Despite many legal reforms in recent years, many people are still under the mistaken impression that they must have grounds for seeking a divorce in Maryland. While it is true that fault-based divorces do still occur, they are much rarer than they used to be.
In general, it is more common for spouses to agree to no-fault divorces, where neither spouse is held legally responsible for the dissolution of the marriage. In a no-fault divorce, spouses focus more on the consequences of divorce — how to split assets and divide parental rights and responsibilities — instead of focusing on why they must divorce.
However, there are still situations in which you may need to consider a fault-based divorce in Maryland.
A fault-based divorce can help enforce a prenuptial agreement
Couples considering marriage, especially second or third marriages, may want to execute prenuptial agreements before legally becoming a married couple. Similarly, couples who choose to get married despite a history of infidelity may also seek the protections of a prenuptial agreement.
Including penalty clauses for infidelity are a common way to deter one spouse from straying in a marriage. However, they can become difficult to enforce, especially if your spouse denies wrongdoing.
Pursuing a fault-based divorce on the grounds of infidelity is one way to legally establish an affair and enforce your right to compensation through a penalty clause in a prenuptial agreement.
Once the courts review evidence of an affair, they can then make a ruling that will impact how they divide your assets, based solely on the prenuptial agreement. If you do not have a prenuptial agreement, the courts will not consider marital wrongdoing in the division of your marital estate.
Expect a more contentious process in a fault-based divorce
The truth is that you have the right to divorce your spouse whether or not they agree that a divorce is necessary. No one can compel you to remain in a marriage that you don’t want to be part of anymore.
Given that you have the right to pursue a divorce regardless of the situation, it may not be worthwhile to use a fault-based divorce in your case. Typically, proceedings last much longer, as you must convince the courts of fault. That can make the entire process more expensive, to say nothing of how long it will take.
For some people, a fault-based divorce, whether initiated due to spousal mistreatment or infidelity, is the best way to move on when a marriage falls apart. It can also provide protection for those who belong to strict religions that don’t approve of divorce.
For the average person, a fault-based divorce will prove more complicated and expensive. Unless there is a compelling reason to pursue a fault-based divorce, no-fault divorce in Maryland is likely the best option.