It is common for one to be unaware that there are two types of divorce in Maryland. An absolute divorce is typically what one thinks of when thinking of a “divorce.” See February 28, 2010 Blog . On the other hand, a limited divorce merely legalizes a separation. A limited divorce is generally sought when the parties do not have grounds for an absolute divorce yet and are unable to come up with a settlement agreement, but a party is in need of financial relief or child custody and access needs to be established.
Under Maryland law, the Judge may grant a limited divorce on grounds of: “(1) cruelty of treatment of the filing party or of a minor child of the filing party, (2) excessively vicious conduct to the filing party or to a minor child of the filing party; (3) desertion (actual or constructive); or (4) voluntary separation, if the parties are living separate and apart without cohabitation and there is no reasonable expectation of reconciliation.” Maryland Code, Family Law § 7-102 . In contrast to an absolute divorce, there is no time period that the parties need to be living separate and apart in order for the judge to grant a limited divorce on the grounds of voluntary separation.
Unlike an absolute divorce, a limited divorce does not sever the marital bonds. Therefore, the parties are not entitled to remarry. Judges will often grant a limited divorce to a couple seeking an absolute divorce if they find that there is insufficient evidence to amount to an absolute divorce, but sufficient grounds for a limited divorce. There are few advantages to filing for a limited divorce. It can be a way to get a spouse out of the house without a waiting period, or for a spouse to leave the house without risking a claim of desertion. Additionally, a couple may want to keep their marital status for religious or economic reasons, such as health benefits or tax purposes. It also serves as a method of documenting the start date of the parties’ separation period, if needed for an absolute divorce.
If you are unsure about which type of divorce to pursue, an experienced family law attorney will be able to assist you in deciding which is your best option. For more information, please contact us for a consultation.