On October 1st, 2023, significant new changes to Maryland’s divorce laws are expected to go into effect. If the new legislation is signed by Governor Wes Moore, the bill will modernize and streamline the divorce process, making it easier for some couples to obtain a divorce in Maryland.
Limited Divorce in Maryland Will No Longer Exist
One of the most significant changes to Maryland’s divorce laws would be the elimination of limited divorce. In a limited divorce, a couple could live separate from one another but still remain legally married. Many couples chose a limited divorce for religious reasons or to maintain a spouse on their health insurance benefits. If the new bill is passed, starting in October of this year, the option for limited divorce in Maryland will be removed. At this time, it is unclear what may happen to those couples who currently have a limited divorce in Maryland.
Fault Grounds for Divorce are Eliminated in Maryland
Another important change to Maryland’s divorce laws that could be implemented is the elimination of the following grounds for divorce: Adultery, Desertion, Criminal convictions leading to jail/prison time, 12-month separation, Insanity and Cruelty of treatment of excessively vicious conduct towards a spouse and/or child. With the removal of these grounds, the court will now be able to grant a divorce if a couple has been “separated” for at least 6 months as opposed to 12 months or if a couple has cited “irreconcilable differences” as the reason to end their marriage. Additionally, “separated” does not necessarily mean you and your spouse must live in separate homes. Under the changes to Maryland’s new divorce laws, spouses can live in the same home for the six-month separation time period and are still able to obtain a divorce, provided that the new grounds for divorce are met.
Under the new law, the two options for grounds for divorce will be mutual consent, and irreconcilable differences. Divorcing couples who do not have children together or who have adult children qualify for mutual consent divorce as well as divorcing couples who have a signed agreement that resolves all issues within the divorce.
Why We Think These Changes are Important
The existing fault grounds for divorce in Maryland as well as the require to be physically separated for more than 12-months make it very expensive for many couples to obtain a divorce. Additionally, they often required parties to unnecessarily “throw mud” at their spouse in their legal pleadings making it more challenging for the parties to work together to reach a mutual agreement to settle their case. We think the changes to the new divorce laws in Maryland will help parties reduce their conflicts by allowing them to file for divorce for “irreconcilable differences”, which will not require them to air their family’s dirty laundry to the public. It will also streamline cases for those individuals who have very few assets and do not have minor children by allowing them to file for divorce after only a 6-month separation period.
Overall, these changes to Maryland’s divorce laws are intended to make the divorce process faster and easier for some but it may cause issues for other couples. If you have concerns that the new legislation may affect you or your family, contact us today to schedule a consultation with a Maryland attorney at Jacobson Family Law by calling 443-741-1147 or by visiting our website.