New Law Drastically Changes Divorce Requirements in Maryland
Maryland has simplified and updated its divorce laws. The new changes should make it easier for many couples to establish that their marriage is not salvageable and obtain a divorce more quickly. The speedier process is likely to make divorce more feasible economically and perhaps lessen the tension and bitterness that often develop during divorce proceedings.
However, Maryland’s divorce laws are still more complicated than those of many other states. If you and your spouse are considering dissolving your marriage, it is wise to consult a family attorney early in the process. They could explain what the law requires, what to expect in practical terms, and help you achieve your goals with as little stress and expense as possible.
No More Limited Divorce
The law used to describe a process called limited divorce, which allowed a couple to live apart, implement a spousal support agreement, and make co-parenting arrangements for their children. A limited divorce did not provide a division of marital property and the spouses were not free to remarry.
The section of law describing limited divorce is repealed, and as of October 1, 2023, judges will no longer issue limited divorces. Anyone filing for divorce after that date must seek an absolute divorce.
Changes in the Grounds for Divorce
In the past, most of the grounds for divorce in Maryland were fault-based: adultery, cruelty, desertion, insanity, incarceration, or mutual consent. A couple citing the grounds of mutual consent must have agreed on all aspects of their divorce, including property division and all issues related to the children before filing for divorce. Couples who were not in agreement on all issues and could not prove a fault-based ground or who chose not to assert one could divorce only after being separated for at least one year.
The new law abolishes the fault-based grounds for divorce. Now, Maryland Family Law Code § 7-103 allows a couple to cite one of four reasons for their divorce:
- Separation for at least six months
- Irreconcilable differences
- Permanent incapacity of one of the spouses
- Mutual consent
The mutual consent ground still requires the couple to file their agreements regarding property division, alimony, and child custody with their petition for divorce.
Easier Rules Regarding Separation
Many Maryland couples cited a year-long separation as their grounds for divorce to avoid the rancor and potential embarrassment of proving fault-based grounds. However, maintaining separate households for one year prior to a divorce filing often caused hardship.
The new law reduces the time a couple must be separated from one year to six months. It also recognizes that high housing costs and other financial constraints could make it challenging for a couple to establish separate households. Courts can now accept that the couple lives separate lives even if both spouses continue to occupy the same residence.
A court might want proof that a couple who continues to share a home has been living separate lives. Evidence that they maintain separate bedrooms, do not socialize as a couple, and have told family and friends that they are separated could help a couple establish that they are not living together as spouses.
Contact a Maryland Attorney if You Are Considering Divorce
Although the new laws will make divorce easier for many people, the process remains complex. It is important to have legal guidance to fully understand your rights and responsibilities.
Planning ahead can ease the financial and emotional stress of a divorce. Call today to discuss your situation with our knowledgeable team.