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Maryland Divorce Law

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Maryland divorce laws cover all aspects of divorce, including alimony, property distribution, child support and custody. Maryland divorce law is complicated, so if you have questions speak to a local Maryland divorce lawyer about the circumstances surrounding your divorce.

For your convenience, the chart below summarizes a few of the key concepts of Maryland's divorce laws:

Maryland State Laws

  • Fault/No-Fault: Fault
  • Property Distribution: Equitable
  • ADR Available: Yes
  • Parenting Plan Required: No

Maryland Grounds for Divorce

Maryland divorce courts accept both no fault and fault grounds for divorce. Under Maryland divorce law, permanent divorce is called an absolute divorce.

In Maryland divorce there are two kinds of no fault divorce. A couple needs to be mutually and voluntarily separated for more than a year with no hope or expectation of reconciliation for either spouse to file for divorce. According to Maryland divorce law, mutual and voluntary is defined as both parties willing to separate, without coercion or threat, with the intent to end the marriage. Either spouse can also petition for a no fault divorce if the couple has been separated for two years. During the Maryland divorce process, there may be other Maryland divorce waiting periods you and your spouse must follow to ensure reconciliation isn't possible. Couples must also meet the Maryland residency requirement before being able to file for divorce.

Maryland divorce courts accept a number of grounds for fault divorce, including:

  • Adultery
  • Desertion for at least a year
  • Voluntary separation for a year
  • Imprisonment for three years
  • Living separate for two years
  • Insanity if the spouse has been hospitalized for three years
  • Cruel treatment
  • Excessively vicious conduct toward the filing spouse or a minor child of the filing spouse - if there isn't expectation of reconciliation

Maryland Annulment

Depending on the circumstances of the marriage, some couples may be able to have an annulment of the marriage instead of a divorce. In a Maryland annulment, the divorce courts declare that the marriage never existed because it's invalid. State specific laws help determine if a marriage can be void or voidable. A void marriage is one that is always invalid, such as:

  • One spouse was legally incapacitated to agree to the marriage - typically by a mental disease
  • The couple is related to a certain degree
  • One spouse was legally marriage to someone else at the time of the marriage

A voidable marriage is one that is valid until the validity of the marriage is challenged and declared invalid by the court, such as:

  • One spouse was under age
  • The marriage was performed by someone without legal authority to perform it
  • The marriage occurred under fraud, duress or coercion
  • One spouse was impotent at the time of the marriage

An annulment is typically a rare option because there are strict requirement to meet. Maryland divorce law has few statutes governing annulments. One specific law is that a marriage to a relative withing a certain degree is prohibited by law and will be automatically declared void.

Maryland Residency Requirements

To file for divorce in Maryland, one of the spouses must meet the Maryland residency requirement. Maryland divorce law requires either spouse to live in the state for a year if the Maryland grounds for divorce happened outside state boundaries.

If the grounds for divorce occurred within the state, either spouse can file for divorce as long as he or she is a resident. Maryland may have specific standards you must meet to be considered a resident of the state, so speak with a Maryland divorce lawyer to make sure you meet the requirements before filing a divorce petition. The petition can be filed in either county where either spouse lives, but the divorce is typically filed for in the country where the filing spouse lives.

If you are filing for divorce under the grounds of insanity, the residency requirement is two years.

Maryland Divorce Waiting Period

Maryland divorce law requires couples to recognize divorce waiting periods. The designated amounts of time help the Maryland divorce court ensure that reconciliation isn't possible between the couple. Most states have divorce waiting periods that may be before or after filing the divorce petition. Some states may also require a remarriage waiting period for one or both of the spouses.

Maryland divorce courts require a year divorce waiting period before the divorce petition can be filed. During this time, the couple is required to live apart to ensure reconciliation between the couple won't happen. The divorce waiting period may vary, depending on the Maryland grounds for divorce under which a spouse is filing. The couple will also need to meet the Maryland residency requirement before the divorce petition will be accepted into divorce court.

Maryland divorce law doesn't require either spouse recognize a waiting period to remarry. Once the divorce decree is final, either spouse can remarry.

Maryland Property Division

The state of Maryland is an equitable distribution state, which means property distribution is determined by what the Circuit Court considers fair. Under Maryland divorce law property division may not be equal, depending on the circumstances of the divorce.

During Maryland property division, the Maryland divorce court first goes through a discovery process to determine what property and debt is marital. The divorce court then assigns a monetary value to the marital property and debt that is then distributed between the two spouses in an equitable manner. When making property awards, the Maryland divorce court will consider the following factors:

  • Monetary and nonmonetary contributions of each spouse to the well-being of the family
  • Contributions by either spouse that lead to the acquisition of real property
  • How and when marital property or interest in property was acquired, including the effort expended by each party in accumulating the property
  • Value of property interests of each spouse
  • Circumstances contributing to the divorce
  • Length of the marriage
  • Each spouse's age
  • Physical and mental condition of each spouse
  • Any alimony award or other provision the divorce court ordered with respect to family use of personal property or the family home
  • Other relevant factors the divorce court considers necessary or appropriate when making an equitable property division

Maryland Maintenance

Maintenance is also called alimony or spousal support under different state divorce laws. Maryland maintenance is awarded to either spouse at the discretion of the Maryland divorce court. The alimony award may or may not be affected by the Maryland grounds for divorce, especially if it is a fault divorce. The Maryland divorce court considers a variety of factors when determining a fair and equitable award, including:

  • Ability of the spouse seeking Maryland maintenance to be wholly or partly self-supporting
  • Time needed for the spouse seeking alimony to get a sufficient education to find suitable employment
  • Standard of living the couple established during the marriage
  • Length of the marriage
  • Monetary and nonmonetary contributions of each spouse to the well-being of the family
  • Each spouse's age
  • Physical and mental condition of each spouse
  • Circumstances surrounding the divorce
  • Any prenuptial agreement or postnuptial agreement between the couple
  • Ability of the spouse paying the alimony to meet both spouse's needs
  • Financial needs and resources of each spouse

Maryland divorce courts can specify the time for which the Maryland maintenance award is valid. It may be possible to extend or modify the alimony award if there has been a substantial change in circumstances. Under Maryland divorce law, alimony awards are terminated when:

  • One of the spouse's die
  • Spouse receiving alimony remarries
  • Divorce court determines termination is necessary to avoid harsh and inequitable treatment

Maryland Child Custody

Generally divorce courts prefer to assign joint child custody so the child can continue to have a relationship with both parents. Depending on the circumstances of the divorce, this is not always possible. Before granting a divorce, the Maryland divorce court may require all parties involved to take an educational seminar on child custody, child visitation and child support. The Maryland divorce court determines child custody by considering many factors, such as:

  • Best interest of the child
  • Whether the child has been subject to abuse and neglect
  • Whether the parent has been found guilty of murdering certain people
  • The child's preference- a child who is 16 or older may petition to change custody

Maryland divorce courts may combine different types of child custody to benefit the child and relationships with each parent. Visitation rights for grandparents are also determined by what's in the best interest of the child. If grandparent petitions for child visitation rights, Maryland divorce courts may grant visitation, depending on the circumstances of the divorce.

Maryland Child Support

Similar to determining Maryland child support, the Maryland divorce court may require all parties to take an educational seminar on child custody, child visitation and child support before making a child support order or granting divorce. When making a Maryland child support order, Maryland divorce courts have specific charts and guidelines provided in the state's statutes. Child support can be adjusted if the divorce court finds that the circumstances surrounding the divorce warrant an adjustment. The Maryland divorce court may adjust the child support order under the following circumstances:

  • The terms of any marital settlement agreement between parents, including any provision for payments of marital debts, mortgage, college child support, the right to occupy the family home and other financial terms, and
  • The presence in the household of either parent of other children that the parent supports. The family home may be awarded to the parent who has custody of a child to enable the child to continue to live in the environment and community that is familiar to him or her

When deciding Maryland child support, the divorce courts use the percentage of income formula that determines the amount of child support as a percentage of the income of the parent obligated to pay the child support. It is possible to modify child support if there is a material change in circumstances.

Maryland Child Support Enforcement

Child support enforcement in Maryland helps the state make sure that children are provided for by both parents. Unpaid child support is a serious problem that state child support enforcement agencies are working hard to fight. Parents who fail to pay child support may face a variety of penalties, including:

  • Interception of federal and state tax refunds
  • Denial of passports
  • Suspension of driver's and professional licenses
  • Garnishment of wages
  • Being reported to credit bureaus
  • Liens placed on real and personal property
  • Being held in contempt of court

State laws outline how Maryland child support is determined.

The information provided is for illustration purposes only and is not legal advice. If you would like more information about divorce law or your options in filing for divorce, connect with a Maryland divorce lawyer in your area by calling 877-349-1310 or filling out the divorce case review form below.

Case Evaluation

The above synopsis of Maryland divorce laws is by no means all-inclusive and has been adapted from applicable state laws. These laws may have changed since our last update and there may be additional laws that apply in your situation. For the latest information on these divorce laws, please contact a local Maryland divorce lawyer in your area.

This "Maryland Divorce Laws" page was last updated April 2009.

Note: Keep in mind that all divorce laws are complex. If you need legal divorce advice or want to fully understand how these laws affect you, please speak with a local divorce attorney.