Montgomery County Divorce Lawyers
Meiselman Helfant & Wills has the experience you need to litigate and settle both contested and uncontested divorces, including division of assets, retirement accounts, alimony, child support, and custody arrangements. We are also highly experienced in representing business owners and clients with a high net worth.
There are two types of divorce in Maryland: limited divorce and absolute divorce.
Limited Divorce in Maryland
A limited divorce is essentially “a legal separation.” It does not permit the parties to marry someone else after the divorce, and marital property issues are not addressed.
Limited divorces are rare; however, many cases begin as a request for one until the grounds for an absolute divorce are met.
The benefit of seeking a limited divorce include:
- Providing the parties with access to the court while the grounds for an absolute divorce ripen.
- Allowing parties to seek an award of support (alimony or child support) from the court.
- Many parties also seek custody of minor children in their request.
- A court may revoke a limited divorce if both parties seek revocation. Merely having a signed separation agreement is not equivalent to having a limited divorce, but if the agreement resolves certain issues, it may establish grounds for an absolute divorce based on “mutual consent.”
Absolute Divorce in Maryland
An absolute divorce is a “final” permanent divorce.
Following an absolute divorce, the parties are permitted to marry someone else. The court addresses marital property and related issues.
In order to obtain either type of divorce, you must have grounds.
The grounds for a limited divorce in Maryland are different from the grounds for an absolute divorce, although there is some overlap.
There are four different grounds for a limited divorce:
- Desertion or constructive desertion
- Cruelty of treatment
- Excessively vicious conduct
To prove the separation ground, there must be proof that the parties are living “separately and apart without cohabitation.” This generally means the parties are living in separate residences and are not having sexual relations with each other.
To prove desertion, there must be proof that one spouse has left or abandoned the marital residence with the intention of ending the marriage without the consent of the other spouse.
Constructive desertion occurs when the conduct of one spouse forces the other spouse to leave the marital residence in order to maintain the leaving spouse’s safety, health, or self-respect. Constructive desertion may also be proven when one spouse unjustifiably refuses to have marital relations with the other spouse, even if the parties are still living together in the marital residence.
To prove cruelty of treatment, there must be proof of cruelty of either the spouse or a minor child of the spouse.
Cruelty may be proven by either proof of conduct that endangers the life, safety, and/or health of the other party or conduct that causes reasonable apprehension of bodily harm. In addition, cruelty may be proven based on verbal and psychological abuse that is intended to seriously impair the health of the other spouse or permanently destroy the happiness of the other spouse. Excessively vicious conduct may be established by proof similar to that required to prove cruelty.
There are eight alternative grounds for an absolute divorce.
The grounds most frequently used to obtain an absolute divorce are:
- Desertion: if the desertion has continued for 12 months without interruption before the filing of the complaint for absolute divorce, the desertion is deliberate and final, and there is no reasonable expectation of reconciliation
- 12-month separation: when the parties have lived separate and apart without cohabitation for 12 months without interruption before the filing of the complaint for absolute divorce
- Cruelty of treatment: if there is no reasonable expectation of reconciliation
- Excessively vicious conduct: if there is no reasonable expectation of reconciliation
- Mutual consent: if the parties execute and submit to the court a written settlement agreement signed by both parties that resolves all issues relating to:
- The distribution of property, including:
- Relief pertaining to any monetary awards
- Division of pension benefits
- Custody, access/visitation, and support of any minor children of the parties.
The other two lesser-used grounds are conviction of a felony or misdemeanor if the person has been sentenced to serve at least three years and has served 12 months of the sentence; and insanity, if the person has been confined to a mental institution for at least three years and the court determines from the testimony of at least two physicians that the insanity is incurable.
Divorce is often a complicated and difficult process that requires a skilled family law attorney. As we focus solely on family law, the attorneys at Meiselman Helfant & Wills, LLC understand the unique complexities of Maryland divorce law and have the knowledge and experience to assist you in all facets of your divorce case.
In addition to our knowledge, we also understand that the divorce process can be time-consuming and emotionally taxing. Communication with our clients is a priority, and we are very responsive to every single one of our clients. We acknowledge each case requires a personal touch through every step of the process as each client is different. Our pledge to you is to always be straightforward, honest, and fair.
We’re here to help, so reach out to us today and schedule a consultation with our team. For more information on some steps to prepare for your divorce, please review our blog post for some helpful tips and advice.