In the state of Maryland, a couple considering ending their marriage has another option available before jumping right to the divorce process. Although they are not that common, a legal separation can be used in a situation where a couple is still figuring out whether they want to try and make their marriage work or if they want to go ahead with the divorce.
If a couple agrees to a legal separation, the court still makes a number of determinations regarding property division and child custody. Further, a spouse may also be entitled to separation maintenance, which can include the equivalent of spousal support and child support. If the couple later decides to get a divorce instead of working on the marriage, the separation maintenance can have an impact on what each spouse could be awarded during the actual divorce.
In Maryland, a couple can voluntarily separate before filing for divorce. This is a known as a limited divorce. Although this does not end the couple's marriage, any property obtained during the legal separation may be considered separate property. However, it should be noted that the spouses need to be living in separate places for the year before they can file for an absolute divorce.
For many couples, a legal separation allows both parties to reevaluate the marriage and determine if they can work through the disputes and problems. If a couple legally separates, however, they must still reach a separation agreement that will have an influence on how the court will handle the situation in the event the couple decides to ultimately dissolve the marriage. As such, a family law attorney may negotiate a separation agreement for a spouse who is intending to seek a divorce. The agreement may include parenting rights and marital property division.