Do You Need to Prove Fault to Get a Maryland Divorce?
Individuals seeking a divorce in Maryland often ask if they need to prove fault or that their spouse did something unethical. Maryland recognizes two different types of divorce — limited divorce and absolute divorce. One or both spouses need to prove that there are one or more legally recognized grounds for divorce. Grounds for divorce are the legally recognizable reasons that a couple is getting divorced in Maryland. Maryland recognizes both no-fault and fault-based divorce.
The Difference Between an Absolute and Limited Divorce in Maryland
In a limited divorce, you do not end your marriage. Instead, you establish certain responsibilities while the parties are separated, such as alimony and child support. In an absolute divorce, the marriage has legally ended. You cannot resolve the division of property and retirement assets through a limited divorce. Instead, you will need to seek an absolute divorce.
Grounds for Absolute Divorce in Maryland
There are multiple grounds for divorce in Maryland. Some of the grounds are no-fault grounds, meaning using one of these grounds does not require you to prove that your ex-spouse is at fault for the divorce. On the contrary, fault-based grounds require the spouse who asserts them to prove that the other spouse took action to break-up the marriage. We will discuss all of the grounds for absolute divorce below.
Mutual consent is one of the no-fault grounds for divorce in Maryland. When both spouses agree to a mutual consent divorce, they can enter into a settlement agreement and resolve their issues. Neither you nor your soon-to-be ex-spouse can move to set aside your agreement before the divorce hearing. In a mutual consent divorce, you will not need to be physically separated from your spouse, and you do not need to go through a waiting period.
Maryland is one of only a few states that does not recognize legal separation. However, if you have not lived in the same house as your spouse and you have not had sexual intercourse with your spouse for over a year, you can seek a no-fault divorce on this ground. When you seek a divorce on the grounds of a 12-month separation, your soon-to-be ex-spouse does not need to agree to the divorce. However, you must prove that you have not lived with your spouse or had sexual relations with him or her for 12 consecutive months.
Adultery is one of the fault-based grounds for divorce in Maryland. If you decide to seek a divorce based on adultery, you will need to prove that your spouse committed adultery by providing opportunity and disposition. Proving disposition requires you to prove that your spouse had a desire or inclination to engage in adultery. Proving opportunity means that your spouse spent time in a private location with the alleged paramour for a period that would have allowed an adulterous act to take place.
You will not have to undergo a waiting period. To finalize a divorce based on adultery grounds, you will need to provide specific evidence that shows opportunity and disposition. Showing that your spouse admitted to cheating on you will not be enough. You will need to provide other evidence to the court.
Cruelty and Excessive Vicious Conduct
A spouse can seek to get a divorce when the other spouse has engaged in cruelty and excessively vicious conduct. The spouse filing for divorce can claim that the other person was excessively cruel to them or their minor child. The spouse seeking the divorce needs to prove that the other spouse’s conduct has created an unsafe living environment. Cruelty can include verbal, emotional, and mental abuse. However, proving cruelty is not as easy as showing the court some of the cruel things your spouse has said to you. You will need to prove that the conduct is excessive enough to create an unsafe living condition. Your divorce lawyer will be able to help you gather evidence that shows that your spouse’s conduct rises to this level.
Desertion is another fault-based ground for divorce in Maryland. There are two different types of recognizable desertion, actual desertion, and constructive desertion. Actual desertion occurs when one spouse physically leaves the family home without any justifiable reason. The desertion must have happened for at least 12 months and needs to be deliberate and final. To prove this type of desertion, there cannot be any cohabitation after the spouse leaves. There cannot be any reasonable expectation or hope of reconciliation between the spouses.
Constructive desertion occurs when one spouse leaves for a legitimate reason, and the spouse left behind is the person who is at fault. The spouse petitioning for the divorce will need to prove the same requirements as actual desertion, but the spouse who stayed behind is the one who is at fault for deserting the marriage.
Imprisonment for a Crime
When a spouse is convicted of a crime and has been sentenced to over three years in prison, the other spouse can file for divorce. The spouse filing for divorce needs to wait until his or her spouse has served at least 12 months of the sentence in prison before submitting the divorce petition.
If your spouse has an incurable or permanent form of insanity, you can use this as a ground for divorce in Maryland. You will need to show that your spouse has been admitted to a hospital, mental institution, or similar institution for at least three years. You also need to show testimony from at least two doctors with competency and psychiatry who will testify that your spouse’s insanity is incurable and there is not hope for recovery.
About Brian Bishop
Brian Bishop started the Bishop Law Group in October 2018. Mr. Bishop is an active member of Maryland Association of Justice, The American Association of Justice, The Academy of Truck Accident Attorneys. Mr. Bishop has received a nationally ranked Top 40 Under 40 Attorney award since 2017. Mr. Bishop has also been named a Rising Star by Super Lawyers. The American Institute of Personal Injury Attorneys has named Brian Bishop as one of The 10 Best Attorneys for Outstanding Client Services.