What are the grounds for divorce in Maryland?

Zide Law Group

What are the grounds for divorce in Maryland?

One must first establish grounds for divorce in order to achieve an absolute divorce. In the state of Maryland, you cannot simply point out irreconcilable differences and try to break a marriage that way. Instead, you must have grounds, which are legitimate reasons to end the marriage. Seven distinct grounds are available. When it comes to merely ending a marriage, it makes no difference whose grounds are invoked. One ground is just as excellent as another for that purpose.

However, the judge will frequently take into account who is to blame for the divorce when making decisions regarding other aspects, such as whether to grant alimony or divide the marital estate. Certain grounds (known as fault-based grounds) may, in these circumstances, be more advantageous to one party than another. Twelve-month separation and mutual consent are no-fault grounds for divorce, which will be covered in this article's first two sections. The remainder depend on faults.

Twelve-Month Separation

To qualify for an absolute divorce by a twelve-month separation, both parties must have lived separate and apart for one year. That's all that it requires. It is very important, however, that one year apart remains continuous and uninterrupted. A single night of cohabitation can undo months of separation and force the parties to start all over again. "Cohabitation" does not necessarily mean sexual relations, either. Spending the night in the same house may have the same effect, even if the parties sleep in different beds. In a perfect world, a twelve-month separation can be as simple as one party moving out, and then the parties filing for divorce a year later. When things are less than perfect, however, a court's involvement might be necessary. In that case, you can file for limited divorce for the court to help establish some sort of spousal support or property distribution for the year.

Mutual Consent

This is by far the simplest no-fault basis for divorce. According to the idea of mutual consent, parties might simply decide to have a divorce without having to wait the required year. But there are several prerequisites that must be satisfied beforehand. A settlement agreement that addresses all pertinent matters, including as retirement, alimony, and property, must have been signed by both parties. Additionally, the parties cannot be related through minor children (NOTE: this is actually subject to change; as of October 1, 2018, minor children will no longer be a bar to mutual consent). It is important to make sure that the separation agreement is done correctly, as it will likely be merged or incorporated into the final judgment of absolute divorce. In other words, the agreement itself will become legally enforceable.


Divorce can be justified by infidelity, but it is not always as straightforward as one might assume. One must be able to prove the opportunity and disposition aspects of adultery in order to proceed with an adultery claim. An opportunity is a series of conditions that makes adultery possible. For instance, there might be proof that your spouse checked into a hotel room late at night with a different person and didn't check out until the next morning. The cheating spouse's disposition is their mental state at the time. You would need proof, such as public demonstrations of affection between your spouse and their paramour, to show that your spouse had the desire to commit adultery in order to prove disposition. Proving adultery can be hard, especially in a same-sex marriage.

Cruelty of Treatment

Also known as excessively vicious conduct. This is another ground that can be difficult to prove. Simple rudeness is not sufficient. Proving to a judge that your spouse was mean to you or called you names, even if they shouted at you, will not quality for cruelty of treatment. You will need to prove that your spouse's conduct put you (or your child) in unsafe conditions, either physical or emotional. Emotional abuse giving rise to excessively vicious conduct often requires a pattern of behavior, such as an attempt to cause permanent emotional harm.


Desertion is extremely similar to the 12-month separation in that it doesn't take effect until after the parties have been separated for a full year. However, unlike the 12-month separation, which is a no-fault basis for divorce, desertion is the fault of one side. One of two methods—actual desertion or creative desertion—can be used to accomplish this. When one partner leaves the other with the intention of dissolving the marriage but without the other partner's consent, it is what is meant by "actual desertion." Many of the same criteria must be met for constructive desertion, but this time, the offending person would be held accountable. If remaining in your home would subject you or your child to physical or emotional abuse, and you were forced to leave to protect yourself, that would be considered constructive desertion. Like actual desertion, constructive desertion must last for one full year.


A divorce can also be granted on the basis of insanity, however this is uncommon. Two psychiatrists must have diagnosed your spouse as mad, and they must have spent at least three years in a hospital or mental institution. If your spouse lacks the mental capacity to stand trial, you might also need to ask the court to name a guardian for them. Keep in mind that you can apply for divorce using your year of living apart as grounds after that.


If your spouse has already served one year in jail as of the filing date and has been convicted of a felony for which they have been given a sentence of three years or more in prison, you may also be granted a divorce on this basis.

The parties must have "grounds for divorce" in order to proceed with an absolute divorce. Mutual consent, a separation of twelve months, adultery, desertion, cruelty or treatment, incarceration, and insanity are among the reasons for divorce. In a subsequent blog post, these will be covered in further detail. The twelve-month difference, however, is significant for the matter at hand. The parties must live apart for an entire year if none of the other grounds are present.

This is a basic method that many individuals can follow. Before a year has elapsed and both parties are prepared to move on with an absolute divorce, nothing needs to be filed with the court. But for some, it's not as simple. A year is a lengthy period of time, and it is frequently challenging for one party to maintain oneself at that time. The parties may differ throughout that year on child custody, child support, or who gets to live in the marital residence. The court will need to intervene earlier than usual in circumstances like this. If the parties need financial assistance or are otherwise unable to settle their disputes privately but do not yet have legal grounds for an absolute divorce, then limited divorce is an appropriate remedy. A limited divorce can establish child support and custody, spousal support (also known as alimony), and use and possession of property such as the marital home.

To ensure you are properly prepared for your divorce, contact us for your consult today!

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