In Maryland, a limited divorce may be decreed for either a limited or an indefinite period, and grants parties a legal separation. A limited divorce may be sought when spouses do not have grounds for an absolute divorce. A limited divorce is a partial divorce that does not absolutely terminate the marriage. Filing for a limited divorce will allow the Court to decide custody, support, use and possession of the home and personal property, to resolve disputes regarding ownership of personal property or order the sale of jointly owned personal property. Therefore, the court can (1) Make a division of personal property between the parties, (2) Order a sale of personal property and a division of proceeds, and (3) Make any other disposition of personal property it deems proper.
The grounds for a limited divorce are:
- Parties living separate and apart without cohabitation
- Actual or Constructive Desertion
- Actual Desertion:
The voluntary separation of one of the married parties from the other, or the refusal to renew suspended cohabitation, without justification either in the consent or the wrongful conduct of the other party, with an intention to abandon. The abandoned party has the grounds for the divorce.
- Constructive Desertion:
It is accepted that any conduct of a husband that renders the marital relation intolerable and compels a spouse to leave the other may effectuate the ground of constructive desertion, even though the conduct may not justify it on the ground of cruelty. The actions of the offending spouse must be found to be so intolerable that the other spouse is justified in leaving. The party that leaves has the grounds for divorce, however, the parties may continue to live under the same roof and a Maryland court can find grounds for constructive desertion.
- Cruelty of Treatment and Excessively Vicious Conduct
However, under a limited divorce, the Court cannot equitably divide the parties’ marital property or order the sale of jointly owned real property, such as the family home. The parties cannot dispose of real estate and cannot remarry.
Although spouses cannot remarry under a limited divorce, for tax purposes, spouses granted a limited divorce may file as single taxpayers.
An absolute divorce is a complete severance of the marital bond. An absolute divorce grants the parties division of marital real property, and personal property, if the parties have not yet consented to an agreement of how the assets will be divided. An absolute divorce entitles either or both parties to remarry. An absolute divorce includes the same grounds as limited divorce, after one year. Additionally, for desertion in absolute divorce, the desertion must be “deliberate and final,” and in both desertion and cruelty, there must exist no “reasonable hope of reconciliation.” Absolute divorce also has additional grounds.
The additional grounds for an absolute divorce are:
- Statutory Separation of One Year
- By one or both parties.
- The spouse seeking the divorce based on adultery must prove by clear and convincing evidence that their spouse had both the opportunity and the disposition to commit adultery. While there is a clear and convincing evidentiary standard, the evidence may be circumstantial.
- Insanity, if the insane spouse has been confined for three years prior to the application for divorce, the court determines by the testimony of at least two physicians that the insanity is incurable, and one of the parties has been a resident of Maryland for at least two years prior to filing the complaint.
- Conviction of a crime of felony or misdemeanor of a defending spouse, if the spouse has been sentenced to at least three years in a correctional facility, or sentenced to an indefinite amount of time; and has served twelve months of the sentence.
- Mutual Consent Divorce