How Domestic Violence Charges Can Impact Divorce In Maryland

  • 09 Oct 2023
domestic violence

In Maryland, facing domestic violence charges during a divorce can have significant consequences. These severe accusations do more than raise concerns about safety and well-being; they significantly affect many parts of the divorce process, including decisions about child custody, financial support, and dividing property. For anyone going through a divorce under such circumstances in Maryland, it’s crucial to understand how these criminal charges might impact the outcome. This understanding is vital to handling the challenges and ensuring one’s rights and interests are protected.

Like many jurisdictions, Maryland law takes allegations of domestic violence very seriously when deliberating over divorce cases. The presence of domestic violence can reshape the narrative of the divorce, emphasizing the necessity of protective measures and potentially affecting the equitable allocation of rights and assets among the parties involved. These criminal charges influence the determination of custody, allocation of alimony, and the distribution of marital property.

The involvement of domestic violence also brings child welfare and safety to the forefront in divorce proceedings. Maryland divorce courts prioritize the child’s best interests, closely examining abusive behavior when determining custody and visitation rights. Such abuse can alter the likelihood of being awarded custody of minor children and may result in limited or supervised visitation for the abusive parent.

Whether you find yourself accused of domestic violence or are a victim navigating the complexities of divorce, our compassionate team of Maryland divorce attorneys at The Law Office of Sandra Guzman-Salvado understands the challenges you are facing. We are ready to provide the support and legal guidance you need to navigate through your divorce case effectively.

How is Domestic Violence Defined in Maryland?

According to the Maryland Judiciary Website, domestic violence is:

  • assault
  • an act that places a person in fear of imminent serious bodily harm
  • an act that causes serious bodily harm
  • rape or sexual offense, or attempted rape or sexual offense
  • stalking
  • false imprisonment
  • revenge porn

Domestic violence must also involve individuals in close relations, which may include a current or former spouse, a roommate, a family member, a parent, a child, a stepchild, a vulnerable adult, or a co-parent.

How Domestic Violence Criminal Charges Shape the Course of Divorce in Maryland

In Maryland, the divorce process can become overwhelmingly complex when there are pending domestic violence charges. These criminal charges bring forth numerous considerations that can significantly influence the resolutions on child custody, financial allocations, and property divisions.

Child Custody and Visitation: Maryland courts prioritize the child’s best interests when determining child custody. The existence of domestic violence criminal charges can dramatically sway the court’s decisions, often leading to restricted or supervised visitation for the accused and impacting the allocation of custody rights significantly.

Alimony and Financial Considerations: Domestic violence criminal charges play a pivotal role in the court’s deliberation over financial settlements and alimony. The accused may be mandated to pay higher alimony, and the victim may receive a favorable financial settlement.

Division of Marital Assets: The equitable distribution of marital assets is profoundly impacted by pending domestic violence charges. The courts in Maryland endeavor to ensure a fair division, but the presence of abuse can tilt the scales, often resulting in a more favorable allocation to the victim.

Grounds for Divorce: In Maryland, domestic violence can serve as a substantial ground for divorce. The substantiation of such criminal charges can expedite the divorce process, allowing for swifter judgments. The court will meticulously examine the evidence presented, and a validated claim of abuse can considerably influence the overall divorce proceedings and their outcomes.

Legal and Protective Implications: The issuance of protective orders is a frequent consequence of domestic violence charges. These orders shield the victims by imposing various restrictions on the accused, possibly including vacating the marital home or maintaining a designated distance from the victim. Moreover, legal fees may also be awarded. The court may order the abusive spouse to pay the victim’s legal fees and costs.

New Maryland Divorce Law’s Impact On Domestic Violence Cases

The 2023 legislative changes to the Maryland Divorce Law, effective October 1, 2023, introduce significant alterations to the existing statutes, particularly concerning grounds for divorce and the repeal of the provision for limited divorce. Here’s a breakdown of how these changes can impact divorces involving domestic violence charges:

1. Elimination of Limited Divorce – Removing the limited divorce option can impact parties involved in domestic violence by taking away an intermediate step for those who may have been uncertain about permanently ending the marriage. The limited divorce provided temporary relief and resolved issues like child custody and alimony while leaving the marriage technically intact.

2. Changes in Absolute Divorce Grounds – The shift from a 12-month to a 6-month separation period, even if parties live under the same roof, can expedite the divorce process, which can be significant in domestic violence cases, allowing victims to sever ties quicker. The addition of irreconcilable differences and permanent legal incapacity as grounds could also impact the ease with which parties in abusive relationships can obtain a divorce.

3. Impact on Child Custody and Financial Settlements – Although the original grounds, such as cruelty of treatment or vicious conduct towards a spouse and/or minor child, have been repealed, these grounds may still factor in when deciding child custody, alimony, and other divorce-related issues. In domestic violence cases, these considerations are crucial, affecting the victims’ and involved children’s well-being and financial stability.

4. Legal Proceedings and Client Considerations – Removing the limited divorce may leave some clients feeling disadvantaged without this “legal crutch, ” possibly impacting their decision-making in domestic abuse situations. How Maryland will define irreconcilable differences could also affect how parties in domestic violence situations negotiate and present their cases.

5. Courts and Ongoing Cases – Implementing the new law raises questions about how the courts will handle those limited and absolute divorces filed before October 1, 2023. Parties involved in domestic violence might face uncertainties regarding the proceedings of their cases, depending on whether they fall before or after the enactment of the new law.

6. Facilitation of the Divorce Process – The new legislation aims for a more efficient, expeditious, and less stressful process for obtaining a divorce, which can be particularly beneficial for victims of domestic violence, enabling them to transition out of abusive relationships more smoothly.

The new changes to Maryland’s divorce law are set to significantly change how marriages are dissolved. This new law is aimed at making the divorce process faster and simpler. However, these changes will have many deep and varied effects, especially in situations involving domestic violence. People, including lawyers and their clients, who are dealing with domestic abuse situations will need to carefully work their way through the new legal rules to make sure their rights and well-being are properly protected.

Speak To Our Rockville Divorce Attorneys Now

If you are facing a divorce and there are issues involving domestic violence, you need to speak to one of our divorce attorneys as soon as possible. Our Rockville divorce attorneys at The Law Office of Sandra Guzman-Salvado have extensive experience with domestic violence cases and empathize with your situation, so please contact our attorneys (301) 340-1911 today for legal help.

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