Marriage is the union of two individuals. Usually those individuals must be adults, but in some circumstances, minors as young as 15 years old may be married. There are other legal criteria to be eligible to be married, including that only non-blood related persons may get married and no party to the marriage may be presently married to another party. A marriage is essentially a type of contract, similar to two business partners going into business together. The law treats married persons differently from single persons in many regards, including tax treatment, dealings with children, rights upon a spouse’s death, and property ownership.
End of the Marriage
A marriage can end in one of three ways: death, an annulment, or divorce. Marriage automatically ends upon the death of one party. An annulment is the voiding of a marriage contract on the grounds that the marriage was ineffective from the start (for example, if one party was married to another person at the time of the second marriage). A “divorce” is the legal term for the dissolution of a marriage. In Maryland, a divorce must be approved by the court. Simply agreeing to a divorce by both parties, even if there is nothing in dispute, is not a ‘divorce’ in the eyes of the law. Like business partners ending a business venture, there can be many issues in dissolving the marriage arrangement and the dissolution can be amicable or there can be a lot of disagreement about what each party should receive upon divorce.
In Maryland, a final divorce is called an Absolute Divorce. One of the parties must prove to a judge that they are entitled to receive a divorce in order to obtain an Absolute Divorce. Maryland provides for a legal separation, which is called a “Limited Divorce.” Obtaining a Limited Divorce is not actually a “Divorce” but rather a court-enforced separation. The Limited Divorce in Maryland only handles immediate issues like child custody and visitation, child support, alimony, and use and possession of a family home or other assets (like a family car).