While “separation” and “divorce” are often interchangeable terms in daily conversation, technically, Maryland law does not recognize legal separations.
Rather, spouses who are considering ending their marriage can choose between two types of divorce: limited divorce, which is similar to legal separation in other states, and absolute divorce, which permanently ends the legal bond between spouses.
What does limited divorce involve?
Spouses may choose a limited divorce if they need the court to help resolve issues related to childcare needs, child support or other financial issues but do not yet have grounds to pursue full divorce.
During a limited divorce, a judge may help to sort out existing conflicts, but does not proceed with decisions regarding dividing marital property. Separate spousal residences, physical or mental abuse or desertion are all potential reasons to seek limited divorce.
When can Maryland spouses pursue absolute divorce?
To receive an absolute divorce decree, Maryland law generally requires that spouses have lived separately for at least 12 months or that one spouse has pursued or committed adultery. Imprisonment, insanity and mutual consent are also grounds for immediately pursuing permanent divorce.
What happens between limited and absolute divorce?
Limited divorce offers separating couples a period in which to file for full divorce and negotiate or litigate important issues relating to property division, child support/custody and other decisions.
In many cases, spouses may choose to enter a separation or marital settlement agreement while waiting for divorce finalization. In addition to making child custody, spousal support, property use and other agreements enforceable under the law, these signed contracts can be useful for creating the basis of a future permanent order.