Many legal requirements govern divorce in Maryland. Both spouses must meet these requirements when filing in Ocean City’s Worcester County district court in addition to addressing other family law issues such as support, custody and property division.
No fault is the first ground for an absolute divorce. It does not require proof of spousal misconduct. Before filing, the spouses had to live separate and apart without living together or did not have sexual relations for an uninterrupted 12-month period.
Courts can also approve divorce without a waiting period if there is mutual consent. The spouses must submit their written settlement to the court resolving issues governing spousal support, distribution of property and the custody, care, visitation, and support of their minor children. If the agreement covers child support, a completed support guidelines worksheet must be submitted.
In a mutual consent divorce, both spouses cannot file a pleading setting aside a settlement agreement before the divorce proceeding. After review of the agreement, the court must be satisfied that any terms concerning their children are in the children’s best interests.
The second grounds are based on a spouse’s fault. Fault can be one of several factors affecting spousal support or how the couple’s property is divided by the court. A fault-based divorce usually does not affect custody unless it concerns harm to the children.
In these divorces, a spouse must prove that their spouse engaged in certain acts. These include desertion, adultery imprisonment, insanity, cruel treatment, or excessively vicious conduct.
Spouses who do not prove fault can still file a no-fault divorce based upon a 12-month separation or mutual consent. A judge may not grant the divorce if the specific elements for each fault-based grounds are not proven in court.
An offending spouse may defend against this divorce by claiming that the other spouse forgave their bad conduct. The second offending spouse defense is recrimination where the other spouse also engaged in behavior that constitutes grounds for a fault divorce.
Spouses must also deal with other issues that have long-term consequences such as custody, support, and property division. Before a spouse files for divorce, they should obtain legal advice.