In 2015 the Maryland Legislature added a new ground for divorce—“Mutual Consent.” Fam. Law. Art. Sect. 7-103(a)(8).

Under that law, if a husband and wife (1) do not have minor children in common, (2) come to a written alimony and property settlement agreement (including retirement accounts), (3) do not seek to set the settlement agreement aside before the divorce hearing, and (4) both parties appear for the uncontested divorce hearing, then they can get divorced without having to wait for a one-year separation.  Indeed, they did not have to be separated at all.

That statute has worked so well that the Maryland legislature voted this session to expand it to divorcing couples with minor children. The bill awaits Gov. Hogan’s signature.  Unless he vetoes the bill by May 28, 2018 then it will become law effective October 1, 2018.

The impact may be profound. No longer will couples have to worry about who is moving out so that the one-year separation clock starts ticking. Rather they can negotiate a full agreement, oftentimes using mediation or collaborative law, while still residing together.  Once the full agreement is in place they can promptly get divorced (after October 1, 2018) if all of the conditions are met.  Divorces based on one-year separation will be limited to those situations where the parties cannot agree to settlement terms and need a trial.  For the 95% of the divorce cases that settle, waiting for a year will be a thing of the past.

Bottom line is, if your one-year separation period ends after October 1, 2018, you may be better off waiting until October 1, 2018 to file for divorce and seeking an immediate divorce based on mutual consent. Of course, that assumes that the bill is not vetoed.