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You must have a legally valid reason to divorce

If you decided that it is probably best to end your marriage, you must consider what ground for divorce applies to your situation. Grounds are legally accepted reasons for divorce. A divorce will only be granted if you are seeking it for a legally valid reason and your case meets the requirements for that ground. 

Maryland recognizes both no fault and fault grounds for divorce. Fault grounds require proof that your spouse acted in a certain way, and can be considered by a court when determining if alimony may be awarded. If the fault ground can be considered harmful to your children, it may also be considered when determining child custody.

No fault grounds

If your divorce is no one’s fault, you can choose 12-month separation or mutual consent as the ground for your divorce. If your spouse does not agree to divorce, you may consider a 12-month separation. This ground for divorce requires you and your spouse to live in separate homes without sexual intimacy for a year. If you and your spouse agree to divorce, a mutual consent ground may be appropriate. This ground does not require a waiting period.

Fault grounds

In addition to the two no fault grounds, Maryland recognizes six fault-based grounds for divorce, including:

  • Adultery
  • Desertion
  • Cruelty of treatment
  • Excessively vicious conduct
  • Conviction of a crime
  • Insanity

Each of the six fault-based grounds for divorce has its own criteria, which you must make sure your situation meets. You must also be able to prove that your spouse actually acted in a way that meets those requirements. For example, if you use the adultery ground for divorce, you must use evidence, such as text messages or photographs, to prove that your spouse cheated on you. If you can do this you may be granted divorce without a waiting period.

Another factor to keep in mind with a fault-based divorce is that your spouse may be able to defend himself or herself. Your spouse could claim that you forgave the bad conduct or that you also acted in a way that could be a fault ground for divorce. If your spouse successfully defends against the fault ground, the court may not grant the divorce unless you find another ground for divorce.

Because you must have a legally recognized reason to get a divorce, it can be helpful to familiarize yourself with your options. The ground that you choose can have a significant impact on the process, timing and outcome of your divorce.

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