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Katie Holmes, Tom Cruise, and the 5 Minute Divorce



24 hour marriages and even quicker divorces – Hollywood is full of them. On June 29, 2012, Katie Holmes filed for divorce and by July 9, 2012, her and her famous ex had hammered out a divorce agreement settling all issues with regards to property, custody and support. A mere two weeks after filing divorce, both Katie and Tom were able to walk the next red carpet solo. So can your divorce be this easy? Well, yes . . . and no.

Many clients first question is how do they obtain their own (kind of) quick and (mostly) hassle-free divorce? First, you have to understand the grounds for divorce in Maryland and the difference between a limited divorce and absolute divorce.

When you envision a divorce what comes to mind is an absolute end to the marriage and a final division of property matters and custody and support issues. In Maryland, we call that an absolute divorce. However, before you even get to an absolute divorce, the Court can award a limited divorce. In a limited divorce, you are legally separated but the marriage has not been terminated and the Court cannot determine all property rights. However, like with an absolute divorce, the Court can make support awards.

Why file for a limited divorce? Well for starters, you may not yet have the grounds for an absolute divorce. In order to succeed on a claim for absolute divorce, you must be able to prove one of the following:   (1) adultery; (2) desertion; (3) 12-month separation; (4) conviction of a felony or misdemeanor; (5) 2-year separation; (6) insanity; (7) cruelty of treatment; or (8) excessively vicious conduct. (See Maryland Family Law Article § 7-103).

As you can see, this can be an extremely tough standard to meet. For instance, what if you and your former spouse decide to amicably end the relationship but have not been separated for 12 months? This is a situation where you may want to file for a limited divorce on the grounds of: (1) cruelty of treatment of the complaining party or of a minor child of the complaining party; (2) excessively vicious conduct to the complaining party or to a minor child of the complaining party; (3)  desertion; or (4) voluntary separation, if the parties are living separate and apart without cohabitation, and there is no reasonable expectation of reconciliation. (See Maryland Family Law Article §7-102).

So while you may not meet the grounds for an absolute divorce, you can file for a limited divorce and obtain relief from the Court, such as alimony or child support, and amend your Complaint at a later date to obtain that absolute divorce.

Katie and Tom also had the benefit of a prenuptial agreement. In Maryland, you may also enter into your own prenuptial (sometimes called antenuptial agreements) which allocates support and property rights to a party. A prenuptial agreement protects the rights of both parties in the event the marriage ends. Like Tom, a party may have a business interest they wish to protect and like Katie, the financially inferior spouse, may wish to insure that their support rights are protected. A prenuptial agreement which resolves property and support issues may save you the time and expense of a costly litigation.

So can your divorce be as hassle free as Tom and Katie’s? Kind of. While we can’t all be celebrities, a clearly outlined prenuptial agreement and knowing your grounds for divorce can have you walking your own red carpet a lot sooner than you think.

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