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Happy Divorce Month: What To Know About Maryland's New Divorce Laws

GAVEL AND TWO GOLD RINGS

A perfect way to wrap up the holiday season is to file for divorce, as January has been unofficially sanctioned as Divorce Month. The surge of divorce filings in January is driven by several factors including:  


  • Fresh Start to the New Year 

  • Stress of the holidays,  

  • Tax Benefits   

As of October 1, 2023, Maryland has enacted drastic changes in its divorce law that make it easier and faster for Maryland residents to get divorced.  


Passage of Senate Bill 0036


Prior to Senate Bill 0036 passing, divorce could only be filed on the grounds of either mutual consent (where both parties reach a written agreement) or under specific statutory grounds. Those grounds included: a 12-month separation period, adultery, desertion, criminal conviction leading to prison time, insanity, or cruel treatment toward spouse or children. Those grounds would require the person filing for divorce to prove fault by the other spouse, which meant that a person would have to prove that their spouse committed one of the specific acts in order to get divorced.   


Now, Maryland has eliminated fault-based grounds as a means for getting divorced, and instead recognizes “irreconcilable differences based on reasons stated in the complaint for absolute divorce”. It is still unclear as to what determines an “irreconcilable difference”, as there is no case law in Maryland that defines it as of yet. However, we can look to other states that have had irreconcilable differences such as California. 


The new legislation also cuts the separation period in half, so instead of being separated for 12 months, couples can be separated for 6 months before filing for divorce. Furthermore, the legislation has redefined what separation looks like. Previously, couples would have to live in separate residences to qualify as being separated.  Now, couples are permitted to live in the same household, as long as they maintain separate lives. 


In addition to eliminating fault-based grounds, Maryland eliminated limited divorce. Limited divorce allowed couples to be legally separated but maintain their marital status. This also allowed the courts to address issues such as child support, alimony, and joint financial obligations. This helped in cases where neither party could agree to move out of the home, or the separation was not long enough. Now if a couple is not ready for a full divorce, a custody case could be filed instead. 


If you are contemplating a divorce, contact Williams, McClernan, & Stack to schedule a consultation. 

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