Couples get divorced for many different reasons. Sometimes, things don’t work out the way either spouse expected and they mutually agree to part. Other times, one party does something that justifies divorce in the eyes of the law, for example, an act or pattern of domestic violence. When seeking a divorce in Maryland, you must establish some type of ground for the divorce. Spouses can choose to divorce either on fault or no-fault grounds.
Selecting a Fault or No-Fault Divorce: Why it Matters
Choosing the reason for your divorce is important. Some grounds do not require a waiting period, and an individual can obtain a divorce immediately after establishing their veracity. Also, successfully establishing that your spouse committed one of the fault-based grounds for divorce may impact the court’s reasoning when determining your alimony award. In some cases, egregious wrongs may warrant a higher alimony award. Another consideration is whether you can prove your spouse committed the behavior you are accusing them of. If you cannot, you may be on the hook for your spouse’s legal fees.
No Fault Grounds for Divorce
Although the familiar “irreconcilable differences” is not an official ground for divorce in Maryland, there are some analogous options. No fault grounds for divorce in Maryland include:
- One year mutual and voluntary separation – to prove this, you must establish that you and your spouse have lived separate and apart for one year without interruption, cohabitation or sexual relations during the relevant time period.
- Mutual consent – effective October 1, 2015, a couple can divorce immediately if: they do not have minor marital children; submit a written settlement agreement resolving all key issues; neither party files a pleading to set aside the settlement agreement; and both parties appear before the court at the divorce hearing.
Fault-Based Grounds for Divorce
In addition, the following fault-based grounds for divorce are available in Maryland:
- Adultery – Adultery is defined as voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and a person other than the offender’s spouse. To prove adultery, you must establish that the offender had both the disposition and the opportunity to engage in intercourse outside the marriage. It is not enough for your spouse to simply admit the adultery.
- Desertion – “Actual desertion” is when a spouse abandons the marital home without justification for one full year. “Constructive desertion” is when you are forced to leave due to the behavior of your spouse. If you are considering leaving your marital home, be aware that if your spouse’s conduct is deemed to not justify your leaving, they may be able to divorce you for “actual desertion” and potentially be awarded alimony and child custody. It is advised that you consult a knowledgeable divorce lawyer before leaving home.
- Conviction of a felony or misdemeanor – This option is available if your spouse has been incarcerated for one year or more under a sentence of three or more years.
- Insanity – Your spouse must be confined to a mental institution for at least three years, among other requirements.
- Cruelty and excessively vicious conduct – If your spouse’s behavior endangers your life or health or that of your minor child, making it unsafe to live under the same roof, this may be a viable option, if there is no reasonable expectation of reconciliation. A single act of cruelty is sufficient if your spouse demonstrated intent to do serious bodily harm. Mental abuse may also be sufficient, but marital neglect or use of abusive language is not. If you are the victim of cruelty, there is no waiting period for divorce.
Can My Spouse Defend Against a Fault-Based Allegation?
What if you are pursuing a divorce on grounds of adultery, but your spouse wants to remain married? Can they raise defenses for their behavior, and will these be persuasive to a judge? The law does not strive to keep incompatible couples together. Therefore, although there are defenses that can be raised, they are rarely successful. Some of the more common defenses include condonation, recrimination and insanity.
Towson Divorce Lawyers at Huesman, Jones & Miles Assist Clients in Selecting the Appropriate Grounds for Divorce
If you are contemplating divorce, our skilled Towson divorce lawyers at Huesman, Jones & Miles can help you develop a legal strategy that will meet your needs. Whether you are seeking a speedy resolution of issues, a higher alimony award or custody of children, we take all aspects of your situation in consideration when advising you how to proceed. With offices in Towson, Hunt Valley and Pikesville, Maryland, we represent clients throughout Baltimore County, Carroll County, Hartford County and Howard County, including the communities of Baltimore, Towson, Essex, Columbia and Bel Air. Call us today at 443-589-0150 or contact us online for a free consultation.