Since 2013, Maryland has proudly held the title of the first state to legalize same-sex marriage. With it has come the less illustrious—but nonetheless important—legalization of same-sex divorce, which allows for divorce between same-sex couples on the same grounds as it does for heterosexual couples.
However, the laws surrounding divorce in Maryland have not been amended to encompass circumstances unique to same-sex marriage. Consequently, same-sex couples seeking to dissolve their marriage will encounter a few roadblocks:
- Adultery: Adultery is grounds for divorce under Maryland law. However, the law set forth limits on what is considered adultery, defining it as cheating through the act of sexual intercourse between a married person and another person to whom the offending person is not married. Therefore, when a spouse in a same-sex marriage cheats—by engaging in sexual acts other than intercourse—this does not constitute adultery in the eyes of the law.
- Alimony: Under Maryland law, alimony is awarded by considering the collective impact of 12 factors. One of these factors is the duration of the marriage. Typically, a longer marriage entitles the separating parties to greater rights and protections. Since marriage between same-sex couples has only been legal for a few years, the court may look upon this marriage as short-term, even though the couple may have been in a committed relationship long before marrying.
- Property division: Similarly, in the determination of monetary awards in a divorce, the court considers only property that the couple obtained while they were legally married. It does not take into account any property that was obtained prior to the marriage, although the couple may have been in a long-term, committed relationship.
There have been efforts within the judicial system to update Maryland divorce laws in order to reflect the circumstances of all married couples. We’ll keep you informed of any such changes as they unfold.