In fact, other states like Georgia and Illinois are considering increasing the duration of separation and reintroducing fault grounds which have to be proved before a marriage can be dissolved. This reflects upon the efforts of the governing bodies to bring down the divorce rates. Also, the headquarters of the Adventist church are located in Maryland which has been organizing marriage seminars to prevent families from breaking up.
Title 7 of the Maryland code deals with divorce under the family law section. § 7-101 of the Maryland Code requires that one of the parties must have been a resident of the state for at least one year before the filing of a divorce application, if the grounds for divorce occurred outside the state. One of the unique aspects in the state's code is that if the grounds for an absolute divorce are not sufficient, the court may grant a decree of 'limited divorce' (§7-102). Grounds for a limited divorce are: 1) Cruelty of treatment of the complaining party or of a minor child of the complaining party. 2) Excessively vicious conduct to the complaining party or to a minor child of the complaining party. 3) Desertion; or 4) Voluntary separation, if (a) the parties are living separate and apart without cohabitation; and (b) there is no reasonable expectation of reconciliation.
Preceding this decree, the court may order the parties to participate in reconciliation proceedings. The court may award this decree for a limited or an unlimited period of time and it may be revoked anytime on the joint application by the parties. A decree for an absolute divorce should satisfy the following grounds: 1) Adultery; 2) Desertion, if: (i) the desertion has continued for 12 months without interruption before the filing of the application for divorce; (ii) the desertion is deliberate and final; and (iii) there is no reasonable expectation of reconciliation; 3) Voluntary separation, if: (i) the parties voluntarily have lived separate and apart without cohabitation for 12 months without interruption before the filing of the application for divorce; and (ii) there is no reasonable expectation of reconciliation; 4) Conviction of a felony or misdemeanor in any state or in any court of the United States if before the filing of the application for divorce the defendant has: (i) been sentenced to serve at least 3 years or an indeterminate sentence in a penal institution; and (ii) served 12 months of the sentence; 5) 2-year separation, when the parties have lived separate and apart without cohabitation for 2 years without interruption before the filing of the application for divorce; 6) Insanity if: (i) the insane spouse has been confined in a mental institution, hospital, or other similar institution for at least 3 years before the filing of the application for divorce; (ii) the court determines from the testimony of at least 2 physicians who are competent in psychiatry that the insanity is incurable and there is no hope of recovery; and (iii) 1 of the parties has been a resident of this State for at least 2 years before the filing of the application for divorce; 7) & 8) cruelty of treatment or excessively vicious conduct toward the complaining party or a minor child of the complaining party, if there is no reasonable expectation of reconciliation. Thus, it is clear from (3) that a fault need not be proved to obtain a divorce. Voluntary separation for a year and irretrievable breakdown of marriage is sufficient.
A court may decree an absolute divorce even if a party has obtained a limited divorce. Condonation is not a bar if applying for divorce on the ground of adultery, but is considered by the court while awarding an absolute divorce decree. The court may order the involved parties to attend an educational seminar to educate the parents about the effects of a divorce on the lives of children. A refusal of a spouse to accept an offer of reconciliation made by the other spouse does not form a defense, a bar to, or a ground for a divorce.
The parties may reach an agreement or settlement relating to spousal and child support, division of property and other personal rights. The court first determines the marital property, which excludes the property acquired before marriage. The family home is usually considered separately from marital property. Its occupancy is generally given to the party with the custody of the child to enable the child to live in a familiar environment.
The court may modify any part of the agreement relating to child care and custody if it finds it to be in the best interest of the child. Any provision related to alimony and support may also be modified unless it is specifically stated that it is not subject to modification by the court. Custody is not awarded if it is proved that doing so will lead to child abuse or harm to the child. The court may grant visitation rights to the grandparents, if it finds it to be in the best interest of the child.
A divorce rate of 3.1/1000 population against a national average of 3.6/1000 population testifies to the fact that marriage is still a stable institution in Maryland.
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