Divorce in Maryland

Required separation periods vary according to grounds


Legal and family experts advise that even in an uncontested divorce that at least the Plaintiff (the party filing for divorce) should have an attorney in order to ensure that all agreements are legal and that the final decree is enforceable. Of course, in a divorce in which the parties disagree (usually over children, significant assets, or both), each party should have an attorney.

Domestic violence, grief counseling

Experts also recommend that if domestic violence is involved, that should be addressed immediately. Furthermore, any one contemplating divorce should consider counseling: ending a relationship can feel like a death in the family and engender profound grief. A well-trained, experienced attorney can help with all these issues.

For help with domestic violence in Maryland, you can start at the state courts’ Web page, which also has links to:

Residency requirements, legal separation and grounds for divorce

In general, Maryland residency requirements are more strict than in many other states. A filing of legal separation is not rquired, yet the time required to live separately before divorce vary according to the grounds cited in the petition.  From the courts’ Web page:

Where do I file for a divorce?

You may file for divorce in Maryland if the grounds for divorce occurred in Maryland or if at least one spouse has lived in Maryland for one year prior to the filing of divorce. The divorce complaint must be filed in the circuit court for the county where the plaintiff (the party filing for divorce) lives or where the defendant (other party) lives, works or owns a business.

How long must I be legally separated before I can file for divorce?

You do not need to file papers in Maryland in order to be “legally separated.” In order to establish that you are separated for the purposes of obtaining a divorce, you must:

  • Not reside under the same roof, and
  • Not engage in sexual intercourse with your spouse for the entire period of the separation through the date the divorce is granted.

The length of time you must be separated in order to file for divorce depends on the grounds for divorce:

  • If you are filing for divorce on the basis of desertion, constructive desertion, conviction of a felony or voluntary separation, the length of the separation must be at least 12 months.
  • If you are filing for divorce on the basis of adultery, cruelty of treatment or excessively vicious conduct the divorce may be filed at any time after separation.
  • If you are filing based on a two-year separation, you must be separated for two years.
  • If you are filing on the basis of insanity, the insane spouse must have been committed to a mental institution for at least three years, and one of the spouses must have been a resident of Maryland for two years.

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