Divorce in Maryland and the District of Columbia

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There are a number of requirements that must be satisfied when seeking to obtain a divorce in Maryland or the District of Columbia. These requirements concern residency (how long you have lived in Maryland or Washington, D.C.) as well as the basis for your divorce (referred to as grounds). This article will briefly summarize the various requirements for obtaining a divorce in Maryland and the District of Columbia.

Divorce Residency Requirements

Residency refers to the length of time an individual has resided in a jurisdiction prior to filing for divorce.  Simply put, an individual must meet the residency requirement in the jurisdiction which they are seeking a divorce otherwise the divorce action will most likely be dismissed.

Many people believe that they can only obtain a divorce in the jurisdiction which they were married.  This is incorrect.  A married individual can file for divorce throughout America so long as he or she meets the residency requirements in the state or district they will be filing their divorce.

Maryland Residency Requirement

In Maryland, there is a one year residency requirement if the basis for the divorce occurred outside Maryland.  Otherwise, if either spouse is a resident of the state of Maryland, he or she may file in the county in which they reside.  For example, if wife desires to divorce husband because husband committed adultery while they were living in New York then wife would need to reside in Maryland for at least one year prior to filing an action for divorce in the state of Maryland.

DC Residency Requirements

The District of Columbia has a six month residency requirement.  In other words, an individual must reside in Washington, D.C. for at least six months prior to filing a divorce action in Washington, D.C.

Divorce Residency Requirements Not Met

If you do not meet the residency requirements for Maryland or the District of Columbia then your options are to:

  1. Establish residency by residing in the jurisdiction you desire to file a divorce in for the required length of time
  2. have your spouse file the divorce if they meet the residency requirements and are agreeable to obtaining a divorce
  3. file for divorce in a state where you meet the residency requirements.

Grounds for Divorce: Maryland and District of Columbia

The term “grounds for divorce” refers to the legal basis for which a married couple is seeking a divorce.  Individuals seeking a divorce must be able to prove to a court that they meet the grounds alleged in their Complaint for divorce.  This can be done by providing sufficient evidence to the court through witnesses and documentation.  This can also be accomplished, more simply, if the parties agree to the grounds.

The District of Columbia has what is referred to as no-fault divorce.  To obtain a divorce in Washington, D.C.:

  1. The parties must have mutually and voluntary separated, without cohabitation, for at least six consecutive months
  2. The parties must live separate and apart without cohabitation for at least one year.  Living separate and apart can be accomplished while residing in the same home so long as the spouses sleep in separate beds and do not share food.

Grounds for obtaining an Absolute Divorce in Maryland are as follows:

Adultery

This ground is applicable where your spouse has had sexual relations with another person. In order to prove adultery a spouse needs to prove that their wife or husband were inclined to commit adultery and had opportunity to do so. For example, public displays of affection such as kissing, hugging and hand-holding would be evidence of inclination while the fact that your spouse entered a hotel with the person they had been affectionate with publicly would be evidence of opportunity.

Desertion

  • The desertion has continued for 12 months without interruption prior to the filing of a divorce action
  • The desertion is deliberate
  • there is no reasonable expectation of reconciliation.

Voluntary Separation

The parties voluntarily have lived separate and apart without cohabitation for 12 months without interruption prior to the filing of the divorce action; and 2) there is no reasonable expectation of reconciliation.

Conviction of Felony or Misdemeanor

If before the filing of the divorce action the defendant-spouse has:

  1. Been sentenced to serve at least three years or an indeterminate sentence in a penal institution; and
  2. served at least 12 months of the sentence

Two year separation

When the parties have lived separate and apart without cohabitation for at least two years without interruption prior to filing for divorce.

Insanity

If: 1) the insane spouse has been confined in a mental institution or similar institution for at least three years prior to the filing of any divorce action; 2) at least two physicians who are competent in psychiatry testify that the insanity cannot be cured; and 3) one of the parties to the divorce has resided in Maryland for at least two years prior to the filing of the divorce action.

Cruelty

Cruelty of treatment toward the complaining party or a minor child of the complaining party, if there is no reasonable expectation of reconciliation.

  • Excessively vicious conduct toward the complaining party or a minor child of the complaining party, if there is no reasonable expectation of reconciliation.

Limited Divorces in Maryland

Maryland also provides for limited divorces which are essentially legal separations rather than actual divorces which end a marriage.  In other words, a Limited Divorce provides for parties to live separate and apart, however, the parties are still legally married.  A limited divorce may benefit an individual or individuals who do not satisfy the grounds for obtaining an absolute divorce, need financial relief and are unable to settle their differences privately.

The grounds for obtaining a limited divorce in Maryland are: 1) cruelty; 2) excessively vicious conduct; 3) desertion; and 4) mutual and voluntary separation.


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