Maryland’s New Mutual Consent Divorce Laws

Since 2011, divorce in Maryland has been complicated in the past by a rule that required married couples to be separated for 12 months before marriage for no fault and most fault grounds. That law still exists in circumstances in which two spouses are unable to agree on child custody, property division, alimony, and child support. If you are anticipating or going through divorce, the experienced legal guidance of the Maryland divorce attorneys at Frame and Frame can help protect your best interests.

Grounds for Divorce in Maryland

It used to be that if a couple wanted to divorce in Maryland but were unable to prove that a party was at fault for adultery, there was a waiting period of separation for 12 months before filing for divorce. Other grounds for divorce that required a 12-month separation prior to divorce included actual or constructive desertion, cruelty of treatment and excessively vicious conduct, and incarceration. The remaining fault-based ground for divorce is insanity, which requires a 3-year separation. Needless to say, this was not ideal for many coupler and made other life tasks such as financial or estate planning much more complicated.

A 2015 Law in Maryland Allows Couples Without Minor Children to Bypass the Imposed Separation

In 2015, the law was changed, allowing mutually consenting spouses to divorce without going through a separation period, but only if they had no minor children in common and if they executed a marital separation agreement which resolved all issues in their case, neither party sought to set aside the agreement prior to the hearing, and both parties appeared at the hearing to testify. This meant that even if the parties gave mutual consent to an uncontested divorce, they could not avoid the year-long waiting period if they had minor children in common. This posed a problem, as only 29 percent of households are comprised of childless married couples, according to Reuters. Most married couples have children. However, this law changed as of October 2018.

Since 2018 Parents with Minor Children Can Use Mutual Consent as Grounds for Divorce in Maryland

With the passing of Senate Bill 120 into law in 2018, parents with minor children can now use mutual consent as grounds for absolute divorce and bypass the 12-month-long separation period that was formerly required of them. This is good news for everyone involved. The passage of this law also waived the need for both parties to appear at a hearing further lowering the costs for the parties. The modification provides that if the parties execute and submit to the court a written settlement agreement signed by both parties that resolves all issues relating to: 1. alimony; 2. the distribution of property as provided for in the statutes; and 3. the care, custody, access, and support of minor children. If needed, a completed child support guidelines worksheet could be attached. Also, neither party would seek to set aside the hearing. If all these terms were met, the court, after reviewing the settlement agreement and if satisfied that the terms of the agreement relating to minor children are in the best interests of those children, will grant an absolute divorce on the basis of mutual consent.

Divorce is particularly tough on young kids, and the old law that forced separation on a family was wrought with problems. The parties, even with formal marital separation agreements, still had to pay for two households, cover their spouse on their health insurance, and otherwise not be able to “move on”, while they waited out the 12-month separation period. Not only did it prolong the agony and stress of the oncoming divorce, but during that waiting period, many families were forced to deal with asset distribution, custody, and child support on their own, without oversight or guidance from the courts. In some cases, a limited divorce was sought and granted, which provided temporary custody and support orders, but the parties would still incur the time and expense of having to file again for an absolute divorce. Limited divorce is still an option for couples who are not able to reach an agreement, but need temporary relief from the court.

The Pasadena Divorce Attorneys at Frame & Frame Can Help

The experienced legal guidance of the Maryland divorce attorneys at Frame & Frame can help determine what route your case should take. Whether your divorce is contested or not, it’s a good idea to have your interests represented by a lawyer. Working with our experienced, compassionate divorce attorneys will protect you and your child’s interests. Call our office at 410-255-0373 to schedule a free consultation.