Maryland Delegate Proposed Bill to Eliminate Need for Divorce Court Witness

The length of a divorce process in Maryland often depends on many different factors. Some of the more common variables include the parties’ relationship and whether they are amicable toward each other, the amount of assets and debts to be allocated, and whether there were any children born in the marriage. These are but a few of the many issues that affect the duration of a divorce case. A fairly new law in Maryland was enacted just last year to make the process simpler and easier for couples that mutually agree to divorce.

Most couples hope that their case goes smoothly and efficiently, with as little strife as possible. Clearly, this saves everyone involved time, money, and emotional hardship. Equally important is an assurance that your legal and financial rights are protected throughout the process. An experienced family law attorney in Maryland would be able to explain the laws applicable to your case, navigate the legal process, and work to preserve your rights.

In Maryland, couples must live apart for 12 months before obtaining an uncontested divorce. But according to an article in the Baltimore Sun, there is some controversy over the process some couples must go through in order to secure a divorce decree. For instance, the separating spouses are often required to testify in court that for the past 12 months, they have not spent the night with each other, and they need a witness to corroborate that testimony. In an effort to change this “archaic” provision requiring corroborating evidence, Maryland Delegate Kathleen Dumais sponsored House Bill 274. According to Dumais, the witness requirement is intended “to prevent people from evading the 12-month rule.”

This recently introduced legislation would effectively repeal a provision that prohibits a court from entering a decree of divorce on the uncorroborated testimony of the party seeking the divorce. This means that the divorcing parties would no longer need to provide a separate witness to testify that the couple has not spent the night together for 12 consecutive months. Furthermore, the Bill would repeal a provision specifying that in a suit for absolute divorce on the grounds of voluntary separation, a separation agreement is corroborated by the plaintiff’s testimony.

State Sen. Robert A. Zirkin also filed a similar bill (SB 359) in the Senate for the stated purpose of repealing the prohibition on a court entering a decree of divorce on the uncorroborated testimony of the party seeking the divorce. The Bill also proposes changes to filing procedures for divorce. As an aside, Senator Zirkin successfully led the effort to enact the recent amendments to the divorce law, making it simpler and easier for parties to end their marriage.

Critics of the proposed changes have expressed concern about removing a “hurdle to divorce,” noting that the trend has been to make the process simpler and easier. Furthermore, some have suggested that by amending the law, it will be easier for one party to “scam” the other. Despite this skepticism, Senator Zirkin has indicated a belief that the law has a good chance of passing.

It will be interesting to see how the Maryland Legislature treats these new bills, and the resulting impact on the process. The importance of staying up to date with the most recent enactments affecting your family law case cannot be overstated. If you are considering a divorce, you are encouraged to consult with an experienced family lawyer as soon as possible. Anthony A. Fatemi is a Maryland family law attorney with experience representing parties in divorce and related matters. For representation and legal guidance, you can contact Mr. Fatemi at (888) 519-2801 or (301) 519-2801.

Related Blog Posts:

New Maryland Divorce Law Takes Effect; Simplifies Process

Divorcing in Maryland: What To Do With The Family Home?

Maryland Senator Sponsors Bill To Amend Divorce Law

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