As surprising as it may sound, around 10% of marriages in the United States end in divorce within two years. Couples separate quickly for all sorts of reasons: certain couples married too young, others married before attaining financial self-reliance, others misjudged the other person, and so forth. Regardless of the reason, whenever a couple separates quickly, issues may arise when one or both of the partners begins meeting someone new before the finalization of the divorce. Some of these issues showed up in a recent case that took place in India.
Although this case is technically from a foreign jurisdiction and isn’t authoritative for Marylanders, we can still take away key lessons from this scenario. Let’s look at this case and its more bit of detail.
Factual Overview of the Case
As mentioned, this particular marriage occurred in India. The couple had marital problems from the beginning. And within two months, the couple separated and began living apart. Then, soon after that, one of the spouses found a new romantic partner and began dating. Naturally, the couple was concerned about a host of potential issues: could the spouse continue the new dating relationship during the marriage? Could the spouse remarry before finalizing the divorce? According to Indian marital laws, the spouse was able to continue with a live-in relationship with a new romantic partner during the marriage but was unable to marry before the finalization of the divorce.
Indian Law vs. Maryland Law
Again, even though this particular case transpired in India, many of its core lessons apply to the State of Maryland. Just like Indian law, Maryland law also forbids remarriage before the finalization of divorce; in other words, the law doesn’t allow “bigamy,” which involves being simultaneously married to two different people. Furthermore, nothing in Maryland law prevents someone from beginning a new dating relationship while being married. And so, Indian law also mirrors Maryland law in this respect.
Property Division Considerations
One of the key issues this type of scenario presents for Marylanders is property division. Although Maryland law doesn’t forbid a new dating relationship during the marriage, readers need to be aware that starting this relationship can affect property division. If, for instance, you spend marital funds on your new romantic partner, your spouse may be able to claim that this represents an improper dissipation of the marital assets; if this claim is successful, it can reduce your award of the marital property. Similarly, if you begin a new relationship, you may also be accused of adultery.
In Maryland, adultery can be used as leverage for gaining a greater amount of alimony. Someone who begins a new relationship this way may be hit with a larger alimony payment.
Issues Involving “Estranged Spouses”
Another issue that can arise is the problem of locating an estranged spouse. Suppose, for instance, your spouse disappears after the separation and doesn’t give you the means to contact them in the future. This circumstance can present complications when trying to finalize the divorce and remarry. Of course, it’s possible to obtain a default judgment even without knowing your spouse's whereabouts. But this requires additional steps, which will complicate the experience.