Limited Versus Absolute Divorce

Absolute and limited divorce are two distinct legal categories, which have their own characteristics and procedures. Here, the family law attorneys at Rodier Family Law detail the distinctions between the two.

Absolute Divorce

Absolute divorce permanently dissolves a marriage. In an absolute divorce, the couple must bring forth grounds for the divorce. These reasons can be a one-year separation where no sexual relations occurred, mutual consent through a written settlement, adultery, desertion, cruel treatment, insanity or incarceration for at least three years, one of which has already been served.

An absolute divorce also allows for both individuals to remarry. If a pre- or postnuptial, or a settlement agreement, do not exist between the couple, any jointly-owned property will be divided equitably between the two parties through the courts in accordance with the marital property act.

An absolute divorce also allows for other circumstances to be addressed, such as alimony, child custody, child support and a change of either person’s last name to their former last name. These will vary depending on the circumstances of the divorce, and it is advisable to have an experienced family law attorney explain the consequences and characteristics of each to determine what is best for your specific situation.

Limited Divorce

A limited divorce is more commonly thought of as a legal separation. It does not permanently end a marriage, rather, the couple remains legally married but lives separately from one another and does not engage in a sexual relationship together. A limited divorce does not allow for remarriage, nor does it allow for sexual relations with other people—this is legally considered adultery, and can factor into divorce proceedings should they occur in the future. As with absolute divorce, limited divorce requires a reason, including separation, desertion or cruel treatment.

In Maryland, a limited divorce is not required before an absolute divorce occurs and not commonly pursued. Most couples file for a limited divorce when they do not yet have grounds for an absolute divorce but desire to address pendente lite/temporary issues such as custody, child support, alimony, use and possession of the marital home, etc., while they wait until they absolute divorce becomes an option.

Once grounds for an absolute divorce exist (for example, if a couple with children has now been separated for more than one year) either or both parties can then amend their initial complaint for limited divorce to an absolute divorce.

Limited divorce can also establish child custody, child support, spousal support and use and possession of property—for example, dictating who can reside in the marital home.

How Rodier Family Law Can Help

Absolute and limited divorces are complex legal affairs, and can have serious impacts on a person’s life. Because of their potentially contentious nature, it is critical that any individual considering or currently seeking either form of divorce employs a skilled family law attorney. At Rodier Family Law, our dedicated attorneys have been fighting for the rights of those seeking absolute and limited divorce for years, ensuring your best interests are met in court. Don’t let your life be ruined because of a marital dissolution—contact us today for more information or consultation.