Major Changes in the Grounds for a Obtaining Maryland Divorce Take Effect October 1

Back in February, this blog discussed a bill in the General Assembly that would create “no-fault” divorce in this state. That bill passed and, as WUSA reminded its audience today, Maryland’s new no-fault divorce law takes effect tomorrow, October 1. The new law represents an important shift in divorce law in this state. To find out how the new law potentially impacts your divorce, be sure to get the right information by speaking to an experienced Maryland divorce lawyer.

Historically, Maryland law has recognized two types of divorce: limited divorce and absolute divorce. Limited divorce was something that did not end the marriage and did not permit remarriage, but did legalize the spouses’ separation and provide for a court order of support.

Absolute divorce fully ended the marriage, permitted remarriage, and divided all property.

To obtain an absolute divorce, a spouse had to provide the court with “grounds” for the divorce. Those bases included separation, adultery, insanity, imprisonment, desertion, cruelty, and “excessively vicious conduct.”

The bill that became law earlier this year eliminated limited divorce. It also changed the grounds for obtaining an absolute divorce in this state.

Under the new law, parties seeking a divorce need only establish that they and their spouse have “irreconcilable differences,” that the two spouses have mutually consented to the divorce (which includes reaching a written agreement that resolves all of their divorce issues), or that they have been separated for at least six months.

Changes to the ‘Separation’ Ground

Separation was a ground under the old law, but the new law made critical changes. For one thing, the new law cuts the time period in half, from 12 months to six.

Additionally, the new law eliminates the requirement that the spouses be separated “without cohabitation.” The new law says that, as long as the spouses “have pursued separate lives” for at least six months, they can pursue a divorce based on separation, even if they shared (or share) the same residence.

What’s Requires to Show Mutual Consent or Irreconcilable Differences

Regarding the mutual consent option, the law demands that the agreement the spouses sign cover all financial matters, including alimony, division of all marital assets and debts, and any monetary award. If the spouses have minor or dependent children, the written agreement must also set out all issues related to care, custody, visitation, and child support.

The new law did not lay out a specific definition of what constitutes “irreconcilable differences,” which means that the Maryland courts may in the future flesh this out in greater detail. For reference, Black’s Law Dictionary says that irreconcilable differences are “persistent and unresolvable disagreements between spouses, leading to the breakdown of the marriage.”

As you undertake getting a Maryland divorce under the new law, an experienced legal advocate can help you understand your rights and legal obligations, and guide through the new process. The knowledgeable Maryland family law attorneys at Anthony A. Fatemi, LLC can help you to get a fair outcome as quickly and efficiently as possible, thereby allowing both of you to move on with your lives. Contact us today at 301-519-2801 or via our online form to set up your consultation.

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