Unlike many other states, Maryland offers two types of divorce: limited and absolute. The two concepts have common elements, but the ultimate outcomes are quite different.
Truth be told, the term "limited divorce" is a bit of a misnomer. If you opt for a limited divorce, you'll still be married in the end. The reality is that a limited divorce is actually a formal separation, overseen by the court, which doesn't terminate the marriage.
The grounds for a limited divorce are:
In a limited divorce case, the court can make decisions about issues such as custody, parenting time (visitation), child support, spousal support (alimony), and use and possession of marital property. Also, the judge can control the length of time a limited divorce will remain in effect.
As an aside, note that there are various reasons why people might choose a limited divorce. For example, absolute divorce (dissolution of the marriage) may be against their religion. Or, perhaps they don't have the necessary grounds for absolute divorce. It may also be that they aren't ready to commit to an absolute divorce, but still need the court's help resolving certain marital issues.
Absolute divorce is the classic form of divorce people are most familiar with—it permanently dissolves the marriage. Maryland law provides more grounds for absolute divorce than for limited divorce, although there is an overlap.
Grounds for absolute divorce are:
For desertion to be valid, it must meet the following requirements:
Note that a court will likely not find that desertion exists where a spouse abandoned the marital home for a legitimate reason, such as to escape domestic violence.
For a court to uphold conviction of a crime as a ground for divorce, the defendant must have been sentenced to three or more years in jail and served 12 months of that sentence before the plaintiff files for divorce.
The ground of insanity requires that the insane spouse has been confined in a mental institution, hospital, or other similar institution for at least three years before the divorce complaint is filed, and the court has determined from the testimony of at least two physicians—who are competent in psychiatry—that the insanity is incurable and there's no hope of recovery.
Mutual consent is a viable basis for divorce if:
Two of the grounds for divorce listed in the previous section don't require a spouse to be at fault (guilty of misconduct)—the 12-month separation provision and the mutual consent provision. But these are not the typical no-fault grounds you find in divorce today. As it turns out, Maryland is something of an outlier when it comes to no-fault divorce.
Traditional no-fault laws in most other states don't come with conditions like requiring a period of separation or restricting the grounds to people who have no minor children. In these other states, no-fault divorce is basically premised on the spouses no longer getting along, with no reasonable prospect of that situation changing. Some states call it the "irretrievable breakdown of the marriage," others "irreconcilable differences." But the bottom line is that, unlike in Maryland, this deterioration of the marriage—in and of itself—is a valid reason for divorce.
Maryland has residency requirements, under certain circumstances, before you can file for divorce. If the facts that make up the grounds for divorce (known as the "cause of action") didn't occur in Maryland, you have to reside in the state for six months before starting the divorce. To use insanity as the basis for divorce, one of the spouses must have been a Maryland resident for two years before the divorce can be filed. If both spouses reside in the state, and the cause of action occurred in the state, there's no waiting period.
If you're contemplating divorce, before taking any action, consider consulting with an experienced divorce attorney in your area.