What are the Five Grounds for Divorce?

Divorce can happen for many reasons, and Maryland Law recognizes this. If you are considering divorce, you might be wondering about your legal choices and options. It’s crucial to be informed going into this process as the decisions you make now could impact your life and the lives of your children for many years to come. One of the first steps you need to take is to decide whether to file a fault or no-fault divorce.

Maryland’s Fault vs. No-Fault Divorce Laws

Under Maryland statute, a divorce can either be no-fault or fault. Fault divorces can impact your right to alimony and even how marital property is divided. While fault doesn’t usually impact child custody, the court will consider it when determining custody if the fault grounds puts the child in danger.

Those who pursue a fault-based divorce must prove to the court that their spouse acted in specific ways. Maryland recognizes five grounds for a fault divorce:


This ground for divorce doesn’t require a waiting period. If you can prove your spouse committed adultery, the judge is allowed to grant your divorce immediately. To prove this ground, you need to prove that your spouse had the disposition and the opportunity to commit such an act. For example:

  • You could prove disposition with public displays of affection between your spouse and someone else
  • You could prove your spouse had an opportunity by showing they were at the non-spouse’s home for an extended period of time


Desertion grounds ban be actual or constructive. Among other things, actual desertion must include the couple not living together for a continuous year, the deserting spouse wanted to end the marriage, and the other spouse didn’t consent to the desertion. Constructive desertion technically also requires proof of the same; however, it also involves some level of cruelty in the marriage.

Cruelty of Treatment/Excessively Vicious Conduct

Suppose one spouse’s conduct endangers the life or health of the other person or their minor child, making living together unsafe. In that case, cruelty of treatment or excessively vicious conduct can be grounds for divorce. Frequently, these types of divorces involve physical or other forms of abuse. Even a single act of cruelty can be grounds for divorce if it shows that the spouse wants to cause serious bodily harm.


Permanent and incurable insanity is also grounds for divorce in Maryland. For these purposes, a spouse is considered permanently incurable if:

  • They have been in a mental institution, hospital, or other institution for a minimum of three years before filing for the divorce; AND
  • At least two competent psychiatric physicians testify that the spouse’s insanity is permanently incurable and there is no hope of recovery; AND
  • One of the spouses has resided in Maryland for a minimum of two years before filing for divorce

A Criminal Conviction

You also have grounds for divorce if your spouse has received a criminal conviction. However, the following conditions must be met:

  • Your spouse received a criminal conviction in any state; AND
  • Has a jail sentence of at least three years (or an undefined sentence); AND
  • They have served 12 months at the time the divorce is filed

Call an Experienced Maryland Divorce Lawyer Today

For questions about your divorce rights or options, meeting with an experienced Maryland divorce lawyer is in your best interest. They can review your circumstances and reasons for divorce to determine the type of divorce that is most beneficial for you and your children. The sooner you have an attorney on your side, the more legal options you have.

Contact our office today.