The Maryland General Assembly Weighs Passage of a Law to Institute ‘No-Fault’ Divorce in This State

The Maryland General Assembly is weighing the prospect of making this state a “no-fault” jurisdiction in terms of divorce actions. For some couples contemplating the prospect of divorce, such a change may have little impact; for others, it may matter a great deal. The bill is a reminder that, like all areas of the law, divorce law is frequently evolving. To put yourself in the best position possible, retain an experienced Maryland divorce lawyer who is fully up-to-date on all the changes in the law.

The bill, House Bill 14, would allow spouses to seek a dissolution based solely on their “irreconcilable differences.” Additionally, Maryland judges could grant divorces based on six months’ separation or medical proof that the other spouse is permanently incapacitated and incapable of making decisions.

Currently, Maryland has two forms of divorce: limited divorce and absolute divorce. Limited divorce doesn’t end the marriage and doesn’t allow you to remarry someone else, but somewhat functions like a form of legal separation, allowing you to obtain certain relief like an award of support. The bases that Maryland law currently recognizes for the award of a limited divorce are (1) cruelty (toward you or a minor child), (2) excessively vicious conduct, (3) desertion, or (4) voluntary separation.

Absolute divorce is the vehicle for ending a marriage and allowing the spouses to remarry. Maryland has seven grounds for absolute divorce, including (1) desertion, (2) incarceration, (3) insanity, (4) adultery, (5) cruelty, (6) excessive viciousness, or (7) a one-year separation. If you are seeking to obtain an absolute divorce on the basis of separation, you generally must live apart from your spouse and the two of you must refrain from engaging in intimate relations during that one-year period.

Adultery, Cruelty, and Other Misconduct Could Still Be Important to Your Case

If you have evidence that your spouse engaged in adultery, cruelty, viciousness, or desertion, that proof could still play a role in your divorce case, even if the state switches to a “no-fault” system of divorce. That sort of evidence potentially could allow you to obtain a more favorable outcome with regard to alimony, child custody, or monetary awards.

The proposed change in the law would do away with limited divorce entirely.

Supporters of the bill see many potential benefits. According to a report by The Daily Record, a member of the state bar’s family law section testified before a House committee that the change would “streamline” divorce, resulting in “less waiting time, less expense and less acrimony within… families.” The director of a domestic violence legal clinic opined that removing the need to testify about a spouse’s cruelty or viciousness would have the benefit of taking “the temperature down in these filings.”

The bill was reported favorably by the Judiciary Committee and will soon go before the full House for a vote, and is expected to pass.

Whether Maryland keeps its current divorce laws or switches to a “no-fault” system of divorce, divorce will remain a very painful time for many of the spouses going through it. The compassionate and experienced Maryland family law attorneys at Anthony A. Fatemi, LLC are here to help you navigate your divorce, whether you or your spouse was the one seeking the dissolution. Our knowledgeable team consistently strives to make these matters as low-stress as possible. Contact us today at 301-519-2801 or via our online form to set up your consultation.

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