Whether a couple is married has so many social and legal implications. So whether Maryland recognizes common-law marriage is an important and sometimes complex question.
Does Maryland Law Recognize Common Law Marriages?
Maryland law does not recognize common-law marriages. Only ten states and the District of Columbia still recognize common-law marriages.
But, and this is the key, if a valid common-law marriage has been created in a jurisdiction that recognizes common-law marriages, the marriage is valid in Maryland.
What is Separation in Maryland? (Limited Divorce)
While Maryland does not allow for legal separation, it does offer limited divorces. So a limited divorce is what people call a separation. If someone says, “I’m legally separated from my spouse,” they have a limited divorce. You can also call it a “legal separation.”
How much does a divorce cost in Maryland? This post aims to give you a better idea of the cost of a Maryland divorce lawyer.
First, is asking a lawyer how much a divorce will cost similar to asking a barber how often you should get a haircut? Absolutely. But the key difference here is we don’t cut your kind of hair. We are not divorce lawyers and will not represent you in your Maryland divorce.
- Legal separation or limited divorce is also an option in Maryland
Can you vacate a divorce and have your husband’s new marriage annulled? You almost can, as the plaintiff found out in Peete v. Peete, decided by the Maryland Appellate Court in March 2023.
Facts of Peete v. Peete
Bessie was married to a man named Author in 1971. She separated from him in 1975. In 1991, Author filed for divorce from Bessie in the Superior Court for the District of Columbia, and Bessie did not file an answer nor appear at the divorce hearing. As a result, the court granted Author a default judgment of absolute divorce. Author later married a woman appropriately named “Maryland.” The two remained married until Author died in 2007. Upon Author’s death, Maryland was appointed executor of his estate.
The Maryland Court of Appeals ruled yesterday in favor of an adoptive lesbian mother, denying visitation rights to her former partner.
Here are the facts in a nutshell: Two women, identified as Janice M. and Margaret K. by the court, met in 1986. After in vitro fertilization attempts failed, the couple adopted a child from India. India prohibits same-sex adoptions, so Janice adopted the child without her partner obtaining legal status. Presumably, Margaret relied on their long-term relationship to assume that no legal formalities were required. Besides, there is no Maryland case law or statute addressing whether same-sex parents may adopt children. But we know in practice that many Maryland same-sex couples adopt children, notwithstanding the lack of legal approbation. Here, both Janice and Margaret were acting as the child’s parents, dividing up responsibilities for caring for the child.
After an eighteen-year relationship, the couple separated in 2004. Janice kept the house and physical custody of the child, but Margaret continued to see the child three or four times a week. Not surprisingly, Janice soon wielded her legal status as the mother over Margaret, setting new conditions for visitation and requiring details as to who would be with the child during visitation. Reading between the lines, I suspect Margaret was the one that ended the relationship.
The Maryland Lawyer Blog is starting to really sink its teeth into the sperm donor recipients who strike a deal with the donor only to later seek child support. This is our second blog on the issue in as many months.
In this case, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court went into a different direction, ruling that Joel McKiernan, whose sperm donation allowed his former co-worker and girlfriend Ivonne Ferguson to give birth to twin boys in August 1994, does not have to make monthly child support payments or pay thousands of dollars in back support to help support the now 13-year-old boys. McKiernan donated his sperm to his former girlfriend in 1993 with the understanding that he would have no legal rights to the children and would not have to pay any child support. However, it appears that this agreement was never put in writing, and in 1999, Ferguson sued McKiernan for child support.
The trial judge ruled that McKiernan must pay $66,000 in back support and make monthly payments of $1,500, despite strongly disagreeing with Ms. Ferguson’s decision to renege on her original agreement. The Supreme Court overturned this earlier decision, stating that although ruling in favor of Mr. McKiernan would deny the boys additional support, they would not have been born had Ms. Ferguson not agreed that Mr. McKiernan would not be financially responsible for the children.
On Tuesday, the Court of Appeals, in a 4 to 3 majority, declined an attempt to legalize gay marriage. The majority did, however, underscore the legislature’s authority to choose to legalize same-sex marriage.
The Court reversed Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Brooke Murdock’s decision which found that the marriage statute, Family Law Article 2-201, which defined marriage as between a man and a woman was unconstitutional because it discriminated based on gender, thereby violating the Equal Rights amendment.
The opinion contained a partial concurrence/dissent and two dissenting opinions, one by Chief Judge Robert Bell. The majority held that the Equal Rights Amendment was not violated because the law discriminates equally between men and women who wished to engage in same-sex marriage (as opposed to only one of the sexes not being able to marry). This is a brilliant application of the law or the twisting of logic to get to the result the Court wanted to reach. I cannot decide. Either way, the ball is still in the hands of the Maryland legislature.