If you and your spouse have decided that it is time the two of you separate despite the fact that you are legally married, you do have the option of separating from one another until you decide to move forward with the actual divorce process. During this time, you do not need to file any paperwork to retain a legal separation as this does not exist in the state of Maryland. A couple is considered to be separated in you live apart, share the same intent of ending the relationship, and do not have sexual intercourse during this time. However, the manner in which the separation takes place can have a significant impact on several divorce issues, including custody of minor children, so it is recommended to get legal advice from experienced attorneys before planning to move out of the marital home.
Although there isn’t any paperwork that must be filled out and filed to separate from your spouse, the Maryland Courts say that “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.”
Individuals who are fortunate enough to enter into this type of agreement will incorporate the agreement into one type of divorce related order or another so that it is enforceable once it is finalized, which can be long before the divorce becomes a final, absolute divorce. It is highly recommended that you have one of our divorce lawyers in Rockville, MD review it for, thoroughness, clarity and accuracy before you agree to it and sign it. Realistically, you should obtain legal advice from an attorney before having any conversation with your spouse about the subject matter to be included in a marital settlement agreement.
Aside from understanding that you don’t have to file anything to separate from your spouse, you should know that the time spent away from one another can be used to meet one of the grounds necessary for you to actually file for divorce when that time comes. In order to file for an absolute divorce, which means your marriage will be fully dissolved and all issues will be addressed by the court, you must meet one of the following grounds before your divorce is processed and finalized. These grounds include:
- You and your spouse have been separated for a period of at least 12 months.
- Your spouse committed adultery.
- Your spouse abandoned you and deserted you.
- You chose to leave your spouse because of his/her behavior or the cruel and vicious treatment they displayed toward you.
- Your spouse was convicted of a felony or misdemeanor.
- Your spouse displayed cruel or excessively vicious conduct toward your minor children.
- Your spouse was confined to a mental institution, hospital, or other similar institution and has been confined for a period of at least three years before the date of filing for the absolute divorce.
- You and your spouse have mutually agreed to the divorce and do not have minor children together.
You can view a detailed list of what these grounds are by clicking here.
In addition, Maryland has a procedure for a limited divorce. Generally, the one year period of separation hasn’t run at the time of the hearing in the infrequent occasion that one of the spouses pursues a limited divorce. The parties remain husband and wife after the entry of a limited divorce decree and marital property continues to be an issue. However, the court can address custody, child support, alimony and use and possession of the marital home in a limited divorce.
As there are certain requirements that must be met in order for a divorce to be finalized, including the presentation of evidence and witnesses, it is always a good idea to hire a divorce lawyer who is experienced and can help you along with the process. Therefore, if you considering filing or have some questions that are in need of being answered, don’t hesitate to contact Barkley & Kennedy to speak with one of our knowledgeable divorce attorneys in Rockville, MD today.
You can reach Barkley & Kennedy at:
51 Monroe Street, #1407
Rockville, MD 20850