Maryland Divorce FAQ’s – Miscellaneous

This is about miscellaneous issues for divorce in Maryland, including residence requirements, grounds for divorce, common law marriage, annulment, legal separation, and any requirement for parent training in Maryland.

This information is from James J. Gross, the DivorceInfo Network Lawyer for Maryland. Click here to visit his firm’s web site.

What are the requirements for residence?

One of the spouses must have lived in Maryland continuously for the twelve months preceding the filing of a complaint for divorce. You may also file a complaint for divorce if the grounds for divorce arose within the state of Maryland, and one of the parties was a resident of Maryland when the divorce was filed. Maryland Code, Family Law Article § 7-101(a); Fletcher v. Fletcher, 95 Md. App. 114, 619 A.2d 561 (Md.App., 1992).

What are the grounds for divorce?

In order to file for a divorce, you must have good reasons for wanting a divorce, which are called grounds. You have to prove these grounds to the court at your divorce trial. You must plead and prove your grounds even if your divorce is uncontested. It used to be that the only grounds for divorce were fault grounds. Now Maryland has adopted no-fault grounds, such as separation for a certain period of time, in addition to the old fault grounds.

In Maryland, the grounds for an Absolute Divorce are:

* A one year voluntary and mutual separation. The parties must live under separate roofs for twelve consecutive months, without cohabitation or sexual relations. The time starts over if you have sexual relations, or live together or even spend one night under the same roof. And we won’t let you perjure yourself on the witness stand. The separation must be mutual and voluntary with the intention of ending the marriage, and there can be no reasonable expectation of reconciliation. A separation that begins as involuntary on the part of one spouse can become voluntary at a later date. A Separation Agreement can corroborate voluntariness if signed before a Complaint For Absolute Divorce is filed.

* A two year involuntary separation. The parties must live under separate roofs for twenty-four consecutive months, without cohabitation or sexual relations. This long waiting period leads to an interesting strategy called the “I Love You Defense”. It goes like this. I don’t really want a divorce, and maybe you will come to your senses in the two or more years, with motions and appeals, that it will take you to get a divorce on grounds of involuntary separation. But if you want to get divorced faster than that, then I will reluctantly agree to a voluntary separation — if the price is right!

* Adultery. Adultery means sexual intercourse with a person other than your spouse. Adultery is grounds for an immediate divorce and no separation is required. You can prove adultery by direct evidence, such as the admission of your spouse and the deposition or affidavit of the paramour. You can also prove adultery by circumstantial evidence indicating opportunity and predisposition. Predisposition means your spouse and another person act romantically. Opportunity means a specific chance to have sex with that person. So circumstantial evidence could be the testimony of a private detective that he saw your spouse holding hands with another person and watched them enter a hotel for a period of time.

* Desertion for a year. Desertion can be either actual or constructive. Actual desertion is when your spouse leaves the marital home without legal justification and ends cohabitation or sexual relations. The desertion must be for at least twelve months, be the deliberate and final act of the deserting party, and there must be no reasonable expectation of a reconciliation. Constructive desertion means that the behavior of your spouse is so harmful to your physical or mental well-being, that you are forced to leave. Again, the constructive separation must be for twelve months, without cohabitation or sexual relations, and no reasonable expectation of a reconciliation. This is harder to prove because the judge always wants to know why didn’t you leave sooner. In other words, what happened on the day you left that made you leave at that particular time?

* Insanity. This requires that your spouse be confined in a mental institution for at least three years, and the testimony of two psychiatrists that the insanity is incurable and there is no hope for recovery.

* Imprisonment. This requires that your spouse be in jail for one year under a sentence of three or more years.

* Cruelty or excessively vicious conduct. There is no waiting period for this ground. There must be no reasonable expectation of reconciliation. But this ground requires a pattern of conduct and one incident is usually not enough, unless it was especially violent and your spouse intended to harm you. It is also hard to corroborate because often there are no witnesses besides the parties to domestic violence. Be sure you have your corroborating evidence. You do not want to get all the way through your trial and have the judge tell you that you have not made your case. It happens. Maryland Code, Family Law Article § 7-103.

Is there such a thing as common law marriage?

Maryland does not recognize common law marriages, unless they were established under the laws of another jurisdiction.

How does annulment work?

Annulments are granted by the court only in certain rare cases. The legal effect is to void a marriage from the very beginning–as if the parties had never married. A divorce says this marriage is ended. An annulment says this marriage never existed. Annulments are rarely granted and usually there has to be some kind of serious fraud involved. So you are better off in most cases getting a divorce.

Religious annulments are easier to obtain, and you may request one even after you have a legal divorce from the court. You may want to get your spouse’s agreement to cooperate in a religious annulment or divorce, but it is sometimes possible to obtain one even over your spouse’s objection.

Is there such a thing as legal separation? If so, how does it work?

Maryland has a procedure called Limited Divorce, which is a form of legal separation in Maryland. The grounds for a limited divorce are different than the grounds required for an absolute divorce, and they are as follows:

* Voluntary Separation. Without reasonable expectation of reconciliation. (No Minimum Duration).

* Desertion. (No Minimum Duration.)

* Cruelty.

* Excessively Vicious Conduct. Maryland Code, Family Law Article § 7-102.

You would file for a Limited Divorce when you need the court to establish support or visitation, but you do not yet have grounds for an Absolute Divorce.

Do parents of minor children have to go through parent training? If so, how much does it cost, and how long does it take?

This varies from county to county. For example, Montgomery County requires parenting classes if custody of minor children is in dispute. There is no charge for these classes. They take place in two evening classes of two hours each. Check with the clerk’s office in your county for details.

Other issues in Maryland: