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Divorce FAQs

What is the difference between a limited and an absolute divorce?

A limited divorce is analogous to a legal separation. In a limited divorce action, the court has the authority to make orders regarding custody of children, child support, spousal support and use and possession of the marital home and family use property. However, the parties remain legally married although living apart. Alternatively, an absolute divorce ends the marital relationship and when granting an absolute divorce the court has the additional authority to divide marital property. Read more on grounds for divorce in Maryland.

What are grounds for divorce?

In order to file for a no-fault divorce in Maryland, couples must be separated for a period of at least 12 months or there must be mutual consent between the spouses (with conditions). When having to file a fault divorce, it must be based on one of the following grounds, depending on if you are filing for a limited or absolute divorce:

Limited Divorce:

  • Cruelty of treatment of the complaining party or their minor child.
  • Excessively vicious conduct towards the complaining party or their minor child.

Absolute Divorce:

  • Desertion without cause for at least 12 months and without interruption before filing the complaint, with no reasonable expectation of reconciliation.
  • Cruelty of treatment toward the complaining party or their minor child, and if there is no hope of reconciliation.
  • Excessively vicious conduct toward the complaining party or their minor child, and there is no hope of reconciliation.
  • Conviction of a felony or misdemeanor and spouse has been sentenced to serve at least three years in a penal institution. The spouse must have already served twelve months of the sentence prior to filing the complaint for divorce.
  • Insanity, with testimony from two psychiatrists stating that the spouse’s mental state is incurable. Before filing the complaint, the insane spouse must have been confined for at least three years and one of the parties has to have been a Maryland resident for at least two years.

How long does a divorce take?

It depends. However, the case management protocols of the Maryland courts are designed to have a case closed within one year after its initial filing.

What are the basic steps involved in litigating a divorce case?

The first step is the filing of a complaint for divorce in the Circuit Court. Once the complaint is processed by the clerk, it must then be served on the other party with a writ of summons. The other party will have 30 days to file an answer and another 30 days to file a counter-complaint. Approximately 30-60 days after the Answer is filed the court will set a scheduling conference where the parties appear with their attorneys and make arrangements for certain services and set dates for various deadlines in the case. A settlement conference date will also be set where the parties and their attorneys will meet with a retired judge and try to settle the case. If the case does not settle at the settlement conference, a trial date will then be scheduled.

If I am thinking about divorcing my spouse in the future, what can I do now to prepare myself?

Consult with an attorney. A one-hour consultation with an attorney can provide you with invaluable information that can assist you in protecting your rights and preparing yourself for a divorce or separation.

What is required to prove adultery in Maryland?

In order to prove adultery in Maryland, you must be able to show that your spouse had a predisposition to have sex with another person (i.e. love letters, witness to their kissing) and that your spouse had an opportunity to have sex with that other person.

What is Discovery?

Discovery is the process whereby each party gathers evidence to prepare their case for trial. It usually includes serving the other party with Interrogatories and Requests for Production of Documents. Interrogatories are a set of questions that the other party is required to answer. Requests for Production of Documents are simply that – requests that the other party produces specified documents to the requesting party. Discovery may also include a deposition of the other party or third persons, and it may include sending subpoenas for documents to be produced by third parties.

Do all of my finances have to be disclosed during the divorce?

Yes, disclosing financial information to the court is necessary in order to ensure everyone involved has the information needed to divide marital assets in a fair way. It is especially important when it comes to the judge making decisions on alimony or child support.

Will I have to pay alimony or spousal support?

A judge will make a decision regarding alimony or spousal support based on a variety of factors, including each spouse’s earning capacity as well as the length of time you were married.

What is a Pendente Lite hearing?

A Pendente lite hearing is a short hearing scheduled relatively early in a case that permits parties to seek temporary orders regarding custody of children, child support, spousal support,  and use and possession of the family home and family use property.

How will custody of the children be decided?

Maryland law does not favor either the mother or father. The judge will look at what is in the best interest of the child and consider a variety of factors when deciding on child custody and visitation. Those factors can include, but are not limited to:

  • Which person is the primary caregiver for the child.
  • The psychological and physical capacities of each party.
  • Character and reputation of each party.
  • Agreements already in place.
  • Spousal ability to maintain family relationships, for example, which spouse will let the child still speak to grandparents on the opposite side.
  • Child’s Preference: a child who is at least 10 to 12 years old is entitled to have their opinion heard and it is given weight. Rarely will a court hear from a child under 7 years.
  • Material Opportunity: which spouse is more financially capable of providing for the child.
  • Age, health, and gender of the child.
  • Location of residences and opportunity for visitation.
  • Length of separation.
  • Prior abandonment or surrender of custody,

What is Mediation?

Mediation is a dispute resolution process whereby the parties engage a third-party neutral to facilitate communications between them with the goal of resolving their dispute. The third-party neutral is called a mediator. Read more on Mediation.

What is a Collaborative Divorce?

A collaborative divorce is a dispute resolution process that allows spouses to resolve their disputes in a respectful way, without going to court. Each party will have the support of legal, mental health and financial professionals in developing acceptable settlements. Read more on Collaborative Divorce.

How much will my divorce cost?

It depends. The cost of a divorce is dependent on a number of factors which include: the process you choose to pursue your divorce (negotiations, mediation, collaborative law, litigation), the number of issues in involved (grounds for divorce, custody, support, distribution of property), the attorney you choose if you have one, and the level of conflict between you and the other party.

Why You Need a Divorce Lawyer

When there is so much on the line, a divorce lawyer in your corner to protect your rights and fight for the best outcome can be vital to your case. A lawyer has the ability to objectively advise you of your available options because of their extensive experience handling similar cases. The process of filing for a divorce can be extremely stressful for everyone involved. An attorney will be able to reduce the amount of stress you are under while gathering information and handling related legal matters on your behalf. In addition, having someone with experience handle your case will assist in avoiding any potentially costly mistakes, as the legal system is complicated and a simple act of forgetfulness could harm your future.

For more information on divorce in Maryland, call the divorce lawyers at Arn Family Law at (240) 345-2015, send an email to, or use our online contact form. During your free initial telephone consultation, we will take the time to answer your questions and give you the advice you need to decide how to move forward.