In a marriage, a wife or husband may ask, "what will happen if we separate?," "What are my rights?," "Do I have any right to the property?," "Do I have a right to claim alimony?," "What will happen to the children?".
Consultation with a divorce lawyer can be helpful to begin to understand your legal rights. A divorce attorney's role can be valuable in explaining the laws concerning separation and divorce, custody, visitation, support, alimony, and marital property.
In Maryland, the common grounds for divorce are (1) a voluntary separation, with or without a separation agreement, (2) desertion or abandonment, which can be actual, or "constructive" such as a wife being forced to leave as a result of excessively vicious conduct, (3) adultery, and (4) two-year separation, known as, statutory separation. There are other many grounds, which are less common, listed in the divorce statute, such as the one that applies in an action against a criminal defendant who has a long prison term. Generally, the separation has to be continuous, that is without interruption by the parties resuming the marriage by having sexual relations or sleeping under the same "roof".
Adultery entitles the other spouse to an immediate divorce. Adultery is proven by corraboration, generally by the testimony of another witness. This rule is designed to prevent collusion. The proof may be made by circumstantial evidence showing both "opportunity" and "disposition". An example of opportunity is proof that a spouse spent the night together with a third party. Proof of disposition can be shown by signs of affection with another person. In a contested case, the proof that is required by corroboration need only be slight, such a clear admission by the other spouse.
A divorce based upon a voluntary separation or desertion, also must be "continuous" for a period of one year. The fact of the separation was voluntary can be established by a separation agreement that is reduced to writing and states the spouses voluntarily agreed to separate, and is executed under oath, such as before a notary public. An attorney can be helpful in drafting an agreement that covers divorce, custody, visitation, support, alimony, and marital property.
Below is a checklist of some of the topics of a written marital property and separation agreement. The list is not all inclusive. The checklist is only a sample. An experienced divorce lawyer can draft an agreement which meets the particular needs of your case:
Generally, an agreement can be drafted to fulfill the purpose of removing the uncertainty that accompanies obtaining a divorce. At the time of divorce, the agreement can be filed with the court, and the terms and provisions of the agreement can be incorporated as part of the divorce judgment.
Initially, an attorney can be of service for consultations in regard to planning and budgeting. The fees and expenses should be discussed at the outset, as well as the client's objectives and a realistic timetable. Consultation with an attorney can be useful to begin to understand your legal rights. A lawyer's role can be helpful in understanding the law regarding separation and divorce, custody, visitation, support, alimony, and marital property.
Maryland Child Support Enforcement Program
Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence
Maryland Judiciary Divorce / Domestic Relations Forms
Divorce Record at the Maryland State Archive
A Kid's Guide to Divorce
Online Divorce Resource Community
Divorce Support Page