Family Law

At Diamant Gerstein, LLC, we handle all aspects of family law, to include: divorce, separation, peace and protective orders sometimes associated with divorcing parties, child support, child custody and property settlement agreements.  Maryland is a no-fault State to get divorced.  However, there are grounds for divorce.

The grounds for absolute divorce in Maryland are as follows:

(1) adultery;  (2) desertion that has continued for twelve months without interruption; (3) 12-month separation, when the spouses have lived separate and apart without cohabitation for 12 months without interruption; (4) cruelty of treatment toward the complaining spouse or a minor child of the complaining spouse; (5) excessively vicious conduct toward the complaining spouse or a minor child of the complaining party; (6) mutual consent if (a) the parties do not have any minor children in common; (b) the parties have signed a written settlement agreement that resolves all issues relating to alimony and property division; (c) neither party files a pleading to set aside the settlement agreement prior to the divorce hearing; and (d)  both parties appear before the court at the absolute divorce hearing; (7) conviction of a felony or misdemeanor if the defendant has been sentenced to serve at least 3 years or an indeterminate sentence in a penal institution; and defendant has served 12 months of the sentence; (8) insanity resulting in at least 3 years confinement in a mental institution, hospital, or other similar institution , and certain other requirement have been met.

12-month separation—This is the most common way to divorce.  The general rule is that you can get an absolute divorce after you have been separated for a year.  You have to live separately in order to meet the one-year separation requirement.  We are always asked if this means people can live under the same roof but in different rooms. The answer is no.  Separate means separate. Two separate addresses.  Some people choose to save money by simply “nesting.” This is where, rather than getting two separate residences, the divorcing parties trade off week-by-week staying in the marital home, and when one spouse is in the home, the other is away.  Often, a spouse will find a friend’s couch or a relative’s home to stay at if the parties are doing a “nesting” arrangement.

The Maryland limited divorce grounds are the following: (1) fraud; (2) excessively vicious conduct to the complaining party or to a minor child of the complaining party; (3) desertion; or (4) adultery

Fraud–to show someone committed fraud in a family law case, you have to prove that the person made a false statement of fact that related to something important in the case. You also have to show that the person knew the statement was untrue and intended to deceive you, causing you harm. Fraud can play a pivotal role in family law cases. If you can prove fraud, you may be able to overturn a court order, such as a divorce decree, undo a contract, such as a prenuptial or settlement agreement, annul your marriage, or affect a paternity determination.

Excessively Vicious Conduct— Not all unpleasant conduct constitutes cruelty. According to Maryland Court of Appeals, your spouse’s actions must be sufficiently egregious that they seriously impair your health or permanently destroy your happiness, to establish cruelty as grounds for divorce. You must demonstrate that your spouse engaged in a continuous pattern of physical violence, threatened physical violence, or committed mental abuse. The misconduct qualifies as evidence of cruelty if it is directed towards you or your minor child. The courts look to the specific incidents of cruelty in the context of the marriage rather than isolated incidents, although one particularly severe incident may constitute cruelty, if your spouse intended to harm you or your child.

Not every act of physical violence constitutes grounds for divorce on the basis of cruelty. The court does not grant immediate divorce for cruelty on the basis of mere unhappiness between spouses. For example, in one case the court found that a single incident of physical violence combined with a pattern of verbal abuse was insufficient to establish cruelty. In another case, a wife showing that her husband having slapped her was insufficient to constitute cruelty, but if there were a situation in which her husband had been punching her, it may be sufficient to show cruelty.

The court recognizes mental anguish imposed by a spouse as a form of cruelty. However, mere name calling or neglect by your spouse is not sufficient to establish cruelty. To establish mental abuse, the courts look to factors such as whether your husband is excessively controlling or makes attempts to limit your access to friends or family. In one case, the court found evidence that a husband required his wife to keep a log of all her activities to be persuasive evidence of cruelty.

As the person asserting cruelty as a reason for divorce, you have the burden of proving facts supporting your allegations of misconduct if your spouse contests the divorce. The courts are not permitted to rely solely on your testimony recounting your spouse’s misdeeds. Rather you are required to produce corroborating evidence, either in the form of witness testimony or in documents such as emails. You may also corroborate claims of physical violence with photographs of bruises or police records.

Desertion—this is where a spouse either actually deserts the home and moves away, showing no desire or intention to return to the house, or constructive desertion, where the spouse has alienated his or her affections towards the other, making it impossible to continue in the marriage. The general rule of thumb is that desertion has been established once the spouse has been gone for six months.

Adultery– If you are seeking a divorce on the grounds that your spouse has engaged in adultery, you’ll need to provide proof. Before you confront your spouse, you should speak with a divorce attorney. This way, you and your lawyer can begin collecting evidence to prove adultery so you can get a limited divorce quickly.  Computers and cell phones may be a goldmine when it comes to proving adultery, but as technology becomes more and more prevalent, laws are continually being updated. If you have evidence such as passionate emails or texts, a divorce attorney will carefully evaluate the circumstances under which you obtained the evidence to determine whether it will be considered legal in your Maryland.  Other proof of adultery in Maryland can include: cell phone records, travel records, pictures, and live testimony of the paramour, witnesses and/or co-workers.

301.560.2685

sharon@dgalawfirm.com

6110 Executive Blvd
Ste 1050
Rockville, MD 20852

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