MARYLAND ELIMINATES WAITING TIME FOR SOME UNCONTESTED DIVORCES; NO SEPARATION REQUIRED

 

The Maryland General Assembly approved, and the Governor is expected to sign, legislation which would eliminate the waiting period for an uncontested divorce from the current period of one (1) year.  The change will be effective October 1, 2015.

There are several important requirements to obtain a divorce under the new “mutual consent” law:

1)      The parties  cannot have any minor children in common;

2)      The parties must sign and submit to the court a written settlement agreement signed by both parties that resolves all issues relating to alimony and property, including any transfer of ownership of any property and division of any retirement accounts;

3)      Neither party files a pleading to set aside the settlement agreement prior to the divorce hearing; and

4)      Both parties appear before the court at the time of the absolute divorce hearing.

This legislation continues the trend in the legislature, reducing the waiting period for a divorce where there is a written agreement.  There are several important differences from the current grounds for a no-fault divorce.

Current voluntary separation statute FL Art. 7-103 (a)(4) New Mutual Consent Statute FL Art. 7-103(a)(8)
Available if there are minor children in common? Yes No
Requires living separate and apart? Yes No
Requires written settlement agreement? No Yes
Requires both parties to appear for the divorce? No Yes
Waiting period Yes No

 

This law highlights the legislature’s favorable view of the parties settling their marital disputes out of court.  If the parties are unable to resolve all of the issues themselves, or want a professional to draft the agreement, then mediation is usually the most cost effective way to achieve that result.  Other options to mediation are collaborative law, direct negotiations between the couple and their lawyers, or one party hiring a lawyer to draft the agreement with the other party hiring a lawyer to review the agreement (one lawyer cannot represent both parties).