Maryland Passes Mutual Consent Divorce Bill for Couples with Children

lgbt child custody attorney.jpg

The state of Maryland recently passed legislation that allows married couples with children to divorce with the mutual consent of both parties.

Before 2015, to receive a no-fault divorce here in Maryland, every couple had to prove that they had lived in separate residences for 12 continuous months, with no sexual relations. “No-fault” means that neither party has to prove one caused the end of the marriage, but that they mutually seek to end the union.

However, many separated couples have found this one-year separation period quite difficult. It can cause financial hardship as well as emotional and psychological stress, as the separation and divorce period can drag on for well over 12 months.

Mutual consent divorce in Annapolis

Then, in October 2015, the Maryland legislature created “mutual consent divorce” so spouses could obtain an absolute divorce. An “absolute divorce” in Maryland is a legal action that completely dissolves the marriage. A “limited divorce,” on the other hand, is a legal status that divorcing spouses can obtain while they are separated, but still married.

The mutual consent divorce allows spouses to avoid the previous 12-month separation period. They simply must file a divorce agreement (created and agreed-upon mutually) that resolves all divorce issues up front. The divorcing spouses file the document, appear in court, and an absolute divorce is granted without having to wait a year.

The rub, however, was that this 2015 legislation was only available for couples without children.

With this recent legislation, however, this has changed. In a recent session, lawmakers in both the House and Senate passed a bill (SB 0120) allowing courts to grant an absolute divorce on mutual consent even if the couple has children.

The new legislation will go into effect in October 2018. When these types of cases are filed with the court, the settlement agreements must include the following:

Lastly, both parties must be present at the divorce hearing and they must be in complete agreement on all issues.

The passage of this bill gives couples with children the same opportunities to move on with their lives more quickly to reach to a “new normal,” and allow their children more time to emotionally adjust.

If you are thinking about divorce, or are in the beginning stages of seeking a divorce, the Annapolis divorce attorneys at Cynthia H. Clark & Associates, LLC can help. We advocate only for you and the best interests of your family, and can answer any questions or concerns you may have about the divorce process. To reserve a consultation at our office, please call 410.921.2422 or fill out our contact form.