In the State of Maryland, for many years, a couple had to spend a year apart before filing for divorce if neither party was necessarily at blame (or could demonstrate fault). There was no way around it; you had to wait at least a year before you could seek for an absolute divorce without evidence of adultery or severe treatment. There are additional reasons for divorce, as was described in an earlier post, but aside from adultery or cruel treatment, they all needed a waiting period of at least one year. That is, until 2015, when the local Legislature added a new ground for mutual consent divorce in Maryland.
See Maryland Family Law Code § 7-103
In accordance with that law, a husband and wife could mutually decide to get a divorce without having to wait the required twelve months, provided that both parties attended the uncontested divorce hearing and properly executed settlement agreements were signed for all alimony and property (including retirement) issues. For partners who shared a small kid, however, this was not a possibility. For divorcing parents of young children, mutual consent was not an option, even if they could agree on every aspect of child custody and maintenance. They would have to hold off on filing for divorce for an entire year.
The doctrine of mutual consent has worked so well, however, that the Maryland legislature recently voted to expand it to include divorcing couples with minor children. See Maryland Senate Bill 120, http://mgaleg.maryland.go
A lot of divorce cases are settled. Instead than putting them through the arduous legal procedure that divorce can frequently involve, it is frequently in the best interest of the young child to settle a divorce. Couples can now reach an amicable agreement that benefits all parties (including the children) and put the unpleasant process of divorce behind them much more quickly and easily because mutual consent divorce in Maryland can now be used as grounds for divorce with couples who have children. Only those divorces where the parties are unable to come to an agreement and a trial is required will be permitted to be based on a one-year separation.
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The parties must have "grounds for divorce" in order to proceed with an absolute divorce. Mutual consent, a separation of twelve months, adultery, desertion, cruelty or treatment, incarceration, and insanity are among the reasons for divorce. In a subsequent blog post, these will be covered in further detail. The twelve-month difference, however, is significant for the matter at hand. The parties must live apart for an entire year if none of the other grounds are present.
This is typically a straightforward process. Before a year has elapsed and both parties are prepared to move on with an absolute divorce, nothing needs to be filed with the court. But for some, it's not as simple. A year is a lengthy period of time, and it is frequently challenging for one party to maintain oneself at that time. The parties may differ throughout that year on child custody, child support, or who gets to live in the marital residence. The court will need to intervene earlier than usual in circumstances like this. Limited divorce is a suitable remedy if the parties still require financial relief or are otherwise unable to settle their disputes privately but do not yet have sufficient grounds for an absolute divorce. A limited divorce can determine things like child support and custody, alimony (spousal support), and use and possession of assets like the marital house.
To ensure you are properly prepared for your mutual consent divorce in Maryland, contact our family law attorneys today for a consultation!