What are the grounds for divorce in Maryland?
The reason that you are entitled to a divorce in Maryland is called the “grounds.” Maryland has “no-fault” and “fault” grounds for divorce.
The no-fault grounds in Maryland are:
Separation for one year
The fault grounds for divorce in Maryland include:
Separation for One Year:
To get a divorce based on a one-year separation the parties must have separated with the intention of ending their marriage. You no longer have to prove the separation was mutual and voluntary.
Permits spouses to obtain a divorce, without a waiting period, so long as the parties do not have any minor children in common, and they enter into a separation agreement that resolves all issues arising out of the marriage including alimony, monetary award, and transfer and/or use of property. They must attest that neither party will ask the Court to set the agreement aside and both parties must also appear at the uncontested divorce hearing.
To obtain a divorce based on desertion (or abandonment) a person must prove that the parties have been living apart for one year and that the other spouse moved out with the intention of ending the marriage and without justification. While this ground for divorce was not repealed, it is unlikely that people will pursue this as a ground for divorce as a one-year separation will suffice.
To obtain a divorce based on constructive desertion, a person must prove that in order to preserve his or her health, safety or self-respect he or she had to move out due to the treatment of the other spouse and that the parties have been living separate and apart for one year. While this ground for divorce was not repealed, it is unlikely that people will pursue this as a ground for divorce as a one-year separation will suffice.
Cruelty encompasses mental as well as physical abuse. Verbal and physical abuse may have been tolerated in another era, but today evidence of controlling behavior, isolation from friends or family, taunting, violence and threats of violence, or other misconduct which is calculated to seriously impair the health or permanently destroy the happiness of the other spouse, will justify an absolute divorce on grounds of cruelty or excessively vicious conduct.
Maryland courts recognize that it is rarely possible to prove adultery through the testimony of eyewitnesses. But there is no need to catch a philandering spouse in the act. A spouse can prove adultery through circumstantial evidence, by showing that (1) the alleged adulterer and his or her paramour were inclined to commit adultery, and (2) they had an opportunity to do so.
What do I have to do to get a divorce in Maryland?
The circuit courts have jurisdiction to hear divorce cases. The circuit court with jurisdiction for your case is the circuit court in the county where you live or the circuit court in the county where your spouse lives. When you file the relevant papers, you must have stated your ground. If not state correctly, your spouse could file a motion to dismiss your case.
After you file your request for a divorce (a Complaint) you serve your spouse (deliver a Summons and the Complaint in person by a Sheriff or process server or by Certified Mail), your spouse has 30 days (if your spouse lives in Maryland), 60 days (if your spouse lives outside of Maryland, but in the United States), or 90 days (if your spouse lives outside the United States) to respond. If your spouse fails to respond, the court will proceed with the divorce so long as service has been completed correctly. Whether or not your spouse responds, you will have to appear before the court (in almost all cases the hearing will be before a Family Law Magistrate) in a hearing scheduled by the clerk. After your corroborative witness testifies and you have presented other evidence, and if your spouse answers or shows up, then your spouse will also have a chance to do the same. At the end of the hearing, the court (in most cases it will be a Magistrate who makes a recommendation to the court) will decide to grant a divorce and a resolution of marital issues.
Although you can proceed without an attorney (called Pro Se or unrepresented), you may waive or fail to preserve important rights or fail to get your divorce if you do so. If there are issues of property, alimony or child support and custody you should definitely seek an experienced family law attorney.