In the latest Weekly Wright Report:
- Will Maryland Enact No Fault Divorce Grounds?
Will Maryland Enact No Fault Divorce Grounds?
Just as I was thinking about a topic for this article, I realized that the General Assembly was on the cusp of acting upon a change of the grounds for divorce that many (but not all) family law lawyers have been advocating for since I have been a member of the bar. A bill is currently pending that is set to be heard on Thursday April 6, 2023 and either enacted, or not, by the end of the session on Monday, April 10, 2023 at the latest.
The supporters of the bill are hoping that the lawmakers pass a no-fault ground for divorce, i.e. irreconcilable differences, that has a six month, instead of a twelve month waiting period. Additionally, the bill allows for the couple to be separated while living under the same roof. As a result, the bill would eliminate the grounds for a limited divorce, which in reality is only a stepping stone toward getting an absolute divorce and is a vehicle to file for divorce when the grounds of absolute divorce are not yet ripe.
Given the current rate of inflation and increase in the price of rental properties and mortgage interest, it will be helpful to be able to conduct a separation while living under the same roof. This is not a new concept, many states before Maryland have enacted similar legislation. In fact, Maryland is late to the game. It was not so long ago, during the financial crisis of 2008 with 401ks being devalued and residential values plummeting that litigants were frantic for such a solution to the living apart requirement of a separation as precedent to a divorce.
Currently, a mutual consent divorce can be obtained in Maryland at any time that a written agreement has been entered into by parties that resolves all custody, support, and property distributions, so long as no one has filed a subsequent challenge to the agreement. This new ground likewise allows people to continue to live together until the divorce. The new ground contemplated will allow for a filing so that if mutual consent is not possible, parties that have not yet reached a global agreement, can avail themselves of the services of the court to assist in getting the parties to a reasonable resolution.
The detractors are concerned that a shortened waiting period will automatically translate into shortened time standards enacted by the court for bringing a case to conclusion resulting in less fulsome evidence being generated to obtain the best result possible. Those not in favor believe this will result in more contentious custody cases and less time for reasoned settlement discussions.
If enacted, we will see if the detractors were correct, or if because people can get into court and reach resolutions sooner, contentious arguments are avoided because of the court assistance brought to bear. We don’t have long to find out since the session ends on April 10, 2023. If enacted the new law will take effect October 1, 2023.
If you are considering a divorce, or are in need of legal assistance for a family law matter please contact Renée Bronfein Ades at email@example.com.