After years of waiting for the Maryland to finally make “mutual consent” grounds available, the legislators finally passed the bill. In October of this year, 2018, mutual consent will now be an option for divorcing couples in Maryland.
The final version of the law is slightly different from what was originally proposed in 2015. Now, parents with minor children may also file for divorce using mutual consent grounds. You can read the text in its entirety here.
Grounds for divorce: mutual consent vs. no fault
For years, Maryland has allowed couples to file for “no-fault” grounds for divorce, if both parties agreed there had been no misconduct, and had lived separately for at least 12 months. “Mutual consent” is a new grounds for divorce, which eliminates the required separation period for a no-fault divorce. In both no-fault and mutual consent, the parties must agree that no misconduct has been committed.
For couples without minor children
Maryland courts may issue an absolute divorce decree – without the typical one year separation requirement – on the grounds of “mutual consent” provided:
- the parties execute and submit to the court a written settlement agreement signed by both parties that resolves all issues relating to:
- the distribution of property, including the relief provided in §§ 8–205 and 8–208 of this article; and
- the care, custody, access, and support of minor or dependent children
- the parties attach to the settlement agreement a completed child support guidelines worksheet if the settlement agreement provides for the payment of child support;
- neither party files a pleading to set aside the settlement agreement prior to the divorce hearing required under the Maryland Rules;
- both parties appear before the court at the absolute divorce hearing; and
- after reviewing the settlement agreement, the court is satisfied that any terms of the agreement relating to minor or depending children are in the best interests of those children.
Although there may be some hiccups in implementing the new State law, the law should help expedite divorces for married couples that if they are able to agree on all of the stated terms. Parties who do not qualify for the mutual consent grounds must qualify to file divorce under one of the other divorce grounds which continue to be: (1) one-year separation, (2) adultery, (3) desertion, (4) conviction of a felony or misdemeanor charge (with sentences in a certain range), (5) cruelty, (6) excessively vicious conduct, and (7) insanity. The addition of a new grounds is all the more reason to consult with an experienced divorce attorney who has expertise in Maryland laws.
The attorneys at McCabe Russell, PA, have offices in Howard County and Montgomery County, Maryland, and have helped hundreds of clients through the divorce process. Please contact the firm or call 443-917-3347 to make an appointment for a consultation.