Unlike other states, Maryland does not have a formal legal separation process.
If a couple takes up separate residents and end their romantic relationship, then Maryland law considers them separated.
A separation is a grounds for a contested divorce in Maryland, meaning a person can go to court without getting the person’s spouse to agree to divorce itself or to resolve divorce-related issues.
On the other hand, Maryland does have a process called limited divorce. In a limited divorce, the court will divide property and issue orders regarding child custody, parenting time, child support and alimony. However, the couple will remain legally married.
People may choose to do a limited divorce for religious or moral reasons; however, many others take this route because of financial concerns or even because they are not emotionally ready to end their marriages completely.
Because there is no legal separation process, couples who are separated will not necessarily have rules by which they can resolve issues about property or about any children they have in common.
While this may work out just fine so long as the couple is getting along, it can cause absolute chaos if any conflict over the children, paying down debts or handling property erupt.
Likewise, not having formal rules means that a person has no obligation to pay child support or spousal maintenance, no matter how difficult the other parent’s financial circumstances may be.
For this reason, a couple that has separated and started to live two separate lives may wish to negotiate a separation agreement.
While couples are deciding whether to pursue a divorce, or while one is pending, a separation agreement can help a couple know how to handle issues related to their children and other critical financial issues.