ANNAPOLIS — Legislation to make Maryland a no-fault divorce state was brought before House and Senate committees on Tuesday, with backers of the bill saying it was time for Maryland to join the 39 other states that allow spouses to separate based on “irreconcilable differences.” “.
House Bill 14 and Senate Bill 36 cross-introduced would eliminate adultery, desertion, a three-year prison sentence, 12-month separation, insanity, and cruelty as legal grounds for divorce. Alternatively, a court can grant a divorce on the grounds of irreconcilable differences, a six-month separation, or the spouse’s medically proven permanent inability to make decisions.
Attorney Michelle Smith told the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday that the no-fault legislation “will streamline existing Maryland divorce law and allow our citizens to file and receive divorces with less waiting time, less expense, and less acrimony within their families.” “It will simplify and allow more people in unhappy marriages immediate access to the courts to begin the process of dissolving their marriage and moving on with their lives rather than having to wait 12 months to do so.”
An ex-spouse’s adultery, desertion or cruelty can still be brought to court because it counts alimony, custody and monetary damages in a divorce ruling, said Smith, of the Family Law Division of the Maryland State Bar Association.
Under the six-month separation clause in the legislation, separated spouses would be allowed to live in the same home during that time. However, they must remain separated for six months to qualify for a divorce.
Representative Vanessa E. Atterbury, D-Howard, and Senator Chris West, R-Baltimore County, are the lead sponsors of the legislation in their respective houses.
On Thursday, Atterbury said the measure would allow couples to be split up to “get on with their lives” without the time and expense of litigation resulting from having to show fault or a full year of separation.
Dorothy Lynnig, director of the Domestic Violence Legal Clinic at the House of Ruth Maryland, applauded the legislation that allows divorce to be filed without requiring the spouse to testify about the other’s cruelty.
“The whole idea of this bill is to lower the temperature in these deposits,” Lynnig told the House Committee. “You no longer have to submit an application for error reasons.”
The Senate Judicial Procedures Committee held a hearing on SB 36 after the time of the article’s publication on Tuesday.
In addition to establishing a no-fault divorce, the legislation would end the power of judges to grant a “limited divorce,” which does not terminate a marriage but allows the complaining spouse to live separate and separate from each other.
Under current law, courts may grant a limited divorce if the parties are living apart or when the spouse seeking the divorce has been subjected to harsh treatment by the other party. A limited divorce may also be granted in cases where an absolute divorce is requested but the grounds are not satisfied.
The legislation will not affect the ability of couples to obtain a “consensual” divorce.
Under mutual consent, a court may grant a divorce if the estranged spouses sign a written agreement to resolve alimony issues; property distribution; and the care, custody, access and support of minor children. The court must be satisfied that the conditions regarding the children are in their best interest before a divorce is granted.