Although it seems as though the separation of a married couple would be a simple concept, it can be confusing when Maryland divorce law is applied. Your Maryland family law attorney at Lustig & Gudis, LLC can clear up any confusion you may have about separation.
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At Lustig & Gudis, LLC clients often ask our family law attorneys how they can obtain a legal separation. Actually, in Maryland, no “legal separation” is required in order to file for either a limited or absolute divorce. The date one spouse leaves the marital home is the couple’s separation date. In order for the separation to be considered uninterrupted, however, Maryland law requires that a married couple live in separate residences and do not engage in sexual relations with one another during the separation period. Many of the Maryland grounds for absolute divorce require that the parties remain separated within this specific definition for 12 months or longer prior to the granting of an absolute divorce. The reason for the separation does not affect whether the separation itself fits Maryland’s separation requirements. The establishment of the legally mandated separation is just one of the elements to be proven in order to be granted either a limited or absolute divorce, but the separation is crucial. Even though no time limit is compulsory in order to obtain a limited divorce, the parties generally need to be separated in accordance with Maryland law. Your Maryland family law attorney at Lustig & Gudis, LLC will be able to help you determine whether your separation meets all legal requirements for divorce.
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When asking about a “legal separation” people may actually be asking about a “Separation and Property Settlement Agreement’, often referred to as a “Separation Agreement”. Such an agreement codifies agreements made between the parties as to custody and support of children, alimony, property division and other decisions incident to the parties’ separation. The separation date and voluntariness of the separation can be established in a Separation Agreement. When negotiating a Separation Agreement, each party should have counsel of his or her own in order to assure that his or her rights are protected.
In recent years, the question of whether a couple can be separated while living in the same house, but occupying different bedrooms or separate parts of the home has been raised. This is still an open question which has not been directly addressed by Maryland’s appeals courts. The court has, in the case of Ricketts v. Ricketts, held that child custody and child support issues can be decided when a married couple is still living together, as long as the parties are living entirely separate lives. If you are in this situation, you can explore your options with our Maryland divorce lawyers.