When Maryland legalized same-sex marriage in 2013, it also made same-sex divorce a reality. Divorce proceedings for same-sex couples should mirror that of heterosexual couples. However, because same-sex marriage is still in its infancy legally, a few issues still need to be worked out.
To apply for divorce in Maryland, at least one spouse must be an active state resident. Maryland will not have jurisdiction over the case if neither spouse can satisfy the residence requirement.
Grounds for divorce
Same-sex married couples can divorce on either no-fault or fault grounds. Couples typically file a no-fault divorce when they are incompatible or cannot get along. On the other hand, an individual files a fault divorce if they feel that their spouse’s poor behavior, such as adultery, abuse or desertion, caused the marriage to break up.
Issues that may complicate same-sex divorce
The court bases alimony payments on the length of the marriage. Since Maryland only legalized same-sex marriage in 2013, the court may not take into account any time the couple spent together before then.
Marriage does not automatically make another spouse the legal parent of a child. If the nonbiological parent in the marriage did not legally adopt a child, the court might not award them parental rights. They must establish their rights by proving they acted as the child’s de facto parent.
Maryland considers any property acquired during a marriage as marital property. The only exceptions are inheritances, gifts or anything acquired before the marriage. Property division becomes complicated because, according to the law, same-sex marriages did not exist before 2013. For instance, even though spouse B contributed more to a property, if spouse A bought it before 2013, the court may not consider it marital property and award it to spouse A.
There are some significant differences between same-sex divorce and heterosexual divorce, making it harder to navigate. It might be best to see a divorce lawyer who understands the unique challenges of same-sex divorces.