
  • Ordering the maintenance of health insurance coverage

Understanding that a limited divorce doesn’t end the marriage is essential. Even if you go through the court proceedings and file the necessary paperwork, you are still technically married.

Additionally, filing for a limited divorce doesn’t prevent the other spouse from pursuing marital assets. Since Maryland is an equitable distribution state, a couple’s marital property is subject to division following an absolute divorce. 

Contact Us

The McKeon Law Firm has represented clients in Gaithersburg and Bethesda since 2003. We provide quality legal services and personalized attention to everyone who hires us. We believe in using a hands-on approach with every case and creating a unique strategy to try to achieve our client’s goals. You can depend on us to fight for your rights and interests.

If you’re going through a divorce, call us today at (301) 417-9222 or (202) 742-1800 or contact us online for a confidential consultation with a Maryland divorce attorney.

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