Desertion in Divorce

Divorce on the Grounds of Desertion

In Maryland, you must provide justified grounds for divorce when choosing to dissolve a marriage. If you have been left without consent by your spouse, your legal grounds for divorce may be classified as desertion. Desertion gives you the right to support and reprimands the absent party for abandonment. However, legal guidelines must be followed to pursue desertion divorce.
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Legal Definition of Desertion

In the context of divorce, desertion refers to one spouse abandoning the other spouse without their consent and without any justifiable cause. To be considered desertion, the abandonment must be continuous. In Maryland, desertion is defined as a period of at least 12 months. Without justifiable cause means that there were no incidents to provoke departure, such as abuse or neglect by the abandoned spouse.
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Legal Consequences of Desertion

There are no specific legal consequences of divorce on the grounds of desertion in Maryland other than the fact that the divorce will be granted if the court finds that the abandonment occurred and was not justified. However, the divorce may have financial consequences, such as the division of property and debts, alimony, and child support.

Desertion vs. Voluntary Separation

Contrary to abandonment, voluntary separation is when both spouses agree to live separately. Voluntary separation is not grounds for divorce in and of itself but may be relevant to the divorce proceedings. You may file for a limited divorce due to voluntary separation.

Limited Divorce

A limited divorce is a legal separation that allows couples to live apart while remaining legally married. A limited divorce does not end the marriage but allows the court to make orders regarding issues such as alimony, child custody, and the use and possession of the property. Grounds for limited divorce include:

  • Cruel Treatment
  • Excessive Vicious Conduct Towards a Spouse or Their Minor Child
  • Desertion
  • Voluntary Separation

Absolute Divorce

An absolute divorce is a final divorce that legally ends a marriage. On the grounds of desertion, you must obtain a limited divorce prior to an absolute divorce, as the limited divorce will serve as further justification for the dissolution of the marriage. The grounds for absolute divorce include the following:

  • Adultery
  • Conviction of a Felony or Misdemeanor
  • Insanity
  • Mutual Consent of Both Spouses

The Cruelty of Treatment and Excessive Vicious Conduct

Cruelty and excessively vicious conduct refer to behavior that endangers a spouse’s life, health, or well-being, including physical, emotional, or financial abuse. The victim must prove that the cruelty was so severe that it was impossible to continue living with the offending spouse. For this type of divorce, it must be proven that there is no reasonable way to restore the marriage.
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Mutual Consent of the Spouses as Grounds for Divorce

Mutual consent as grounds for divorce is an uncontested divorce. If both spouses agree to the divorce, the process can proceed quickly and smoothly. The court may grant the divorce without a hearing if all necessary paperwork has been completed and filed.

In mutual consent divorce cases, the court will still need to make orders regarding issues such as alimony, child custody, support, property division, and debts. These orders are intended to help the parties transition to their new lives as single individuals.

Types of Desertion

There are two types of desertion: constructive desertion and actual desertion. Actual desertion refers to a spouse choosing to leave the marital home or forcing the other spouse to leave. Constructive desertion is when a spouse’s mistreatment or misconduct leads the abandoning spouse to go.

Proving Fault

Helpful evidence in proving desertion in a divorce case includes:

  • Written Communication: communication confirming the abandoning spouse left the marital home without cause or consent.
  • Witness Testimony: witnesses who saw or heard the abandoning spouse leave the marital home or who know the circumstances surrounding the abandonment
  • Financial Records: proof the abandoning spouse stopped contributing to household expenses or stopped supporting the abandoned spouse financially
  • Photographs or Videos: evidence that proves the impact on the abandoned spouse’s living situation after the abandonment

Factors to Consider During Desertion

There are several factors that the court may consider when determining whether to grant a divorce on the grounds of desertion in Maryland, including:

  • The length of time the abandoning spouse was absent from the marital home
  • The reason for the abandonment
  • The impact of the abandonment
  • The efforts of the abandoned spouse to locate the abandoning spouse
  • The intentions of the abandoning spouse

Return of a Spouse

If the abandoned spouse has filed a complaint for divorce and the abandoned spouse returns before the complaint are served, the abandoned spouse may choose to withdraw and reconcile. If the abandoned spouse elects to pursue the complaint, the abandoned spouse may contest the divorce and argue that the desertion did not occur or that it was justified.

The return of the abandoning spouse does not automatically cancel the divorce proceedings or the terms of a limited divorce. The case outcome will depend on the specific circumstances and the court’s decisions.

Get the Help You Need

If you are considering a divorce on the grounds of desertion, it is critical to seek the guidance of an experienced attorney. At the Law Offices of William Trevillian P.A., our attorneys have extensive experience handling divorce cases. They can provide the legal representation you need to protect your rights and interests.

Our team is ready to assist you and provide you with the support you need during this difficult time. Contact our law office today to schedule your free consultation where we will discuss the specifics of your divorce on the grounds of desertion.

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Call us now at 410-761-2430.