There are two types of divorces in Maryland:
- Limited Divorce - A limited divorce is a legal action that allows the parties to have some important issues resolved, but does not end the marriage. People file for limited divorce when they have child-related issues, financial matters, or other issues that need to be addressed before the parties are eligible to file for an absolute divorce.
- Absolute Divorce - An absolute divorce fully dissolves the marriage and usually resolves all related issues, including property. After an absolute divorce is finalized, the parties may remarry.
When a party can file for an absolute divorce depends on which ground for divorce they can meet. See Paragraph 15 of the Complaint for Absolute Divorce form (CC-DR-020) for more information about grounds for divorce.
Filing for Divorce in Maryland
There are a number of steps that must occur before a divorce is granted. See the People's Law Library for more information. Divorce can be complex and you may have a lot at stake if custody is an issue, or if property, retirement assets, or alimony needs to be resolved. Consider having a lawyer represent you.
CAUTION. The following provides a basic overview of divorce. In addition to what is listed there are additional forms, important deadlines, and fees you will deal with along the way. The best way to ensure you get your legal needs met is to speak to or hire a lawyer to help you. If you will be representing yourself, visit the Peoples Law Library, make use the Family Law Self-Help Centers, and review all forms and instructions carefully.
Before the Case Begins
Before filing for a divorce you must decide which ground for divorce applies to your case. A divorce will only be granted if the case meets the conditions required by law. Some grounds for divorce require a period of separation.
There is no such thing as a “legal separation” in Maryland. If you live separate and apart with the intention of ending the relationship, and if you do not have sexual intercourse during that time, that constitutes separation for the purposes of obtaining a divorce on the ground of a 12 month separation. You do not need to file a document with the court or enter into an agreement.
Some couples choose to enter into a SEPARATION OR MARITAL SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT before they file for divorce, or while they are waiting for their divorce to be final. This agreement is a contract between the parties and can govern child custody, child support, spousal support, property use, ownership or distribution of a home, car or personal property, and other issues, during the separation period. Usually, once a couple enters into a written agreement, they will have it “incorporated” into the final divorce decree so it becomes an enforceable court order after the divorce. You can craft an agreement with the help of a mediator, and/or your lawyers. If you enter into an agreement and you do not have a lawyer, consider having it reviewed by a lawyer before you sign it.
Why File for Divorce?
The only way to obtain a legal divorce in Maryland is to obtain it through the courts. In a divorce case, the court can also make other important decisions and establish other rights and obligations including:
- Child custody and access (visitation)
- Child support
- Spousal support (alimony)
- Use and possession of a home, automobile or personal possessions
- Distribution of property
- Distribution of pensions and other assets
For the steps in filing a civil case, including divorce, see the General Instructions form (CC-DRIN)