Expanding Mutual Consent Divorce

Amendments to Maryland Family Law 7-103

During the 2018 legislative session, the Maryland Legislature voted in favor of significant changes to the mutual consent grounds for divorce in Maryland. The changes will make the mutual consent grounds available to a significantly larger number of parties and should allow for a more cost-effective and efficient avenue to obtaining a fast divorce in Maryland.

When mutual consent became grounds for absolute divorce in 2014, it became possible for certain parties seeking a divorce to file with the court immediately and, oftentimes, receive a judgment of absolute divorce within a matter of weeks. Specifically, to be eligible under Md. Family Law  7-103(a)(8) Mutual Consent, the parties were required to have no minor children in common, to have executed a written settlement agreement resolving all marital property issues and alimony, and for both parties to appear at the final hearing. The statute’s requirement that the parties have no minor children in common significantly limited the scope of the law. That limited scope, however, will see a dramatic shift in the coming months.

As of October 1, 2018, mutual consent grounds will be available to parties who have minor children in common but who have entered into a written settlement agreement. This amendment will not only allow a much greater number of couples to obtain a final divorce more expeditiously, but should also decrease the costs associated with prolonged divorce proceedings.

The new amendments also provide that, in addition to resolving the issues of alimony and marital property distribution, the parties written settlement agreement must address the care, custody, access, and support of minor or dependent children. The adjudicating court will then consider the custody terms in light of Maryland’s best interest of the children standard. Upon the court’s satisfaction with all of the agreement’s provisions, the parties will be granted an absolute divorce.

The changes to the existing law will allow parties to obtain a divorce in a much shorter timeline if they are able to reach a written settlement agreement, which should alleviate some of the emotional turmoil and stress of going through the process of divorce.

As noted above, the amendments to Md. Fam. Law 7-103 will become effective October 1, 2018. If you have questions for a divorce lawyer in Maryland, give us a call for a free consultation.

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