Separating Steps

Period of Separation:

In Maryland, the law was recently changed so that regardless of whether the separation was “voluntary” or not, the necessary period is the same. Maryland law requires that you live separately for a period of one year. This means no cohabitation for one year. Separation means residing (and sleeping) in different locations at all times.

Separation and “desertion” are two different occurrences and two different grounds in the eyes of the law. Desertion occurs when one party leaves without the intention of returning. A party being forced out is also seen as desertion, known as “constructive desertion.” “Forced out” can happen in such instances as being kicked out of the house and not allowed to return, or deciding that it is not safe for yourself or your children to continue living in the home. The Court will not penalize you for leaving your home to protect yourself or your family.

Should You Separate?

Before you decide that you should separate from your spouse, you should make sure you have tried everything you can think of to make the marriage or home situation better for your family. Did you use all means of communication to try and figure out the problem and work through it together? Often finding someone to talk to, such as a psychologist, social worker, pastor, or trusted family friend may assist in creating an open path for communication. Often stress accompanies poor communication and arguments and by entering into a counseling relationship you may develop coping tools and skills that enable you to work out differences. We can recommend those individual counselors that have expertise and a good track record in assisting you with the conflict that occurs between you and your spouse.

Financial Considerations: Budgeting is extremely important in evaluating the consequences of separating. If you spouse earns much more than you do, it may be possible for you to obtain alimony in addition to child support, assuming you have custody of the children. But it may take weeks or months before you receive the money. Parts of the process that cause the delay are court calendars, availability of the parties and their attorneys, and other forces that arise under specific factual scenarios.

It is important to consider the effect that separation will have on you and your children. Children observe a lot more than parents give them credit for, and it is quite possible that a separation may be the best thing for their well being.


Make sure you have thought long and hard about a separation before you go through with it. A drastic and emotional decision can have lasting effects on your life moving forward. Consider all the factors that you must figure out before you take action. Your life moving forward can play a part in custody arrangements and division of property once separation and divorce is final. Think about what possessions you are going to take, where the children will stay during this difficult time, and any financial responsibilities that will continue despite your separating. Regardless of your living situation, there are plenty of bills and responsibilities that will exist even if you do not live under the same roof. We have forms that you can complete on our website for budgeting purposes. Complete the budgeting forms on line that are in this website and do another set in more than one venue. Do a budget if you were to continue to reside at your current residence and without your spouse being the handyperson to make repairs and without landscape and snow removal provided by your spouse. Do another budget living in a smaller place without the need of the services above and with lower monthly rent or mortgage payments.

If you and your spouse are on speaking terms, first contact us to discuss your needs and your rights under the law for alimony and child support. Do not discuss the arrangements before you have been advised or before you separate. We strongly recommend first being informed of your rights by your lawyer before speaking with your spouse about separating. Let your lawyer do the communicating with your spouse. One of the typical problems that occurs when spouses bypass the attorney is the loss of trust because no matter how skillful a spouse may be in communicating, when the attorney communicates with the other spouse, it will all seem materially different. Hopefully, you can agree on the arrangements, and, if possible, put any agreement in writing. Such an agreement can be enforceable in court and will protect your rights. If your spouse does not want a separation or will not agree on specific arrangements, you will know your rights and will know your options. If your spouse will not come to a reasonable agreement with you, you have the option of filing a lawsuit for the divorce.

You can talk to our DIVORCE ATTORNEY if you are thinking about separating or divorcing your spouse. We can help you understand your options and help you through this difficult time in your marriage. CONTACT US at 410-730-4404 for your FREE CONSULTATION.