How Does Divorce Work in the State of Maryland?

May 10, 2024 - By: Stuart H Grozbean - Jaime A Wright

Divorce is a significant life event that can be emotionally and legally challenging. Understanding the specific laws and procedures governing divorce can help ease this transition in Maryland. This comprehensive guide will cover everything you need to know about divorce in Maryland, from the grounds for divorce to the final decree.

Grounds for Divorce in Maryland

Maryland law recognizes both “no-fault” and “fault” grounds for divorce.

  1. No-Fault Grounds:
    • Mutual Consent: Couples can obtain a divorce without separation if they agree on all terms, including property division, alimony, and child-related issues.
    • Separation: Couples must live apart for 12 months without cohabitation before filing for divorce.
  2. Fault Grounds:
    • Adultery
    • Desertion: Abandonment for 12 months without justification.
    • Cruelty of Treatment: Physical or emotional abuse endangering the well-being of the spouse or minor child.
    • Excessively Vicious Conduct: Actions that make cohabitation unsafe.
    • Insanity: If one spouse is confined to a mental institution for at least three years.

Filing for Divorce

  1. Residency Requirements: At least one spouse must have lived in Maryland for a minimum of six months before filing.
  2. Filing Process:
    • Complaint for Absolute Divorce: The filing spouse (plaintiff) submits this document to the circuit court in the county where either spouse resides.
    • Service of Process: The non-filing spouse (defendant) is served with divorce papers.
    • Response: The defendant has 30 days (60 if out-of-state, 90 if out of the country) to respond.

Division of Property

Maryland follows an “equitable distribution” model, meaning property is divided fairly but not equally. Courts consider several factors, including:

  • Length of the marriage
  • Contributions to marital property
  • Economic circumstances of each spouse
  • Age and health of each spouse
  • Any prior agreements between the spouses


Alimony, or spousal support, may be awarded based on factors such as:

  • Duration of the marriage
  • Standard of living during the marriage
  • Financial resources and needs of each spouse
  • Age, physical, and mental condition of each spouse
  • Contributions to the marriage (including homemaking and childcare)

Alimony can be temporary (pendent lite), rehabilitative (short-term to allow self-sufficiency), or indefinite (in rare cases where self-support is not feasible).

Child Custody and Support

When children are involved, custody and support are crucial aspects of the divorce process.

  1. Child Custody:
    • Legal Custody: Decision-making authority regarding the child’s welfare.
    • Physical Custody: Where the child resides.
    • Joint Custody: Both legal and physical custody can be shared.
    • Courts prioritize the child’s best interests, considering factors like parental fitness, the child’s preferences, and each parent’s ability to provide a stable environment.
  2. Child Support:
    • Determined based on the Maryland Child Support Guidelines, which consider the income of both parents, the number of children, and the time each parent spends with the children.

Finalizing the Divorce

After filing and responding to the complaint, and resolving all issues (either through agreement or court decision), the court will schedule a hearing. If the court finds that all legal requirements are met and issues resolved, it will grant an absolute divorce, issuing a final decree.

Post-Divorce Considerations

  1. Modification of Orders: Alimony, child custody, and support orders can be modified if there is a significant change in circumstances.
  2. Enforcement: Failure to comply with court orders can result in enforcement actions, including contempt of court.


Navigating a divorce in Maryland involves understanding state-specific laws and procedures. Whether through mutual consent or fault-based grounds, the process requires careful attention to detail and, often, legal assistance. By comprehending the basics of property division, alimony, and child-related matters, individuals can better prepare for the challenges ahead and work towards a fair resolution.

For personalized advice, consider consulting with a family law attorney experienced in Maryland divorce cases. They can provide guidance tailored to your situation and help protect your rights and interests throughout the process.