Currently, Maryland has two types of divorce: limited divorce and absolute divorce; however, limited divorce, which does not terminate a marriage, will no longer be available in Maryland starting October 1, 2023 , and absolute divorce will become the only type of divorce available in the state.
Under the current state of the law effective until October 1, 2023, a Maryland court may only grant a decree of absolute divorce on the grounds of:
- deliberate and final desertion of twelve months without reasonable expectation of reconciliation;
- conviction of a felony or misdemeanor for which, before the filing of the application for divorce, the defendant has been sentenced to serve at least three years or an indeterminate sentence and has served twelve months of the sentence;
- separation of at least twelve months before the filing of the application for divorce during which the parties have lived separate and apart without interruption;
- incurable insanity with no hope of recovery;
- cruelty of treatment toward the complaining party or a minor child of the complaining party if there is no reasonable expectation of reconciliation;
- excessively vicious conduct toward the complaining party or a minor child of the complaining party if there is no reasonable expectation of reconciliation; or
- 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 alimony, property distribution, and care, custody, access, and support of minor or dependent children;
- the parties attach to the settlement agreement a completed child support guidelines worksheet if the settlement agreement provides for the payment of child support;
- neither party files a pleading to set aside the settlement agreement prior to the divorce hearing; and
- after reviewing the settlement agreement, the court is satisfied that any terms relating to minor or dependent children are in the best interests of those children.
The new rules that will take effect on October 1, 2023 will alter the grounds by which a Maryland court may grant an absolute divorce by eliminating all the current grounds aside from mutual consent, and replacing them with the following:
- six-month separation, if the parties have lived separate and apart for six months without interruption before the filing of the application for divorce;
- irreconcilable differences based on the reasons stated by the complainant for the permanent termination of the marriage; or
- mutual consent, with the same conditions that are currently in place and described above.
These amendments eliminate the fault-based grounds included in the current statute and will allow courts to grant a decree of absolute divorce after a six-month separation instead of requiring a full year of separation to obtain an absolute divorce decree. Additionally, the revised statute will allow courts to grant absolute divorce based on the grounds of irreconcilable differences.