New Law Simplifies the Process for Some Couples in Getting Divorced in Maryland

Each state has its own peculiarities when it comes to the minimum standard a married couple must meet to pursue a divorce. Some requirements in some states can be cumbersome, awkward, or embarrassing for the parties involved. In an effort to do away with some of these problems, Maryland lawmakers recently changed the divorce laws here. Under the modified statute, some divorces that previously required a third-party witness to testify as to the length of the spouses’ separation may now go forward without this third-party witness testimony.

In most states, generally, a couple must have live apart for a specific period of time. For example, in states like Kentucky, this period is fairly short at 60 days. In that state, the couple need not have lived under separate roofs for 60 days, but they must not have cohabitated sexually for at least that minimum period of time. In an uncontested divorce, the petitioner can meet this requirement through proper pleading or providing testimonial evidence on the record.

Here, in Maryland, the requirements are a bit more complicated. Maryland law allows you to seek an absolute divorce, without regard to either’s spouse’s “fault,” in two possible ways. One is by the consent of both spouses. The other is if the couple has been separated for 12 months. Unlike states like Kentucky, which only prohibit “sexual cohabitation” during the separation, Maryland doesn’t allow you and your spouse to have spent the night under the same roof at any time in the 12-month period, even if you slept in separate rooms.

Another difference between Maryland and states with laws like Kentucky’s is that you have to do more than just plead it in your court papers. You have to testify that you’ve been separated for a year, and another witness must testify to that fact as well. This often entails bringing along a family member or friend to court to give the judge the testimony needed to allow for a divorce.

According to a Baltimore Sun report, some divorcing spouses and divorce attorneys found that the witness requirement was not just inconvenient but also painful. One divorcing wife told the Sun of having to ask her 24-year-old son to serve as her witness. One attorney discussed putting a divorcing wife’s father on the stand. In the first case, the son had to tell the judge that his mom and dad hadn’t had sex or slept under the same roof for a year. In the second, the uncomfortable father had to testify similarly about his daughter and her husband.

Last year, though, Maryland lawmakers sought to change these requirements. In February, a bill was introduced that would eliminate the witness requirement. It passed the legislature and was signed by the governor in May, taking effect on Oct. 1, 2016. Under the new version of the law, you must still testify in court that you and your spouse have been separated for at least 12 months, but you no longer need to bring a third-party witness with you to testify about the last time you slept with or slept under the same roof as your spouse.

Even as Maryland lawmakers have modified the law in the hopes of making certain divorces simpler for those seeking to end a marriage, there are still many issues and legal nuances regarding which an experienced Maryland attorney can provide you with invaluable assistance, including maintaining an up-to-date knowledge of all of the relevant changes to Maryland’s divorce laws. Maryland divorce attorney Anthony A. Fatemi has for many years helped spouses as they pursue their divorces and move on with their lives. To put this office’s experience to work for you, contact us at 301-519-2801 or via our online form.

More blog posts:

Maryland Court Interprets Conflicting Statutes in Child Support Case, Maryland Divorce Lawyer Blog, Sept. 30, 2016

Maryland Delegate Proposed Bill to Eliminate Need for Divorce Court Witness, Maryland Divorce Lawyer Blog, Feb. 25, 2016

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