Basic information about divorce in Maryland. You will find more information about divorce, including the risks of taking your children out of state while a divorce is pending, on our general Divorce page. To watch brief videos about divorce in Spanish with English sub-titles, go to our Videos page. Lastly, learn more about the court process on our Preparing for Court – By Yourself page.
- What are the residency requirements for divorce in Maryland?
- What are the grounds for divorce in Maryland?
- Can I get an absolute divorce if my spouse agrees to the divorce?
- Can I get alimony?
- What are the basic steps for filing for divorce?
- Where can I find additional information about divorce laws in Maryland?
What are the residency requirements for divorce in Maryland?
You can file for divorce in Maryland if you or your spouse physically live in Maryland.1 The divorce papers would be filed in the circuit court in the county where you or your spouse live.2 If the reason for your divorce happened outside of Maryland, you can only file for a divorce in Maryland if you or your spouse has lived in Maryland for at least six months before you file.3 If the reason for the divorce happened inside of Maryland, then this six-month requirement doesn’t apply; you could be living in Maryland for less time and still file.4
What are the grounds for divorce in Maryland?
Divorce in Maryland is known as “absolute divorce.” There used to be another option called a “limited divorce,” but that was abolished as of October 1, 2023.1
You or your spouse can get an absolute divorce based on the following grounds:
- irreconcilable differences;
- if you and your spouse have lived separate and apart for at least six months, without interruption, leading up to filing the application for divorce; or
- mutual consent, which requires a settlement agreement that addresses all of the issues between you and your spouse, including alimony, custody, child support, and division of property.2 To read more about divorce by mutual consent, see Can I get an absolute divorce if my spouse agrees to the divorce?
Note: Even if you and your spouse live under the same roof, you can still meet the ground of living “separate and apart,” mentioned above in #2, if you have pursued separate lives.3
1 See MD Code, Fam. Law § 7-102
2 MD Code, Fam. Law § 7-103(a)
3 MD Code, Fam. Law § 7-103(b)
Can I get an absolute divorce if my spouse agrees to the divorce?
The judge can grant you an absolute divorce based on mutual consent if you and your spouse:
- both agree that you want a divorce;
- sign a written settlement agreement where you agree on all issues relating to:
- alimony (spousal support);
- the division of your property;
- custody and visitation (access); and
- child support. Note: If child support will be paid, you must also attach a completed child support guidelines worksheet;
- do not file any paperwork to set aside the settlement agreement before the hearing; and
- both go to court for your hearing for an absolute divorce.1
After reviewing the settlement agreement, the judge must be satisfied that any terms of the agreement relating to minor or dependent children are in the best interests of those children.2
If you and your spouse meet these conditions, then the judge can adopt your settlement agreement into the divorce order. The judge could also modify or enforce your settlement agreement in the future.3
1 MD Code, Fam. Law § 7-103(a)(8)
2 MD Code, Fam. Law § 7-103(a)(8)(iv)
3 MD Code, Fam. Law § 7-103(f)
Can I get alimony?
Alimony is financial support paid by, or to, your spouse. The judge will decide how much and for how long you will get alimony. If you are granted alimony, the judge may order your spouse to start the alimony payments from the date you filed for alimony even if some time has passed since then.1
The judge decides if s/he will award you alimony based on several factors, including:
- your ability to support yourself;
- the time you would need to get the necessary education or training to find a job;
- the standard of living during your marriage;
- the length of the marriage;
- the contributions of you and your spouse (financial and other) to the well-being of your family;
- the circumstances that led to your divorce;
- the age of you and your spouse;
- the physical and mental condition of you and your spouse;
- your spouse’s ability to meet her/his needs while paying you alimony;
- any agreement between you and your spouse;
- the financial needs and resources of you and your spouse, including all income and assets, any property award, financial responsibilities, and retirement benefits; and
- if your spouse is in a hospital and paying you alimony would cause him/her to become eligible for medical assistance earlier than if s/he were not ordered to pay you alimony.2
A judge may award you alimony for an indefinite period of time if:
- because of your age, illness, or disability, you will not be able to support yourself; or
- your and your spouse’s lifestyles will still be unconscionably (unreasonably) different even if you can support yourself.3
1 MD Code, Fam. Law, § 11-106(a)(1), (a)(2)
2 MD Code, Fam. Law, § 11-106(b)
3 MD Code, Fam. Law, § 11-106(c)
What are the basic steps for filing for divorce?
While divorce laws vary by state, here are the basic steps:
- First, you must meet the residency requirements of the state in which you wish to file.
- Second, you must have “grounds” (a legally acceptable reason) to end your marriage.
- Third, you must file divorce papers and have copies sent to your spouse.
- Fourth, if your spouse disagrees with anything in the divorce papers, he will then have the opportunity to file papers telling his side. This is called “contesting the divorce.” In this case, you will have to attend a series of court appearances to sort the issues out. If your spouse does not disagree with anything, he should sign the papers and send them back to you and/or the court. This is called an “uncontested divorce.” If a certain period of time passes and your spouse does not sign the papers or file any papers of his/her own, you may be able to proceed with the divorce as an uncontested divorce anyway. You should speak to a lawyer in your state about how long you have to wait to see if your spouse answers the divorce papers before you can continue with the divorce.
- Fifth, if there is property that you need divided, or if you need financial support from your spouse, you will have to work that out in an out-of-court settlement, or in a series of court hearings. Custody may also be decided as part of your divorce.
Where can I find additional information about divorce laws in Maryland?
The Maryland Judiciary provides the following information regarding divorce:
- a basic explanation of the divorce process in Maryland;
- the forms needed to pursue a divorce action, including complaint forms for absolute divorce; and
- contact information for Family Court Help Centers from which you may be able to get general legal information or limited legal advice on matters like divorce, custody, and child support.
The Maryland State Bar Association has information on divorce mediation.
WomensLaw.org is unrelated to the above organizations and cannot vouch for the accuracy of their sites. We provide these links for your information only.
You will find more information about divorce, including the risks of taking your children out of state while a divorce is pending, on our general Divorce page. To watch brief videos about divorce in Spanish with English sub-titles, go to our Videos page. Lastly, learn more about the court process on our Preparing for Court – By Yourself page.