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What are grounds for divorce?

Grounds for divorce are the reasons a person is seeking the end of their marriage. One or more reasons may be supplied by one or both parties. A reason is not necessary unless the petitioner is seeking an absolute divorce (which will terminate a marriage).

What are the common grounds for divorce and how can they be proven?

The primary reasons (or grounds) that people give when filing for divorce are listed below, along with ways that each of them can be proven during the divorce proceedings:

  1. Adultery. Adultery occurs when one spouse engages in a relationship with another person or other sexual activity with another person while still being married. An individual who claims that their partner committed adultery doesn’t need to prove that sexual intercourse happened with someone else. They just need to prove that their spouse had the opportunity and a high possibility of committing adultery with one or more people outside of the marriage. This is usually easier said than done. There must be enough witness testimony and/or evidence to support the adultery claim.
  2. Cruelty or excessively vicious conduct with a spouse or minor child living in the home. Vicious or cruel conduct toward a child or parent cannot be a one-time event. Isolated incidents may also be difficult to prove. A repeated pattern of behavior should be shown if this reason is given for seeking a divorce. Hospital records, 911 call transcripts and photos of any visible bruises, scars or other injuries that were suffered at the hands of the spouse in question may be necessary to confirm that the person’s actions or behaviors were enough to put their child or spouse in fear of harm to themselves or others that they know.
  3. Conviction of a misdemeanor or felony. Felony or misdemeanor convictions are easier to verify in a court of law, because those convictions are considered public records. Anyone in the state of Maryland can view that information online if they so choose. The Maryland Public Information Act makes that data available, unless certain laws restrict the dissemination of those details. The nature, severity and type of crime that was committed can affect the outcome of the divorce case.
  4. Desertion. Desertion can be used as grounds for divorce if the petitioner was deserted for a year or more. The desertion must have been intentional, and may have happened without advance warning or notice. Partners are not allowed to engage in sexual intercourse with one another or live together during desertion. Desertion must have been for 12 uninterrupted months or more before it can be used as a valid divorce reason.  The person who was abandoned can’t claim desertion if their partner returned to the marital home after a few weeks or months.
  5. Insanity. Insanity can be proven if the spouse that divorce was filed against was committed to a mental hospital or other similar institution for at least three years or more before the petition was filed. A doctor or physician may be called to verify this diagnosis or testify on the plaintiff’s behalf in those instances. The judge will listen to their information and may ask them if that person is capable of understanding the terms of the marriage agreement or if they are capable of working and providing for any children they may have had during the marriage.
  6. Involuntary separation. A partner may have been involuntarily separated from their spouse. Their partner may have decided to move out because of irreconcilable differences, a need to move closer to their job or family members or for other reasons. In those instances, the plaintiff must confirm that they did not consent to the separation in any way. Spouses must be separated for a minimum of 12 consecutive months before separation can be considered as grounds for a divorce.
  7. Voluntary separation. There may be occasions in which both partners decide that separating from each other is the best course of action. One or both people may leave the marital home if they want. The best interests of any minor children that the couple may have had are usually taken into consideration in those situations.  In any separation, partners cannot live in the same home or continue to have sexual intercourse with each other.
  8. Mutual consent. Both spouses can choose to seek a divorce at the same time. They may have fallen out of love with one another or realized that their problems simply cannot be solved. It might not make sense to try and patch things up, because the situation may never improve. Mutual consent may make the divorce easier, but should still be given as a reason when the divorce is requested. Partners may have already created and signed a marital separation agreement before the divorce petition has been filed.

Divorce can be difficult on all involved parties. It’s essential to keep emotions out of the equation as much as possible. There will be days when a spouse will be angry at their former partner for requesting a divorce or using one of the reasons listed above as their grounds for divorce. They may feel hurt or betrayed. It’s okay to feel what you feel, as long as you don’t take out your anger or aggression on others, especially your spouse or any minor children who may be living in the marital residence.

If you’re thinking about getting a divorce or have been served with divorce papers, give us a call. You can set up a no obligation consultation with one of our veteran attorneys. We’ll listen to what you have to say and provide invaluable advice for possible next steps. Our lawyers can even represent you in court if you so choose.

Divorce is never easy, even if both partners mutually consent to ending their marriage. Some tough decisions will need to be made and many personal relationships will be forever changed as a result. It won’t be easy, but if you’re willing to do the work, you may find yourself in a much better place in life after the marital union has been dissolved.