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The Difference between Absolute and Limited Divorce in Maryland

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No one wants to get divorced, but it happens. People change, and the person you are married to five, ten, or fifteen years down the line is rarely the person you originally married. Consulting with a qualified divorce attorney is crucial if you and/or your spouse are considering splitting up. Together, you can consider the two types of divorce available in Maryland and which one is right for your situation.

Official Types of Divorce in Maryland: Limited and Absolute

Maryland recognizes only two types of divorce: a limited divorce, governed by Family Law Article § 7-102, and an absolute divorce, governed by Family Law Article § 7-103.

Limited Divorce in Maryland

A limited divorce is not a real divorce; instead, it’s a court-sanctioned separation. Put differently, this type of divorce allows spouses to separate physically but remain legally married.

In Maryland, this option is generally for people who are not yet ready to end their union or who need more time to sort out an absolute divorce (see below).

You may pursue limited divorce if you:

  • Have no grounds for absolute divorce but need the court’s intervention on limited matters, including child support, visitation, custody, alimony, and use and possession of the marital home.
  • Can’t handle the financial burden of absolute divorce
  • Practice a religion that does not condone absolute divorce
  • Have a medical condition and need to retain health care coverage through the other partner (the vice-versa also applies)
  • Want to settle issues privately over the next year

It’s important to note that property issues are not addressed at this time (house, 401ks, pensions, etc.).

That said, a limited divorce agreement has its fair share of restrictions:

  • Spouses must live apart
  • They cannot continue sexual relations with each other
  • They cannot remarry or have sexual relations with other people (this constitutes adultery)
  • They are prohibited from actions that intentionally reduce the value of marital assets

Absolute Divorce in Maryland

Absolute divorce is a legal proceeding that permanently ends a marriage, along with all of the rights and privileges that come with marriage. Once a judge finalizes an absolute divorce in Maryland, both spouses are free to remarry.

Since an absolute divorce is a real divorce, all issues (including property issues) are typically addressed as a final determination of all your rights attendant to your marriage. These include issues relating to:

  • Child support
  • Child custody
  • Visitation
  • Alimony
  • Marital property (money, car, boats, IRA, pensions, etc.)
  • Real property (land, house, vacation home, timeshare, etc.)

Residency Requirement for Divorce in Maryland

To be eligible for divorce, one party must be a legal resident of Maryland and physically reside in the state. How long you must have lived in Maryland before filing a divorce petition depends on where the ground for divorce occurred.

If the ground for divorce occurred within the boundaries of the state, you only need to be living in Maryland at the time of filing the petition. If the ground for divorce occurred outside the state boundaries, you and your partner must have lived in Maryland for a minimum of six months before filing your divorce complaint.

Grounds for Divorce in Maryland

To obtain either a limited or absolute divorce, certain grounds must be shown. A ground is simply a legal basis or reason for divorce.

In Maryland, grounds for divorce can be broken down into two basic types:

  • Fault
  • No-fault

To establish a fault ground, a party must prove their spouse committed a misconduct of some kind while they were still married. No-fault grounds, on the other hand, do not require any proof of misconduct.

Grounds for a limited divorce


  • Cruelty
  • Excessively vicious conduct
  • Desertion


  • Separation without cohabitation

Grounds for an absolute divorce


  • Desertion
  • Adultery
  • Cruelty
  • Incurable insanity
  • Criminal conviction
  • Excessively vicious conduct


  • Mutual consent
  • 12-month separation without cohabitation

Mutual consent is the newest no-fault ground for absolute divorce in Maryland. The biggest benefit of this type of divorce is the absence of the 12-month waiting period. However, for you to pursue divorce by mutual consent, you’ll need to be extremely agreeable with your spouse.

Which Type of Maryland Divorce Should You Choose?

What type of divorce you should choose ultimately comes down to your priorities and individual situation.

  • Mutual consent absolute divorce is often the quickest

That’s because it allows you to bypass the 12-month waiting period. But remember, to successfully divorce via this method, you and your partner will need to agree on most—if not all—pertinent issues.

  • No-fault absolute divorce might be the cheapest

This type may also free you from your marriage faster, but the your share of the property or visitation time might be less that what you initially hoped for—especially if you don’t retain a qualified lawyer or mediator.

While a contested divorce is not an official type of divorce in Maryland, it can still provide you with the legal avenue you need to terminate your marriage. It’s especially a viable option if you and your spouse cannot seem to agree on one or more matters relating to property division, custody, child support, alimony, and attorney fees. The good thing about this divorce type is that your case will be presented before the court for impartial deliberation and ruling.

  • A limited divorce might be the most “flexible”

That’s because it allows you to achieve some of the benefits that an absolute divorce offers while still giving you time to think about what you truly want out of your marriage. Furthermore, you don’t need to be on good terms with your spouse to pursue this option.

The Award-Winning Divorce Attorneys at Petrelli Previtera Can Offer Timely Help

Even the least acrimonious divorces are a strain. Your life partner and best friend is now, often, your worst enemy. A Maryland family law attorney can help alleviate a lot of the stress by giving you the peace of mind of knowing your legal issues are taken care of, and your rights are being protected. Call Petrelli Previtera to schedule a consultation today.



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