• Marie-Yves Nadine Jean-Baptiste

Legal Separation, Limited Divorce, and Absolute Divorce in Maryland

Updated: Jul 20, 2021

For parties contemplating a separation, there are three options available to you: a legal separation (marital settlement agreement) without court involvement, a limited divorce, and an absolute divorce.

A contractual/legal separation or marital settlement agreement without court involvement is where both parties actively engage in drafting a separation agreement that suits their needs. This agreement is a contract and is a legally binding document and is governed by the laws of contracts. In the event, one of the parties fail to do what he or she explicitly agreed to do, the aggrieved party can sue in court for enforcement of the agreement. This type of agreement can address any concerns that you may have such as alimony and retirement benefits. Keep in mind that both parties have to agree to the terms of the contract prior to signing, the parties are not free to remarry, and sexual relations with another person is considered adultery.

A limited divorce is used where the parties are not ready to get a divorce but prefer to live separately with the ultimate goal of ending their marriage completely. In a sense, this is a “pre-divorce” that serves as a legal separation but with court involvement. The court will step in to resolve all matters associated with alimony, child support, health insurance, use and possession of the home, and personal property. However, the court is not able to  divide marital property such as retirement assets or jointly owned property. If your spouse dies without a will, you will not be able to recover any of his or her property unless there is a will specifically naming you as a beneficiary to the estate. Like a contractual/legal separation, the parties are not free to remarry and sexual relations with another is adultery.

Finally, an absolute divorce is one where the marital relationship is completely terminated. The court has the right to decide issues pertaining custody, alimony, child support, division of property (retirement assets, the home, personal property, etc.), and use or change of the last name. An absolute divorce would dissolve the marriage and both parties are free to remarry.

If you are contemplating a divorce and would like to speak to an attorney about your options and how the law affects you, schedule a consultation with our office and let's talk.

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