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How are absolute and limited divorce different in Maryland?

When one is choosing to end a marriage, there are always many difficult and painful decisions that must be made. Being well-informed of the legal options for how to proceed through a divorce can give clarity to the situation and help keep the process from becoming overwhelming. The state of Maryland offers both limited and absolute divorce, depending on the needs of the parties and the available grounds for divorce. A clearer understanding of the difference between these two options can help those seeking a divorce to decide which to pursue.

In the state of Maryland, a limited divorce is the legal separation of a couple as overseen by a court. This option is primarily intended for couples who do not yet have legal grounds to pursue an absolute divorce but are financially vulnerable and incapable of resolving their grievances in a private setting. In this scenario, a court will seek to determine if one or both parties are at fault and make judgments regarding issues such as property division, child custody and support, and insurance coverage. While in a limited divorce, the parties continue to be legally married, cannot seek to remarry and any sexual relations outside of the marriage are considered adultery (which is immediate grounds for absolute divorce). Limited divorce is generally not sought if there is no need for spousal support for either party and no property to divide.

An absolute divorce is more straightforward. Immediately upon the judgment being entered, the marriage is completely dissolved, both parties are free to remarry, and sexual relations outside of the marriage are no longer considered adultery. Generally, if there is any property that is owned jointly by both parties, each party is automatically awarded one-half ownership of it.

A divorce can be one of the most difficult things to experience. An experienced divorce attorney can provide professional guidance to protect one's rights and interests on the way to beginning a new life.

Source: Maryland Commission for Women, "Legal Rights in Marriage & Divorce in Maryland," accessed June 14, 2016

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