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What is a limited divorce?

Just as there are multiple forms of divorce resolution, there are a couple types of divorce. Absolute divorce, where the marriage is fully dissolved, is the kind most people are familiar with. Limited divorce is another form of divorce acknowledged by the state of Maryland.

A limited divorce is most common among couples seeking an absolute divorce who do not yet have legal grounds for one. Common grounds for absolute divorce range from cheating to voluntary separation to crimes. In-home violence can also serve as grounds for a divorce.

Living arrangements and sexual relations

The couple will live apart during a limited divorce but remain married in the eyes of the law. Despite remaining legally married, the law forbids couples from having sexual relations and sex with someone from outside of the marriage. Maryland law views sexual relations with someone outside of the marriage as adultery, which is grounds for an absolute divorce. However, an affair isn’t the answer to attaining a divorce, as the adulterer will likely be considered at fault.

On a related note, both parties may not remarry because they are still married.

Desertion and other grounds for limited divorce

The law doesn’t hesitate to protect the petitioning spouse and their children. “Cruelty of treatment” and “excessive vicious conduct” are two loosely defined grounds for a divorce. The language is likely broad to avoid creating loopholes.

Among the most common grounds for a limited divorce is “desertion.” Actual desertion occurs when one spouse leaves the home or forces the other spouse to leave without valid reason. Constructive desertion means one spouse left justifiably due to the behavior of the other spouse. A court will approve constructive desertion as grounds for a divorce if the departing spouse or their children would be physically or mentally harmed by remaining in the home.

However, both parties may agree to mutually and voluntarily go their separate ways with neither being at fault.

Similar but different to separation

A limited divorce is Maryland’s version of a legal separation since that stage occurs during the limited divorce process. Couples can begin to establish their new lives as they work towards a final dissolution for the duration of their limited divorce.

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