Divorcing in Maryland will be much easier starting this October.
Couples in Maryland will be able to divorce without physical separation (i.e. the need to reside in separate households) or a waiting period thanks to a new law that hits the books and changes grounds for divorce.
Currently in Maryland there are two types of divorce: (1) limited, and (2) divorced. Starting October 1, 2023, the state of Maryland will do away with limited divorces and have only divorced divorces.
What are the new reasons for divorce?
In Maryland, a cause is required to obtain a divorce. The new grounds for divorce are: (1) “separation for a period of 6 months, if the parties had lived apart and separated for 6 months without interruption prior to filing for divorce” (the parties may be considered to be living separately and separately even if they live under the same roof); and (2) “non-reconcilable differences based on the reasons cited by the complainant for the final termination of the marriage.” The statute does not make clear what constitutes “irreconcilable differences”.
In addition, Maryland maintains the existing ground of divorce of “mutual consent,” which requires the parties to have a signed written settlement agreement to resolve all issues related to alimony, property distribution, custody, and child support, and to submit their signed agreement with child support. Guidelines, neither party offers to rescind the agreement, and the court believes the agreement is in the best interests of any minor children or dependents.
What is unusual about the new Maryland grounds of divorce is that for the first time none of the Maryland grounds of divorce were based on fault. Currently, the majority of current grounds for absolute divorce are fault-based, and include:
- Desertion, if it continues for 12 months without interruption, is considered willful and final, and there is no reasonable expectation of reconciliation
- Conviction of a felony or misdemeanor with a penalty of at least 3 years or an indefinite sentence and served 12 years
- Separation for 12 months requires living separately and separately, without cohabitation, and without interruption
- Insanity if confined to a mental institution, hospital or other institution for at least three years, two psychiatrists certify that insanity is incurable or hopeless, and one of them has been a resident for at least two years
- Cruel treatment without hope or reconciliation
- Excessively vicious behaviour
- Mutual consent (as described above)
Removing fault as a reason for divorce does not mean that fault will no longer play a factor in divorce. The court must still consider the circumstances that contributed to the divergence of the parties in determining maintenance and the equitable distribution of marital property.
However, once the law comes into force in October, people (especially those with limited means) will find it easier to divorce without first having to live separately and secludedly, in separate dwellings, for an entire year.