Maryland offers two types of divorce: absolute and limited. What’s the difference?
An absolute divorce ends the marriage entirely, while a limited divorce only settles certain legal issues between the couple without ending the marriage. In other states, that might be called a “legal separation.”
Why obtain a limited divorce?
Essentially, Maryland only offers specific reasons for a fault-based divorce. If you want a “no-fault” divorce, you either have to accomplish that by mutual consent — meaning, your spouse must sign off on the agreement — or you have to be continuously separated from your spouse for at least 12 months.
A year is a very long time to wait when you need to settle some important issues, particularly where children are concerned or there are financial problems that must be settled.
What can a limited divorce do?
With a limited divorce, the court can issue orders that:
- Assign child custody and visitation rights to each parent
- Require one spouse to keep the other on their health insurance
- Decide which parent must pay insurance costs and co-pays for the children
- Decide what child support must be paid
- Decide what spousal support (alimony) must be paid to a dependent spouse
- Determine who has the right to possession of and access to the family property
In addition, the court can also require the more affluent spouse to pay a dependent spouse’s attorney fees during this period, so that one spouse isn’t unfairly denied representation by a wealthy spouse who controls the purse strings for the household.
A limited divorce is usually just a precursor to an absolute divorce. Learning more about your options can help you decide if this is the route you should take.