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Maryland divorce laws

A marriage is a marriage, but a divorce -- believe it or not -- may come in different flavors depending on your state. For instance, in Maryland, you might be asked: Do you want an absolute divorce or a limited divorce? So what does all that mean?

What is an absolute divorce? Just as it sounds, absolute means the marriage is completely dissolved and final. Parties are free to move on and remarry if they so desire.

What is a limited divorce? In cases where a couple separates and is able to resolve some -- but not all -- issues, legal action is taken by the court on those matters that can be settled -- prior to filing for the divorce. This might include child custody or financial matters allowing a couple partial closure to specific areas of the marriage.

What are the requirements for filing for divorce? There are certain conditions, deadlines and fees that must be met before an absolute divorce is granted by the court. Divorces in Maryland encompass several steps:

  • Filing the case
  • Serving a summons to the other party
  • Having an affidavit signed showing the party has been served
  • A discovery process
  • Pre-trial procedures
  • Possible court-ordered services
  • Possible "Pendente Lite Hearing" (early hearing)
  • Final hearing

Unless certain conditions can be proved -- such as adultery, or inhumane or cruel treatment -- a 12-month separation period without interruption is required before even filing for an absolute divorce.

Maryland does not have what is commonly known in other states as a legal separation. Living separately with intention to divorce and having no marital relations is what is considered a separation. Couples can, if they choose, draw up a separation agreement during this time to discern child custody, financial matters and so on. This document is usually a basis for an agreement that can be incorporated into the final divorce later on.

Understanding the steps is important if you plan to file for divorce without representation. You should read up on divorce laws in Maryland and ensure you are comfortable and well-versed with the process. Having legal representation helps to avoid mishaps and misunderstandings.

Source: Maryland Courts, "Family / Divorce," accessed Nov. 15, 2017

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