Understanding Grounds for Divorce in the DMV: Part #1

“I want a Divorce.”


Whether you’re the one saying those words to your spouse, or the one hearing them from your spouse- they are difficult words to process. Divorce can be a lengthy, complicated, litigious process, often fraught with sadness, tension, and emotion, not to mention the financial burden that it can impose on a family.

Once the initial shock and sadness begin to fade, you may begin to ask yourself several questions; one important question being: how? How does one actually get a Divorce?


Whether you’re in Maryland, Virginia, or the District of Columbia, the “how” part of getting divorced includes something called “grounds”. There are grounds for divorce. These grounds tell the court in which you are filing that are justifiable reasons as to why the marriage must end. These grounds are so important that you must have them before you can file.

Grounds for Divorce may differ depending on which state you live in, which is why it is so important to speak to a knowledgeable family law attorney. Hiring a competent attorney will help you avoid making costly mistakes.



Most states, such as Maryland and Virginia, name specific Grounds for Divorce upon which a divorce may be granted. Other states, such as the District of Columbia, only require the fulfillment of a specific time period of living separate and apart before the Court may grant a Divorce. Also in Maryland, there is a difference between a Limited Divorce and an Absolute Divorce. A limited divorce in Maryland is less stringent as opposed to an Absolute Divorce, which effectively dissolves your marriage. To reiterate, choose one of our knowledgeable attorneys to help you navigate this process efficiently.


In Maryland, you may file for a Limited Divorce based upon the grounds of cruelty, excessively harsh behavior toward spouse or a minor child, desertion; and mutual, voluntary separation. On the other hand, proving grounds for an absolute divorce in Maryland requires showing of either  adultery, desertion (a year or longer), cruelty and harsh conduct, one-year separation, criminal conviction (felony or misdemeanor); and/or insanity.

In Virginia, one may file for Divorce based upon a specific ground or on a “no-fault” basis. These grounds include Adultery, Cruelty, Desertion, and Separation. Virginia also has a required period for a couple to live separate and apart. For example, if a couple has a settlement agreement currently in place, has lived separate and apart for a period of at least six months, and they have no minor children, the Court will grant a divorce. Similarly, if a couple does have minor children, but has a settlement agreement in place and has lived separate and apart for a period of twelve months or more, the Court will also grant a Divorce.


Grounds for Divorce are often complicated and fact-specific. Hiring the right attorney at the first opportunity will not only save you money, but will help you to make sense of the process.


A. Clarke Law, PLLC is an award winning law firm in Washington, DC, Maryland and Virginia. A. Clarke Law accepts Divorce Litigation, Custody Litigation, Protective Orders and Custody Modification.