Maryland Divorce: Can Adultery Still Affect My Divorce Outcome?

A woman with her boyfriend holds hands with her lover, infidelity

Yes. As we have written, as of October 1, 2023, Maryland has become a no-fault divorce State. A revised divorce law was enacted earlier in 2023. As such, adultery has been eliminated as a ground for seeking a divorce. Divorce can be requested and granted for the following reasons/grounds:

  • Irreconcilable differences
  • The couple has lived apart for at least six months or
  • The couple seeks a divorce by mutual consent

Even though adultery is no longer a reason/ground for divorce, adultery can — and will — still be a valid consideration in Maryland divorce proceedings. This is because Maryland divorce courts are still required to take into account the “reasons for the estrangement” of the couple when making decisions about alimony and division of property. If you have questions about seeking a divorce, the Maryland and D.C. divorce attorneys at The Law Offices of Thomas Stahl are here for you and ready to help.

Indeed, this has been explicitly stated in a recent case decision by the Maryland Supreme Court. See Lloyd v. Niceta, Case No. 33 (Md. Supreme Court, Sept. Term, August 30, 2023). The case involved what is called a postnuptial agreement. The couple had been married for several years, and the wife caught the husband engaging in adulterous behavior. The wife — Anna Cristina Niceta — wanted to file for divorce, but the husband — Thomas L. Lloyd — begged her not to and promised to cease his philandering ways. The couple agreed to remain married, but the wife demanded that they sign a postnuptial agreement. In the agreement, the husband agreed to pay her $7 million as part of the divorce property settlement if he cheated on her again.

As it happened, he DID commit adultery again. The wife then filed for divorce, and the lower Maryland divorce court and the Court of Appeals enforced the postnuptial agreement. The wife was awarded the “normal” division of marital property and also the $7 million lump sum penalty for his adulterous behavior.

In its August 30, 2023 opinion, the Maryland Supreme Court affirmed the lower courts. Niceta was entitled to the $7 million penalty. Importantly, the Maryland Supreme Court held that Maryland public policy justified this ruling. First, as of August 30, 2023, adultery was still grounds for seeking a divorce in Maryland. As such, enforcing an agreement related to adultery was reasonable based on Maryland’s public policy.

Second — and most importantly — the Supreme Court noted that Maryland still permits divorce courts to consider adultery in making decisions about property distributions and alimony in a divorce proceeding. From this, the Supreme Court noted that these statutes establish that Maryland’s public policy still disfavors adultery. Thus, couples were still free to make agreements related to adultery and divorce, AND Maryland’s divorce courts were still able to consider adultery in making divorce-related decisions. The Maryland Supreme Court indicated that its decision was a “narrow” decision that allowed a couple to make agreements about allocating “marital assets in the event of divorce based on adultery.” The court said that spouses may NOT “… impose on each other monetary penalties unrelated to marital assets or unrelated to the division of such assets during a divorce …”

Maryland And D.C. Family Law Attorneys

Contact the seasoned and experienced Maryland and D.C. family law lawyers at The Law Offices of Thomas Stahl for more information. We have the skills and expertise you need. We have proven experience with family law for Maryland and the District of Columbia. Schedule a consultation today or call us at (410) 696-4326 or (202) 964-7280. We have offices in Columbia, MD, and Washington, DC.

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