Maryland Legislature Creates Path to Quicker Divorce
During the 2015 Legislative Session the Maryland General Assembly passed SB472 Family Law Grounds for Divorce Mutual Consent. The new law takes effect October 1, 2015. With this action, the legislature has made the divorce process for some married couples seeking a divorce much easier and less time consuming.
To obtain a divorce in Maryland, a party must be able to prove their grounds for the divorce at the time of filing. The grounds for divorce in Maryland include the following:
- Adultry No waiting time is required
- Desertion Presents in the form of actual or constructive desertion and one year must have passed
- Conviction of a felony or misdemeanor After incarceration for a minimum of one year on a sentence of three years or more
- One year of Separation Must live separate and apart and without cohabitation for one year without interruption
- Insanity Confinement to a mental institution must be for at least three years
- Cruelty No waiting time is required
- Excessively Vicious Conduct No waiting time is required
To this list the General Assembly has added Mutual Consent. However, the new grounds come with some qualifiers. To obtain a divorce on the grounds of Mutual Consent the parties:
- Must have no minor children;
- Must execute and submit to the court a written settlement agreement signed by both parties that resolves all issues relating to
- Alimony and
- Distribution of Property
- Must not file a pleading to set aside the Settlement Agreement prior to the Divorce hearing required under the Maryland Rules, and
- Must both appear before the Court at the Absolute Divorce Hearing
It should be noted that a court in Maryland has the right to modify any provision of a deed, agreement, or settlement with respect to alimony or spousal support unless there is an express waiver of alimony or spousal support or a provision specifically stating that the provisions with respect to alimony or spousal support are not subject to any court modification.
So what does this mean? Until now, two people who have reached an agreement to go their separate ways, regardless of the simplicity of their case, were required to wait a minimum of 365 days before they were able to begin the process for obtaining a divorce. That process often created more stress for the parties and sometimes more work for the courts. These new grounds shift the onus to the parties to create a separation agreement that complies with the relevant legal standards regarding alimony and distribution of property, file for divorce, and be available for the hearing.
Clearly there is an upside for the small group of married folks who are ready to amiably go their separate ways. But what about everyone else? What about the couples with a small child caught in the middle of an ugly year-long disagreement? We will have to wait and see what the General Assembly will do down the road.