Maryland House bill would stop divorce court witness requirement

The hope of a bill passed by the Maryland House last Thursday is to eliminate the need for a witness to testify that a divorcing couple did not live together or have sex for the last year while separated. It’s seen by many as a ridiculous requirement, including the bill’s sponsor Del. Kathleen Dumais.

The bill passed with a vote of 94-45, with most Republicans voting against it. As the bill goes to the Senate, they also need to vote on a bill quite similar to Dumais’ bill. Should it pass, too, the two bills will need to be reconciled into one.

Currently, an uncontested divorce in Maryland can only be given by a judge if the couples lived apart for the last 12 months. The couple can’t just live in separate bedrooms, either. They must not live under the same roof. In addition, the person who filed for divorce must appear in court if the couple has an agreement signed by both spouses. A witness has to appear as well, though.

Some opponents feel that making divorce any easier should not be considered. However, other say that this requirement is just a charade. The spouse who has to have a witness in court will generally make sure that witness knows what to say about his or her separation from his or her spouse.

The governor won’t take a position on this type of legislation unless the Assembly passes it. Understanding what is required by the court when you are trying to get divorced is very important. It’s also why your divorce attorney is so valuable.

Source: The Baltimore Sun, “House passes bill that would end witness requirement in Maryland divorce cases,” Michael Dresser, March 03, 2016

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