Starting October 1, 2018, Maryland is extending the existing Mutual Consent ground for divorce to now include divorcing couples with minor children. Under the new law, couples with or without minor children in common are able to skip the 12-month separation period previously required to obtain a no-fault absolute divorce, as long as the couple has a written agreement resolving all issues, including, custodial access, child support, alimony, and property division.
Maryland divorce law was historically designed to discourage married couples from getting divorced by making the process difficult, lengthy, and, often, extremely costly.
However, in the last few years Maryland has made the divorce process simpler. In 2015, the Mutual Consent ground for divorce was introduced and in 2016, Maryland waived the requirement for third party witness corroboration. The mutual consent ground has also been simplified and will no longer require both parties to be present at the final hearing.
There are many questions that surround the recently passed mutual consent law. Let’s address some of them here.
- Is a Mutual Consent Divorce the Same Thing as an Uncontested Divorce?
Yes. Mutual consent is the same as an uncontested divorce. As long as you and your spouse have a complete written separation agreement that addresses all issues including, physical and legal custody, child support, alimony, and property division, you will be eligible to pursue a divorce on mutual consent without having to be separated for 1 year.
- How Do I File for a Mutual Consent Divorce in Maryland?
Couples wanting to file for a mutual consent divorce must do the following 3 things:
- Reach and sign a binding Marital Settlement Agreement that outlines the terms and provisions for:
- Physical and legal custody of their minor children, if applicable.
- Child support, if applicable.
- The division of marital property.
- Alimony / spousal support, if applicable
- Appear in court for the divorce hearing
- Ensure that neither party files an opposition to the agreement before the divorce hearing
A divorce by mutual consent can be an easier and less costly option for couples that are willing to work together to reach a settlement that is thoughtful and mutually beneficial.
One of the most dangerous decisions and common mistakes couples make when pursuing a divorce by mutual consent is to take a “one-size-fits-all” approach. Too many people believe that all you need to do to get a “cheap” mutual consent divorce is download a form off of the internet, or copy a friend or family member’s agreement, but this decision can be extremely costly down the road.
I have seen nightmare situations where the divorcing couple entered into a Marital Settlement Agreement on their own, without the assistance of a divorce attorney or divorce mediator, and they did not even think about certain terms to include in their agreements. Unfortunately, this often comes back to haunt them years later when they want, or need, to enforce terms of the agreement that may not have been included.
While mutual consent divorce makes it simpler and faster to get a divorce in Maryland, you need professional guidance when entering into a Marital Settlement Agreement. An experienced collaborative divorce attorney can save you years and thousands of dollars by assisting you in reach a durable and thoughtful Marital Settlement Agreement at the outset. With the help of a professional collaborative team, you will ensure that the best interests of your minor children will be contemplated as well as your financial interests.
To speak with an experienced Howard County collaborative divorce lawyer about your unique situation, call Jacobson Family Law at (410) 884-4049 to schedule an initial consultation.
- How Long Does a Mutual Consent Divorce Take in Maryland?
As previously discussed, the mutual consent law rewards couples who work together to reach an agreement on the terms of their divorce, with an expedient divorce process.
So, in terms of how long a mutual consent divorce takes in Maryland, that is all dependent on how long it takes the parties to reach a resolution on the issues related to divorce. If the couple is having difficulty coming to agreement, it is often beneficial to use a divorce mediator to help resolve the relevant issues. Once the Marital Settlement Agreement is completed and signed, the rest of the divorce process typically goes smoothly and quickly.
- What Are the Pros and Cons of Mutual Consent Divorce?
There are numerous benefits of the mutual consent ground for divorce, including:
- No waiting period or requirement for separation
- More control over your own future
- In many cases, lower legal fees
However, if not handled properly, a mutual consent divorce can have negative consequences. In an effort to get to get divorced in the quickest, cheapest way possible, many people will attempt a “do-it-yourself” divorce without legal representation by an experienced divorce attorney. Please consider the following if you are considering this option:
- There is no such thing as a “standard divorce”. Therefore, a standard form found on-line will not address your specific and unique situation.
- If the divorcing spouses reach an agreement on the terms of their Marital Property Settlement, a Judge is not going to do a comprehensive review of your agreement with your long-term financial and emotional well being in mind. Therefore, if you choose to forego legal counsel and use a standard form to draft your own separation agreement for your mutual consent divorce, you are essentially on your own.
- Once the Marital Settlement Agreement is signed and approved, it is binding and cannot be modified if you change your mind. It is important that your Marital Settlement Agreement is comprehensive in order to prevent you costly enforcement and modification litigation in the future.
Talk to An Experienced Howard County Collaborative Divorce Attorney Today
For couples that wish to divorce without the drama, the expansion of divorce by mutual consent is a positive development. An experienced collaborative divorce attorney can assist you reach a comprehensive agreement that will be in your family’s best interest.
If you are considering a divorce in Maryland, call Jacobson Family Law to schedule an initial consultation with an experienced Howard County collaborative divorce lawyer, Cary C. Jacobson. We are conveniently located in Columbia Town Center.
Disclaimer: The information in this blog post is provided for general educational & informational purposes only. It is not intended to convey legal advice or serve as a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter.