If the grounds for divorce occurred outside of Maryland, 1 of the spouses must have lived in Maryland for at least 1 year prior to filing for divorce. Otherwise, either spouse may file for divorce in Maryland. If insanity is the grounds for divorce, the residency requirement is increased to 2 years. The divorce may be filed for in a county where either spouse resides.
Legal Grounds for Divorce
- No Fault Divorce:
- The spouses have voluntarily lived separate and apart for 1 year without interruption or cohabitation and there is no reasonable expectation of reconciliation
- The spouses have lived separate and apart without interruption for 2 years
- General Divorce:
- Deliberate desertion for 12 months with no chance for reconciliation
- Confinement for incurable insanity of at least 3 years
- Conviction of a felony or a misdemeanor with at least a 3-year sentence and after 1 year having been served
- Cruelty, with no chance for reconciliation
- Vicious conduct, with no chance for reconciliation
The grounds for a legal separation (limited divorce) are:
- Willful desertion
- Cruel and inhuman treatment
- Voluntary separation and living separate and apart without cohabitation
The legal separation may be temporary or permanent. The spouses must make a good-faith effort to reconcile their differences.
Simplified/Special Divorce Procedures
Summary divorces are not permitted in Maryland. However, marital settlement agreements are specifically authorized by statute and may be used for full corroboration of a plaintiff’s testimony that a separation was voluntary if:
- The agreement states that the spouses voluntarily agreed to separate
- The agreement was signed under oath before the application for divorce was filed
In addition, each spouse must file a Financial Statement Affidavit and a Joint Statement of Marital and Non-Marital Property. The financial statement form is contained in Maryland Rules, Rule 9-203. The form for the Joint Property Statement is contained in Maryland Rules, Rule 9-206. Finally, in a default situation, the divorce may be granted only upon actual testimony of the plaintiff spouse.
Divorce Mediation or Counseling Requirements
Maryland specifically declares that it is in the best interests of children that there be mediated resolutions of parental disputes regarding custody. In cases where the custody of a child is in dispute, the court may order the parents to attempt to mediate that issue, unless there is a history of physical or sexual abuse of the child.
Divorce Property Distribution
Maryland is an “equitable distribution” state. The spouses retain their separate property, including:
- Any gifts and inheritances
- Property acquired prior to the marriage
- Property which is directly traceable to property listed in 1 or 2
Marital property, including retirement benefits and military pensions, is then divided on an equitable basis. The court may order a division of the property, a sale of the property and a division of the proceeds, or a money award as an adjustment of the values. The court may award the family home to either party. The following factors are considered:
- The monetary and non-monetary contributions of each spouse to the acquisition of the marital property, including the contribution of each spouse as homemaker
- The value of each spouse’s property
- The economic circumstances of each spouse at the time the division of property is to become effective
- The length of the marriage
- Whether the property award is instead of or in addition to alimony
- How and by whom the property was acquired, including any retirement, profit-sharing, or deferred compensation plans
- The circumstances that contributed to the estrangement of the spouses
- The age and physical and mental condition of the spouses
- Any other factor necessary to do equity and justice between the spouses
Alimony and Spousal Support
Either spouse may be awarded alimony based on the following factors:
- The time necessary to acquire sufficient education and training to enable the spouse to find appropriate employment and that spouse’s future earning capacity
- The standard of living established during the marriage
- The duration of the marriage
- The ability of the spouse from whom support is sought to meet his or her needs while meeting those of the spouse seeking support
- The financial resources of the spouse seeking alimony, including marital property apportioned to such spouse and such spouse’s ability to meet his or her needs independently
- The comparative financial resources of the spouses, including their comparative earning abilities in the labor market
- The contribution of each spouse to the marriage, including services rendered in homemaking, childcare, education, and career-building of the other spouse
- The age of the spouses
- The physical and emotional conditions of the spouses
- Any mutual agreement between the spouses concerning financial or service contributions by 1 spouse with the expectation of future reciprocation or compensation by the other
- The ability of the spouse seeking alimony to become self-supporting
- The circumstances which lead to the breakdown of the marriage
- Any other factor the court deems just and equitable.
Joint or sole custody may be awarded to either or both parents, based on the best interests of the child. Custody may be denied if the child has been abused by the parent seeking custody. There are no other factors for consideration set out in the statute. The court shall attempt to allow the child to live in the environment and community that is familiar to the child and will generally allow the use and possession of the family home by the person with custody of the child(ren).
Child support may be awarded. There are specific child support guidelines and charts supplied in the statute. There is a presumption that the amount shown for support in the guidelines is correct. However, the amount may be adjusted up or down if it is shown to be inappropriate or unjust under the circumstances of the case. In determining whether the amount would be unjust, the court may consider:
- The terms of any marital settlement agreement between the parents, including any provisions for payments of marital debts, mortgages, college education expenses, the right to occupy the family home, and any other financial terms
- The presence in the household of either parent of other children that the parent has a duty to support
The family home may be awarded to the parent who has custody of a child to enable the child to continue to live in the environment and community that is familiar to the child.