Nancy S. Caplan, Esquire

Nancy S. Caplan, Esquire
Bend Don't Break- Mediate!


Friday, March 26, 2010

"Legal Separation" in Maryland

Many people contact me, a divorce mediation attorney, looking for services that will help them obtain a "Legal Separation" in Maryland.

What people usually mean by the term “Legal Separation” is that they are seeking a “Marital Settlement Agreement” recognized by the Maryland Courts. You may hear that term used interchangeably with “Separation Agreement” or “Property Settlement Agreement” or “Voluntary Separation Agreement” or some combination of those terms. The purpose of the Agreement is to settle all questions relating to what happens when parties decide to separate and/or plan to divorce in Maryland. Questions which are addressed by an Agreement include child custody, child visitation, child support, alimony, other spousal support, health insurance, division of household property, automobiles, bank accounts, debts, pensions, retirement accounts, tax filings, tax dependency exemptions, etc.

In Maryland, once a couple is married, they remain married until they are "absolutely" divorced. A married person in Maryland is never "free" to remarry or have a sexual relationship with a third party even after signing an Agreement. The implications or non-implications of committing adultery in Maryland are variable. The term “Legal Separation” in Maryland most closely relates to a Court-decreed “Limited Divorce.” A Limited Divorce may arise where the parties have immediate issues but are unable to come to an agreement privately and do not have “grounds” for a final “Absolute Divorce” (often meaning that the separation time period has not elapsed.) However, people proceed through trial to recieve a decree of Limited Divorce basically have a costly court-ordered equivalent of a private separation and/or property settlement agreement.

Therefore, whether through a costly trial leading to a “Limited Divorce” or through a cost-effective mediated negotiation of a Separation and Marital Settlement Agreement, the goal is the same-resolution of the issues. Property and debts will be divided, child custody, child support, alimony, an etc. all will be decided. A formal Agreement is a legal determination of rights and obligations arising from the dissolution of a marriage, not a “Legal Separation.”



This blog offers legal information, not legal advice. Every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of the information and to clearly explain general legal principles. However this is not “legal advice.” “Legal Advice” can be defined as the application of the law to your individual circumstances. For legal advice, you must consult an attorney / lawyer.

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