What Are the Grounds For Absolute Divorce in Maryland?

In the state of Maryland, there are two types of divorce, “Absolute Divorce” and “Limited Divorce”. “Absolute divorce” means the marriage has ended. Once an Absolute divorce has been granted, the parties can remarry. A “Limited divorce” does not end the marriage. Rather, a Limited divorce is awarded to establish certain responsibilities (ie., child support and alimony) while the parties are separated but the marriage has not ended.  Certain issues, such as the division of retirement assets, cannot be resolved through a Limited Divorce.

To file for divorce, one or both spouses must prove there are one or more “grounds”. Grounds are reasons for a divorce that are recognized by Maryland’s legal system. Maryland categorizes grounds as “No Fault” and “Fault Grounds for Divorce”. As the name suggests, “No Fault” grounds for divorce do not require proof that one person is at fault for ending the marriage. A “Fault” ground divorce means that one spouse caused the break-up of the marriage


What are the grounds for Absolute Divorce?

  1. Mutual consent. You can get an absolute divorce under this No Fault ground if both spouses agree to a Mutual Consent Divorce. A Mutual Consent Divorce requires you and your spouse to enter into a settlement agreement that resolves all issues, and that neither party has moved to set aside that agreement prior to a hearing. There is no waiting period for a Mutual Consent divorce, and the parties do not even need to be separated.  
  2. Twelve-month separation. Unlike other states, a “legal separation” does not exist in Maryland. However, if you have not lived with and have not had sexual intercourse with your spouse for over a year, that separation provides a No Fault ground for an absolute divorce. Your spouse does not have to agree to divorce, but you must prove the twelve-month separation.
  3. Adultery. Adultery is grounds for a fault-based divorce.. To prove that a spouse committed adultery, you must prove disposition and opportunity. Disposition means there is a desire or an inclination to engage in adultery. Opportunity means the at fault spouse spent time in a private place with the alleged paramour for a period of time that would have allowed for the adultery to occur. There is no waiting period for a divorce on the grounds of adultery, but you must provide evidence of disposition and opportunity. The simple admission of the cheating spouse is not sufficient.
  4. Cruelty and excessively vicious conduct. If one spouse abuses the other spouse, another person, or a minor (such as a child) and creates an unsafe living environment, this is grounds for a fault-based divorce. Cruelty also includes mental, emotional, and verbal abuse.
  5. Desertion. Desertion is considered a fault-based ground for divorce. There are two types of desertion—“actual” and “constructive”. Actual desertion means the spouse who leaves the marital home left without a justifiable reason, the desertion has continued for twelve months, the desertion is deliberate and final, there has been no cohabitation, and there is no reasonable hope or expectation of reconciliation. Constructive desertion is when a spouse leaves for a legitimate reason, where the spouse left behind is the one at fault. It includes the same requirements as desertion, except the spouse who stayed is alleged to have “deserted” the marriage.
  6. Imprisonment for a crime. If your spouse has been convicted of a crime, received a sentence of over three years, and has served at least twelve months of their sentence, you can file for divorce in Maryland.
  7. Insanity. If your spouse has a permanent or incurable form of insanity, this is grounds for a divorce in Maryland. The insane spouse must be admitted to a mental institution, hospital, or similar institution for at least three years, there must be testimony from at least two physicians who are competent in psychiatry who testify that the insanity is incurable and there is no hope of recovery, and one spouse must be a resident of Maryland for at least two years.


Divorce is complex and requires the knowledge and skills of an experienced family law attorney. If you have questions about divorce, please contact Turnbull, Nicholson & Sanders, P.A. at (410) 339-4100 or Our team of family law attorneys is here to help guide you.

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