7 Grounds for Divorce in Maryland

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If you are seriously considering ending your marriage, then you probably have a good reason that led you to this decision. In legal terms, this reason (or reasons) is your grounds for divorce. You or your spouse will need to prove these grounds in court in order for the judge to grant you divorce. Keep in mind that your reasons for divorce have to fit into one of the categories outlined by law in order to count as legitimate grounds for divorce in Maryland. And our Owings Mills divorce attorneys are here to help you choose the right grounds to build your case.


Cruelty or Excessively Vicious Conduct

These are actually two separate grounds for divorce, but both of them have to do with abusive spouses. These divorce grounds cover both physical and mental abuse that can be directed toward you or your child. Such abuse may include threats, verbal abuse, taunting, domestic violence and other forms of controlling behavior.


A desertion occurs when one of the spouses leaves the marriage without obtaining a consent of the other spouse and is absent from the family for at least 12 months. If your spouse has left you and you want to use this ground for divorce, you will also need to show that you didn’t provoke this decision, that the desertion on the part of your spouse was his or her final and deliberate act, as opposed to temporarily leaving the residence, and that there is no hope for the two of you to make up at this point.

There is also a type of desertion known as “constructive desertion.” It occurs when the spouse who left did so to escape some sort of misconduct inflicted by the other spouse. Often they are escaping cruelty or abuse. In this case, the judge will look at whether this decision to abandon the marriage was indeed reasonable and unavoidable.

Permanent and Incurable Insanity

For this ground to work, you would need to prove that the insanity of your spouse is both permanent and incurable. This typically requires the person to be confined in a mental institution for at least 3 years, as well as doctor’s testimony regarding the condition of the patient.


Adultery is exactly what it sounds like: voluntary sexual relations between your spouse and another person without your consent. Since proving the actual act of adultery can be difficult, unless you witnessed it, the court asks you to prove “disposition and opportunity.” Disposition means that your spouse has some sort of romantic relationship with another person. And opportunity means that they had a chance to spend time alone, e.g. you saw them entering a hotel together.

Conviction of a Crime

If your spouse has committed a crime and was sentenced to 3 years or more, you can file for divorce once they’ve served the first 12 months of their sentence.

Voluntary Separation

Voluntary separation occurs when you and your spouse live apart without cohabitation (sexual relations) for at least 12 months. Even if your spouse doesn’t agree to divorce you, you can apply for divorce based on this ground.

Please note that the above grounds are for the “absolute divorce.” Maryland also recognizes “limited divorce,” which we will discuss in our next post.

Fault Grounds vs. No-Fault Grounds

The 12-month separation is the only no-fault divorce ground in Maryland. If no other category fits your case and either one or both of you want out of this failed marriage, this is the grounds to use. In this situation, no spouse is blamed for ending the marriage, at least not before the law. You might have heard the term “irreconcilable differences;” some states recognize it as a no-fault ground for divorce, but in Maryland a twelve-month separation is the alternative.

The rest of the grounds for divorce in Maryland listed above are fault grounds, which means one of the spouses is at fault for ending the marriage. This matters because the court may be inclined to award child custody and split assets in favor of the spouse who is not at fault, especially when cruelty or vicious behavior are the grounds used.

It’s best to consult with your Owings Mills divorce lawyer before choosing your grounds for divorce. And if your spouse has filed on the grounds you don’t agree with, we can also help you build your defense.

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