Maryland Divorce and Separation


You can learn how to get a divorce in Maryland and find the help you need by using the resources below. Here you can connect with attorneys and other divorce professionals, get MD divorce papers, support services, and look over the relevant laws on divorce. If you need other information about getting divorced, understanding child custody and support issues, or could use some tips on starting over you can also check out our other divorce articles.

Maryland Divorce Law Summary

Copyright notice regarding state divorce laws

Maryland Residency Requirements for Divorce and Where to File:
To initiate a divorce, the cause for divorce must either have occurred within the state (for which there is no residency time period), or if the cause of divorce happened outside of Maryland, at least one party must be a Maryland resident for at least a year prior to filing. To file for a divorce or separation, you should file your petition in the county where you live or in the county where your spouse lives.

Maryland Annulment:
The court may grant an annulment if it determines that the marriage is void due to:

  • Either party being married to someone else;
  • If the marriage is between closely related persons. A person may not marry his or her parent, step-parent, grandparent, step-grandparent, child, step child, grandchild, step-grandchild, sibling, step-sibling, aunt or uncle, niece or nephew. A person also may not marry his or her spouse's close relatives.
  • If either party was legally insane or could be considered incompetent to enter a marriage contract

An annulment may also be granted if the marriage would be considered voidable due to:

  • Being underage as defined by being:
    1) under the age of 15,
    2) under the age of 16 without a parent's or guardians consent along with proof of a current pregnancy or birth, or
    3) between the ages of 16 to 17, and not having either the proper parental consent or proof of a current pregnancy or birth.
  • The inability to consummate the marriage;
  • The marriage was based on fraud or entered into under duress;
  • Either party did not understand what they were consenting to; or
  • The marriage ceremony was performed by someone without the legal authority to do so.

Legal Separation in Maryland (Limited Divorce):
In Maryland, the court may grant a limited divorce based on the following grounds:

  • Cruel or abusive treatment of the spouse or child;
  • Abandonment by a spouse;
  • Voluntary separation by the spouses without the possibility of reconciling.

The court may grant a limited divorce if there is not enough evidence to grant an absolute divorce. Issues such as use of the family home, child custody and support, and alimony may all be determined in a limited divorce, but property issues won't be resolved. As a condition of a limited divorce, the court may require the couple to try and reconcile the marriage. A limited divorce may be withdrawn upon the joint application of both spouses.

Grounds for Divorce in Maryland:
In order to grant an absolute divorce in Maryland, one or more of the following grounds must exist:

  • Being separated for at least one year in which there has been no cohabitation between the spouses (without interruption) prior to filing;
  • Infidelity;
  • Willful abandonment for 12 months prior to filing for divorce with no possibility of reconciling;
  • A felony conviction from any state resulting in a sentence of at least 3 years imprisonment, with at least 12 months of the sentence already served;
  • Insanity of a spouse who has been confined in an institution for the treatment of mental disorders for at least 3 years prior to filing without the possibility of recovery as determined by the testimony of at least 2 physicians. For divorce based on this ground, one of the parties must be a resident of Maryland for at least 2 years prior to filing;
  • Cruel and abusive treatment towards the spouse or a child without possibility of reconciling;

If the court has previously granted a limited divorce (separation) based on desertion or abandonment, which at the time did not meet the grounds to grant an absolute divorce, then an absolute divorce may be obtained once the time requirements are met.

Special Divorce Provisions:
If a couple has children, some circuit court may require parents to attend a special seminar designed to educate them on the different ways in which divorce may affect their children and how to minimize the trauma.

The court may also order either party to pay for the legal fees and expenses of the other spouse as determined by the financial resources of each spouse and if there was justification for prosecuting or defending the proceeding.

Property division in a Maryland divorce or annulment:
Property and debts acquired while married are deemed marital property and may be divided in the divorce, regardless of which spouse's name is on the title. Separate property or debt is not divisible in the divorce and includes property and debt which was acquired before the marriage, was an inheritance or gift from a third party, is excluded by a valid agreement, or is directly traceable to separate property.

If a couple is unable to decide how to divide their property and debts on their own, it will be determined by the court. When determining what kind of property division would be fair, the court takes into account:

  • The number of years the spouses have been married;
  • How much each spouse contributed both monetarily and otherwise to the family's well-being;
  • The assets and debts of each spouse, including how they were acquired;
  • What caused the marriage to fall apart;
  • The age of each spouse and their physical and mental capabilities;
  • Whether alimony or use of the family home will be awarded to one spouse;
  • Any other factors the court considers necessary to achieve an equitable distribution of the marital estate

When awarding the family home, the court may take grant possession to the custodial parent in an effort to provide continuing stability with regards to the minor children. Towards this end, the court may order either or both spouses to pay the mortgage or expenses for the family home.

How is alimony determined in Maryland?
Either party may receive alimony in actions for annulment, separation, or divorce. When considering whether or not to award alimony, the amount, and the duration the court considers:

  • How long the marriage lasted and the lifestyle that was established;
  • The age of each spouse and their physical and mental capabilities;
  • The contributions of each spouse to the welfare of the family, both financially and otherwise;
  • Whether the spouse seeking alimony is capable of being self-supporting;
  • How long it would take for the spouse seeking alimony to gain sufficient training or education in order to become employable;
  • The circumstances that led to the breakup of the marriage (fault by the party seeking alimony doesn't always bar the court from awarding alimony).
  • The financial ability of the paying spouse to support himself or herself while paying spousal support;
  • Whether the spouses have agreed to alimony;
  • The income, assets and debts of both parties, including the right to receive retirement benefits;
  • If the obligated spouse is a resident of institution (hospital, nursing home, etc.) and would become eligible for medical assistance sooner than normal due to the awarding of alimony;

The court may order the paying spouse to pay for the cost of continuing medical coverage in some circumstances. The court may also award alimony for an indefinite period in two instances: 1) if it finds that the dependent spouse is incapable of becoming self-supporting due to age or physical incapability, or 2) if there will continue to be a huge disparity between the spouses standard of living once the dependent spouse is capable of being self-supporting.

Unless agreed to otherwise, alimony ends when either spouse dies, if the receiving spouse remarries, or if continuance would lead to inequitable results.

Name Change in Maryland:
A stipulation to restore either a maiden name or previous last name may be added in your divorce decree if you no longer wish to use your husband's last name and there are no fraudulent reasons for the name change request.

Maryland Child Custody:
Unless the parents can reach an agreement regarding custody, the court may award custody to either parent or jointly to both parents without favor given to either gender. The custody determination will be based on the children’s “best interests” and the circuit court may appoint legal counsel to represent the needs of the child in cases where custody, visitation, or support is contested.

In making the determination of custody and visitation, the court will consider a wide range of factors including who is the primary care-giver, whether there has been evidence of abuse, the willingness of the parents to work together, both the parents and the child’s preference regarding custody, how long a parent has been separated from the child, the possible disruption of the child's life, and anything else the court considers relevant.

Once a child is 16, he or she can petition the court for a change in custody, which will result in a hearing to determine whether to grant the custody change or not.

Child Support in Maryland:
Child support is determined by a mathematical formula which uses the combined adjusted incomes of both parents and the custody arrangements for the child or children. If alimony will be awarded in the case, the amount will be considered as income for the parent receiving alimony. In cases where one parent is awarded residential custody, the basic child support guidelines shall be followed.

In cases of shared physical custody, the basic child support obligation will be split between the parents proportionately to their adjusted incomes. This amount will then be multiplied by the parenting time percentage for both parents to determine how much each parent would owe. The parent owing the larger amount will pay the other parent the difference.

The court also takes into consideration daycare expenses, cost of insurance or medical care, support being paid for other children, and costs of transportation for the children. Child support levels can be modified later on if a parent can show a substantial and ongoing change in circumstances.

Child support shall continue until a child reaches the age of majority (18 or graduating from high school), becomes emancipated, dies, or marries. Child support may be extended if the child cannot be self-supporting due to mental or physical disability or would be considered destitute.

Divorce Lawyers and Firms

Law Office of Shelly Ingram, LLC
Shelly M. Ingram
Specializing in: Collaboration, Negotiation, Mediation and Litigation
Areas Served: Howard, Montgomery, Anne Arundel, Prince George's & Baltimore counties
8160 Maple Lawn Boulevard, Suite 200
Fulton, MD 20759
Phone: 301-658-7354
Fax: 301-830-6313

With more than a decade of experience, we will focus on helping you and your family achieve the results you desire in a respectful, dignified, and cost-effective manner. We represent clients in all types of family law matters. We take time to listen, provide you with advice about your unique situation, then work with you to develop a strategy that meets the financial and emotional needs of you and your family. Whether your case demands aggressive litigation or creative settlement efforts, you can be assured that our focus will always be on what matters most—you and your family.

McCabe Russell, PA
Emily Russell
Areas Served: Maryland and Washington, DC
Phone: 443-812-1435
Fax: 301-760-3875
Office Locations:

Howard County
8161 Maple Lawn Blvd, Suite 340    
Fulton, MD 20759

Montgomery County
199 E Montgomery Ave, Suite 100
Rockville, Maryland 20850

Having confidence in the capabilities of your legal team is vital in family law proceedings when the personal and financial stakes are so high. With more than 25 years of experience, McCabe Russell, PA, provides the highest quality of legal counsel in separation, divorce and family law issues.

Our attorneys have earned a reputation for their tenacity and organization, providing their clients with exceptional, compassionate and dedicated legal representation. We genuinely care about our clients and their well-being, which is why we keep you informed every step of the way and provide you with open, honest legal advice. Whatever circumstances you are facing, we will advocate for you.

Find other skilled divorce lawyers in your area. Use Avvo to search for local divorce attorneys who can assist with your case.

Life and Divorce Coaches

Tawawn Lowe Coaching
Brandywine, MD 20613
Areas served: Washington Metropolitan Area
Telephone: 1 (877) 544-9047

TawawnLowe Coaching provides personal development and specializes in divorce recovery. Coaching methods includes one-on-one coaching, teleclasses, seminars, webinars, and live events to encourage, equip and empower our clients to bounce back from the roadblocks life presents, and to live a life of purpose.


Ann S. Brown

Ann S. Brown, LICSW, LCSW-C
3724 Veazey Street, NW
Washington, DC 20016
Areas served: DC and Montgomery County
Telephone: (202) 288-8444

I work with women and adolescents to help them manage the challenges of divorce and separation. I have twenty years of experience in supporting and empowering clients to cope with the stressors of hard transitions, heal and move forward to the best times of their life.

Parenting Classes

Maryland parents that have a family court case may be required to attend parenting classes to learn how parental conflict affects their children. These classes discuss how parents can recognize the signs of distress in their children and how they can help ease their transition and turmoil. Many counties in the state offer co-parenting classes, and you can contact your county courthouse to learn more about times and locations.

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Support & Recovery Groups

Changing Focus
1657 Crofton Parkway
Crofton, MD 21114
Telephone: 410-721-0992
Locations: Central MD (Howard, Prince Georges, and Baltimore counties)

This is a non-denominational support group for men and women who are dealing with separation and divorce. They also offer support to people who have lost a spouse due to death. Discussions can help participants deal with the loneliness, anger, and depression which often occurs after a spouse is gone. Participants can also talk about the economic adjustments that need to be made after the loss of their spouse's income. Each meeting will have an informative presentation by a skilled professional to discuss the various topics that arise after a marriage ends. They even have groups for individual wishing to start over with a new relationship, giving information and inspiration to move into more effective relationship skills.

Other Divorce Support Meetings

Family Violence Resources

MD Network Against Domestic Violence

Domestic Violence Programs in MD

Find out how to list your services.

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