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Maryland Family Law: An Overview

Family laws cover a variety of topics involving marriage, divorce and family care and protect the rights of every individual in your family.

If you have a family law case in Baltimore, Salisbury, Bethesda or elsewhere in Maryland, LawInfo is your source for information and legal help. LawInfo’s Maryland Family Law section includes legal overviews, summaries of state laws and other resources to help you make the right decisions for you and your family.

If you need help navigating the complex laws governing your case, a Maryland family law attorney can help and treat your case with the sensitivity it deserves.

Maryland Prohibited Marriages

In Maryland, certain people are prohibited from marriage. Maryland outlaws these certain relationships because of the ethical, health and criminal concerns they present. Prohibited marriages in Maryland include:

  • Marriage between family members and relatives, excluding first and successive cousins.
  • Marriage to a minor under 15 years of age.
    • A minor age 16 or 17 years old may marry with either parental consent or with a certificate signed by a qualified medical practitioner confirming that the female partner is pregnant or has given birth.
    • A minor age 15 years old may marry if they can provide both parental consent and the aforementioned certificate.
  • A bigamous marriage (i.e. a new marriage while a previous marriage to another partner is still valid).

Maryland Marriage License

As you and your partner plan your wedding day, make sure you plan to apply for a Maryland marriage license. A marriage license is required to legalize your marriage under Maryland law.

You should be aware of the particular time constraints concerning a marriage license so that they don’t conflict with your plans. Once you receive your license, you must wait 48 hours before performing your wedding ceremony. After the waiting period, you will have six months to perform your ceremony before the license expires.

Both Maryland residents and non-residents must apply in-person for a marriage license before a county clerk in the county where the ceremony will take place.

Maryland Divorce Requirements

Divorces can happen for a number of reasons regardless of the fault of any party. In Maryland, you could file for either a “fault” or “no-fault” divorce.

No-fault divorces can be beneficial for child custody and visitation decisions among other interests since fault can affect what a divorcee is eligible to keep or receive from the marriage. A no-fault divorce is granted on either of two grounds:

  • Both parties have been separated without cohabitation for 12 uninterrupted months.
  • Both parties mutually consent to the specific conditions of divorce, including alimony and property distribution.

Divorces granted on fault grounds typically involve one spouse accusing the other of marital misconduct in a court petition. A divorcee’s misconduct could potentially affect the benefits or rights they’re eligible to. Maryland permits the following divorce fault grounds:

  • Deliberate and uninterrupted desertion for 12 months without the possibility of reconciliation.
  • Felony or misdemeanor conviction with a sentence of three or more years’ imprisonment and having already served 12 months of that sentence.
  • Confinement in a mental institution for 3 years for incurable insanity.
  • Cruel or excessively vicious treatment or conduct toward the complaining spouse or their minor child.

Distribution of Marital Property in Maryland

Many divorcees may think that they are entitled to half of everythingóproperty, savings, securities, etc.óthat they and their exes attained or invested in during their marriage. While this may be true in some states under “community property” laws, Maryland doesn’t work that way.

Spousal ownership in marital propertyóany property attained during the marriage except for personal gifts and inheritancesóisn’t evenly shared in Maryland. Hence, a divorce court may not distribute marital property evenly between divorcees. Instead, property will be distributed equitably, meaning that while one spouse may receive a smaller portion of marital property, it is a fair distribution.

Unless you and your spouse agreed to how property will be divided in a mutually consented, no-fault divorce, the court will base its property distribution decision based on several factors, including:

  • Each spouse’s individual contributions toward the family’s well-being.
  • Each spouse’s property interests and the value of said property.
  • Each spouse’s health, mental, and economic conditions.
  • How long the marriage lasted.

When Do I Need a Maryland Family Law Attorney?

Whether you need a family law attorney depends on a number of factors specific to your case. There is no one-size-fits-all answer. Few couples need a lawyer to get married but attorneys may be required if there’s a prenuptial agreement involved.

Individuals often benefit from hiring an attorney when dealing with divorce, child support, and especially child custody matters. Because emotions can run high during some divorces, hiring an attorney to negotiate and resolve difficult issues can be invaluable.

Many lawyers offer free initial consultations, so it may be worth your time to speak with an experienced Maryland family law attorney if you have additional questions.

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