New Grounds for Divorce in Maryland

In April of 2015, the Maryland General Assembly approved a law, soon thereafter approved by Governor Hogan, which authorizes the family courts “to decree an absolute divorce on the grounds of mutual consent.” Under this new ground for divorce, the court can eliminate the standard waiting period of 365 days for a couple seeking an absolutely divorce so long as:

  1. The couple does not have any children together who are under the age of 18. Children from previous marriages are not included in the consideration for claiming mutual consent.
  2. The couple “execute[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][s] and submit[s]t to the court a written settlement agreement signed by both parties resolving specified issues,” such as how the property should be divided, and whether or not to pursue alimony.
  3. The couple authorizes the court to use that settlement in their divorce decree, and that neither person asks the court to change or modify it before the divorce hearing unless both sides agree to the modification.

The law is slated to go into effect on October 1, 2015. This new law should go a long way in helping couples move more quickly through the divorce process, and in helping the courts clear out cases more efficiently.

Additional grounds for divorce

Couples who wish end their marriage must file under one of the recognized grounds for divorce in Maryland. Six of them cite “fault,” whereas one does not. The state publishes the full text online, but in summary, the 6 fault grounds are:

  1. Adultery
  2. Desertion
  3. Conviction of a criminal charge (felony or misdemeanor)
  4. Cruelty
  5. Excessively vicious conduct
  6. Insanity

For couples who simply wish to divorce and do not want to cite grounds, the state requires a “12–month separation, when the parties have lived separate and apart without cohabitation for 12 months without interruption before the filing of the application for divorce.” But starting in October, couples who wish to divorce but do not want to live apart for 12 months will now have the option of claiming mutual consent. Just because this new law makes the process more efficient, however, does not mean it will be “easier” to get a divorce in Maryland. You should still seek the guidance of an experienced and competent divorce lawyer to help you with the settlement agreement.

At Cynthia H. Clark & Associates, LLC, we assist people throughout Maryland who are seeking a divorce or in need of family law services. We invite you to contact the firm to reserve a consultation.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]