In Maryland, couples can divorce for fault (e.g. adultery, cruelty) or no-fault based on separation. Fault based divorces can occur immediately with no waiting period if the jurisdictional requirements are met. Divorce based on separation has required one year of separation if the parties separated voluntarily but two years if the separation was not voluntary (that is, one party did not want to separate).
The prospect of having to wait two years for a divorce has been used successfully by the party who is in no rush to divorce to get concessions from the other party who wants to get the divorce within the year. Once the objecting party gets the concessions he/she wants, then that party agrees to a divorce based on voluntary separation so the parties can get divorced on the anniversary of the one year separation period, not the two year involuntary separation period. Sometimes for religious, jealousy, spite or other reasons a party will simply not agree that the separation was voluntary, in which case the other party usually has to wait the full two years to get divorced.
Effective October 1, 2011 that changes. On that date, the distinction between voluntary and involuntary separation no longer exists. All divorce based on separation, whether voluntary or involuntary, will be one year. The party not wanting the divorce will no longer be able to hold up the divorce for an extra year. For any case filed after October 1, 2011 the time for a no-fault divorce will be one year from date of separation (i.e.(1) living “separate and apart” in separate dwellings AND (2) without cohabitation (sexual relations) during the separation period). The party objecting to the divorce will no longer be able to hold up the divorce for concessions of for another year.
It is expected that the Maryland legislature will consider renewing the distinction between voluntary and involuntary separation, by reducing the period for divorce by voluntary separation to six months, but for now all divorces based on any type of separation is one year.