Abandonment Laws in Divorce in Maryland

By Mykal May

Updated November 15, 2017

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Maryland is a state with very specific requirements for divorce. Oftentimes, if a couple intends to divorce in Maryland, they must live apart for one year or give a reason they should be granted a divorce. However, in situations where one spouse is particularly at fault, the waiting period can be waived and the divorce can be obtained immediately.

One common reason for an at-fault divorce is desertion, otherwise known as abandonment. There are two different types of desertion: actual and constructive. The standards for obtaining a divorce on the grounds of desertions vary depending on whether actual or constructive desertion occurred.

Actual Desertion

Actual desertion has occurred if the deserting spouse abandons their marital home without giving any justification. In order to obtain a divorce based on actual desertion, the abandoned spouse must prove that:

  • The deserting spouse intended to end the marriage.
  • They are no longer living together or having sexual intercourse.
  • The deserting spouse was not justified in leaving.
  • The partners are beyond reasonable hope of making up.
  • The deserted spouse didn't consent to the deserting spouse's departure.
  • The desertion has continued for 12 months, without interruption.

If the deserted spouse can prove the above, he or she is entitled to divorce based on actual desertion.

Constructive Desertion

Constructive desertion occurs when one spouse forces the other spouse to leave the marital home through intolerable behavior. This can include physical or verbal abuse, refusal of sexual intercourse, cruelty or other behavior determined to be constructive desertion by a court.

The deserted spouse usually has to prove the same elements as they would in the case of actual desertion, but in constructive desertion, the court will also take into account:

  • The nature and duration of the misbehavior.
  • How long the leaving spouse endured the misconducts.
  • Attempts made by the leaving spouse to save the marriage before choosing to leave.

Missing Spouse

If a spouse has abandoned his or her partner and cannot be found, Maryland recognizes a default divorce. In this type of divorce, the abandoned partner can sign the divorce papers without consent of the missing partner.