In the latest Weekly Wright Report:
An Update on Obtaining an Absolute Divorce in Maryland
By: Mollie G Caplis
Many seasoned family law attorneys notice an uptick in receiving calls for initial consultations during the summer months when kids are at camp and the daily grind of carpool and after-school activities is temporarily halted. During this time, people often have a moment to evaluate their personal lives and make decisions about whether to proceed with the divorce process. If you are in this position, you should be aware of certain changes in Maryland divorce law that are going into effect this Fall.
Back in March 2023, Wright, Constable & Skeen, LLP family law partner, Renée Bronfein Ades, published an article entitled, “Will Maryland Enact No Fault Divorce Grounds?” Well, I am writing to answer this question, which is yes. Effective October 1, 2023, the Maryland statute outlining the grounds for an absolute divorce will be amended to remove all but one of the previously identified grounds including adultery, desertion, and a twelve-month separation. Instead, as of October 1, 2023, the grounds for an absolute divorce will be limited to three simple options: mutual consent, six-month separation, or irreconcilable differences.
As a reminder, the requirements for mutual consent are that the parties have entered into a written settlement agreement signed by both parties that resolves all issues arising out of the marriage including, alimony, the distribution of property, legal and physical access of minor children, and child support. Provided that neither party has sought to set aside or challenge the settlement agreement, a court will grant an absolute divorce on the grounds of mutual consent. A significant benefit of this option is that it allows parties to get divorced on an uncontested basis without having to undergo any requisite separation period.
As to the new changes to the divorce statute, here are some important takeaways to keep in mind. One, there are no longer any fault-based grounds for divorce. So, if you discover that your spouse has committed adultery, that act no longer constitutes grounds for an absolute divorce (although it may be your basis for claiming irreconcilable differences). As to that term, irreconcilable differences, it is not defined in the statute, but a party must allege reasons for the permanent termination of the marriage in the pleading. Two, the separation period is not only shortened from twelve to six months but, notably, the amended statute provides that parties can be separated even if they reside under the same roof. This change removes the financial pressure parties often feel for someone to move out of the marital home in order to start the separation period. Three, the statute dedicated to limited divorce has been completely repealed, which means that you no longer need to bother with what was previously an intermediary legal step for filing for divorce when you did not otherwise meet the grounds for an absolute divorce.
While going through a divorce is never an easy process, the good news is that these upcoming changes should allow people to get divorced more efficiently in terms of time and legal costs. Should you have any questions about the divorce process in Maryland, please do not hesitate to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 410.659.1325.