Most people are well aware of what a divorce is and what it means for a marriage, but many individuals are not prepared for how much of their time and emotions a divorce will involve. The truth is that a divorce can easily devolve into a very contentious case in which spouses are continually arguing about each and every aspect of the divorce, making any hopes of agreement all but impossible.
Many people will want to seek the help of a skilled Bethesda divorce lawyer when they know that their marriage is coming to an end and court appearances are likely to be in the future. You need to remember that divorce remains an adversarial process in which many of the areas of dispute can be extremely complex, so legal representation often proves necessary for achieving workable solutions.
Types of Divorce Cases
As the Maryland Courts website notes, there are two kinds of divorce in Maryland.
An absolute divorce will legally end a marriage. After a decree of absolute divorce is entered, the parties will be able to remarry. A decree of absolute divorce is a formal order issued by a court to end a divorce proceeding. Following an absolute divorce, one party will no longer be able to inherit property from the other. All property owned by the parties jointly as spouses automatically becomes property held in common, meaning each party owns one-half. Parties can seek judgments on matters of alimony, child custody, child support, and division of any marital property.
Limited divorces are legal actions in which a couple’s separation is supervised by a court, and a limited divorce will not legally end a marriage. The limited divorce process is often used by people who do not currently have grounds for absolute divorce, need financial relief, or cannot settle their differences privately.
A person qualifies for a limited divorce in Maryland if they meet residency requirements, grounds, and other legally prescribed laws. If a court orders a limited divorce, the divorce is not permanent. Many refer to the process as legal separation. A limited divorce could be indefinite or for a limited time only, and both spouses can jointly ask the court to revoke a limited divorce at any time.
When a court grants a limited divorce, it will determine if either party was at fault. A limited divorce can involve temporary decisions concerning child custody, alimony, child support, health insurance coverage, and division and use of personal and real property.
During a limited divorce, the parties can live apart but will remain legally married, so neither spouse can remarry, there will be a documented date of separation between the spouses. When spouses have sexual relations with each other after the documented date, it will restart the time requirements for absolute divorce based on the ground of separation.
Any sexual relations between one spouse and a third party during a limited divorce is considered adultery, one spouse dying while a limited divorce is in place means the other spouse inherits property, and unless a divorce decree says otherwise, forms of ownership for any property people own as spouses stay the same.
Grounds for Divorce
When spouses are divorcing, one spouse needs to allege a legal ground for the divorce. Grounds for divorce will be the regulations that specify the circumstances under which a person can be granted a divorce.
To obtain a fault-based divorce, a person will have to prove to a court that a spouse acted in a certain way. If a person cannot prove a fault-based ground for divorce, they may still be able to file for divorce based on a no-fault ground of a certain separation period or mutual consent.
A person filing for a no-fault divorce does not have to prove that a spouse committed any misconduct. Fault grounds can be important because they may impact alimony or property division decisions and could also affect child custody when the conduct was harmful to a child.
When it comes to grounds for divorce, adultery is a fault-based ground for divorce in which there is no waiting period. When a party claims and proves that their spouse committed adultery, a court may grant a divorce immediately.
Proving adultery in court does not require showing actual intercourse occurred, but proving that an offending spouse had both the disposition and opportunity for intercourse outside of marriage. An adulterous disposition could be gleaned from public displays of affection at Pike & Rose or the Bethesda Jazz and Supper Club, while an adulterous opportunity could involve a spouse being seen entering a non- spouse’s residence late at night and not emerging until the following morning.
Adultery can be a factor in alimony decisions and possibly child custody if a court determines that adulterous behavior had a harmful effect on children.
Desertion is another fault-based ground for divorce that may be actual or constructive. Actual desertion involves a deserting spouse abandoning the marital home without justification, while constructive desertion is when a spouse who leaves is justified and a court will consider the leaving spouse the deserted one.
To prove actual desertion, a spouse seeking a divorce must prove a desertion continued uninterrupted for 12 months, a deserting spouse intended to end a marriage, cohabitation ended, a deserter’s leaving was not justified, the parties are beyond reasonable hopes of reconciliation, and the deserted spouse did not consent to the desertion.
Constructive desertion will require proof of the same elements, but a court will consider justifications for constructive desertion such as cruelty as well as the nature and duration of misconduct, the length of time a leaving spouse enduring misconduct, and what attempts a leaving spouse made to try to save the marriage.
Cruel treatment of a spouse can be another fault-based ground for divorce when the conduct endangers the life or health of another person or their minor child and makes cohabitation unsafe. Single acts of cruelty can be grounds for divorce when a party intends to do serious bodily harm or acts severe enough to threaten serious possible danger in the future.
Mental abuse can also be cruelty as a ground for divorce. There is no waiting period for cruel treatment, as a party can immediately file for divorce based on any kind of cruel treatment or excessively vicious conduct.
Obtaining a divorce based on a criminal conviction will involve a spouse proving their spouse was convicted of a crime in any state, received a jail sentence of more than three years, and has served 12 months in jail or prison at the time of filing for divorce.
When the grounds for divorce are insanity, a person will need to prove a spouse is considered permanently incurable if they were confined to a mental institution, hospital, or other institution for a minimum of three years prior to filing for divorce.
Also, at least two physicians competent in psychiatry must have testified that the insanity will be permanently incurable and the case involves no hope of recovery, and one party has been a resident of Maryland for a minimum of two years prior to filing for divorce.
Contact Our Bethesda Divorce Lawyers
Are you going through a divorce right now or thinking that you might be preparing to go through one in the near future? You are going to need legal representation and Shah & Kishore can be your voice in court.
Our firm is located in Rockville but serves clients all over the Bethesda area, including but not limited to Gaithersburg, Burtonsville, Potomac, Silver Spring, Germantown and all of Montgomery County. Call us at (301) 315-0001 or contact Shah & Kishore to set up a free consultation with our Bethesda divorce lawyers.