This is one of the most common questions I get from clients. In order to decide how soon you can file for divorce, we have to determine if you are eligible to seek a divorce in Maryland and, if so, on what basis. The basis for the divorce is called the “ground” for divorce. The timing for filing a divorce in Maryland depends on the answers to both questions.
To be eligible to file for divorce in Maryland, one party must live there at the time of filing. If the basis for the divorce, or the “grounds” for divorce occurred outside Maryland, then one party has to have resided in Maryland for at least 6 months before filing for divorce.
Before the court can enter a Judgment of Absolute Divorce dissolving a couple’s marriage, the residency requirement must be met, one of the parties has to have a viable ground for absolute divorce; and all issues arising out of the parties’ marriage have to be resolved either by agreement of the parties or court order.
Absolute Divorce Grounds
Maryland recognizes “no-fault” and “fault” grounds for absolute divorce. Because some grounds for divorce have a waiting period, the ground (or grounds) for divorce you allege may impact when you can file.
No-fault grounds for absolute divorce are:
- 12-month separation – the parties must live separate and apart, without cohabitation for a period of 12 months prior to filing for divorce, and continuing without interruption through the date the divorce is granted.
Translation: you cannot spend the night under the same roof or have sex with your spouse for 12 months before you file for divorce and it has to stay that way after you file through the divorce. Spending the night together under the same roof or having sex before the divorce is granted re-starts the separation clock on your 12-month separation period and will delay your ability to file under this ground.
- Mutual Consent – this ground does not require a period of separation. If you and your spouse have not yet separated or separated only recently, this ground may be the fastest means of filing for and obtaining a divorce. In order to file for divorce based on Mutual Consent, you must meet the following requirements:
- Have a signed, written agreement resolving all issues, including, alimony, property division, and the care, custody and support of any minor child or children;
- Court approval of any agreement as to custody and support of a minor child as being in that child or children’s best interests; and
- Neither party has filed to set aside the settlement agreement prior to the divorce hearing.
Fault grounds for divorce, with applicable waiting periods, include:
- Desertion, if desertion has continued for 12 continuous months.
- Conviction of a felony or misdemeanor where the party has been sentenced to serve at least 3 years and has served 12 months of the sentence
- Insanity if the spouse has been institutionalized for at least 3 years and the insanity is incurable
- Cruelty of treatment
- Excessively vicious conduct
Filing starts the divorce process, but the length of time for obtaining the actual Judgment of Absolute Divorce will depend on whether you settle some or all of the issues during the divorce litigation, or if you have a contested trial at the end where a judge will decide the outcome.