Couples who are contemplating divorce sometimes ask ‘how much does it cost to file for separation in Maryland?’ The state does not recognize legal separation but couples can draw up a voluntary agreement. Maryland also allows for a limited divorce which is comparable to legal separation.

Although the initial fee for a limited divorce is not high, a breakup can be costly in the long-term for both parties. The spouses often draw up a voluntary separation agreement that covers all the financial and child support aspects of a proposed divorce and get it checked over by attorneys. Costs often increase when divorces are contested.

Baltimore legal separation attorney Randolph Rice discusses separation in Maryland. Please contact our firm if you are considering divorce.

What is Legal Separation in Maryland?

Maryland recognizes two types of divorce; an absolute divorce and a limited divorce. Although a limited divorce is sometimes referred to as a legal separation, legislation passed in 2011 gave it the title of limited divorce.

Limited divorce gives married couples an alternative to divorce when they are not ready to end their marriage or are opposed to the idea for financial, moral or religious reasons. A limited divorce also gives the couple scope for reconciliation if both parties agree.

The spouses remain legally married but petition the court to make decisions related to child custody, child support, and alimony. Property remains marital and is valued at the time of the absolute divorce rather than the limited divorce. Before a limited divorce is granted by the court, the partners may be required to attempt to try a reconciliation.

A limited divorce is not required in Maryland for a couple to be separated but it provides a legal document and a framework for a subsequent divorce action. The separated couple live apart with the same obligations and rights as a divorced couple.

Limited Divorce vs. Absolute Divorce in Maryland

Although most people associate divorce with an absolute divorce and the final termination of the relationship, limited divorces are becoming more common.

When the parties to the marriage are granted an absolute divorce, the court can finalize the issues of division of marital property, assets, alimony, child support, and the transfer of retirement interests.

Although many couples who are granted an absolute divorce have been separated for 12 months in different homes, a statutory 12-month “no-fault” ground remains one of the most common ways to get a divorce.

No separation is required for fault-based divorces for reasons such as adultery, and violent and cruel treatment.

A limited divorce is a court-approved legal separation. It does not terminate the marriage. Not only can a spouse not remarry but neither spouse can enter a relationship during a limited divorce. Sexual relations constitute adultery which is a ground for an absolute divorce. The legal separation does not stop the clock or freeze assets related to marital property when it is granted. The court parcels out the marital property at the time of the final divorce.

A limited divorce is not a necessary prerequisite to file for a final divorce. An informal separation of 12 months is sufficient. Limited divorces are recommended if alimony and financial support are required and the parties were unable to voluntarily resolve these issues outside the courtroom.

A Baltimore divorce attorney may also recommend it when custody and child support are disputed and they could not reach a voluntary agreement. It’s also recommended if one of the spouses threatens to remove health insurance coverage from the other. An order for continued coverage can be made as part of the limited divorce.

Parties who are not able to meet the grounds for an absolute divorce may file for a limited divorce before a 12-month separation.

What Are the Grounds for Limited Divorce (Legal Separation) in Maryland?

Spouses seek limited divorces for a series of reasons. They include:

  • Separation of the parties: They are longer living in the same home (or under the same roof overnight) and no longer having sexual relations
  • Excessively violent conduct of a party or a child of a party
  • Cruelty of treatment of a party or a minor child of the party;
  • Desertion: There are two types of desertion, actual and constructive. This is one of the most common grounds for a limited divorce.
    • Actual desertion is when one of the parties unjustifiably abandons the other or throws the other one out of the family home or the marital bedroom;
    • Constructive desertion is when one of the parties is forced to leave the home or the marital bedroom due to the misconduct of the other.

What are the Filing Fees for Separation in Maryland?

The civil filing fee for divorce actions, limited divorces, and other actions like adoptions and guardianship is $165, according to Maryland courts. This includes a filing fee of $80 and other costs.

Other Factors that Affect the Cost to File for Legal Separation in Maryland

Although you can file for separation or limited divorce in Maryland for $165, this is a complicated process with many moving parts. The parties may have to sort out alimony, child support, and issues such as medical benefits. When legal separations are contested, it’s wise to hire a divorce lawyer.

Many spouses often realize the idea of a “no-fault” divorce is more difficult in reality than theory. It’s wise to hire a lawyer if matters are contested or if the other side gets a lawyer. You should build attorney costs into calculations of how much it costs to file for separation in Maryland.

Most divorce lawyers require a retainer – typically $2,000 to $3,500. A retainer fee is money paid in advance to a lawyer before the attorney does any work.

This money is a down payment that goes toward the total fee billed. Divorces can cost upward of $14,000 in Maryland depending on the complexity of the issues that need to be resolved, the number of court appearances, and how long a case drags on for.

Talk to a Baltimore Legal Separation Attorney Today

At the Law Offices of Randolph Rice, our Baltimore family law attorney can advise you on how much it will cost for legal separation (limited divorce) in Maryland. We help clients get limited divorces and final divorces and deal with all aspects of the process. Please call us for a consultation to answer all your questions at (410) 431-0911.