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One of life’s truly most difficult times involves going through a divorce. Few people enter into a marriage expecting it to end in a divorce. The emotional trauma of losing that connection is bad enough, but then you are faced with the legal divorce.

Marriage is a sort of contract – a legally binding agreement in which each party acquires certain rights, privileges and obligations with respect to the other party. A divorce, simply put, terminates or alters those rights, privileges and obligations. Hence, Maryland has two types of divorce – an absolute divorce and a limited divorce.

In a limited divorce, the Court is faced with basically deciding what obligations each party shall have with respect to the other. It is similar to what people may describe on television as a “legal separation”. The Court can enter orders regarding custody and visitation, child support, alimony, and use and possession of property. The court does not decide permanent ownership of marital property, nor does it terminate the marriage in a way that would allow either party to re-marry.

An absolute divorce, by contrast, does everything a limited divorce accomplishes, but also determines ownership of property, may require one party to pay a monetary sum to compensate the other party for property, and terminates the marriage completely so that either party may re-marry if he or she chooses.

Of course, the grounds for each are different. Barring certain circumstances, most people are not even entitled to file for an absolute divorce unless and until they have been living separate and apart from their spouse for a period of one year or more. In cases of adultery and certain types of abuse, this so called “cooling off” or “waiting” period is not required and a person can file immediately.