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Maryland legislatures update family law, remove mandatory wait time

A new law allows certain couples to get a divorce without having to fulfill the mandatory one year separation requirement.

Realizing that a marriage is not working is never easy, even if both parties to the marriage are in agreement. Unfortunately, some find this decision even more difficult when state law requires they wait for one year before being able to move forward with the divorce. In an attempt to ease this process, lawmakers are removing the required period of separation for certain couples.

More on the law

The law, sponsored by Senator Robert A. “Bobby” Zirkin of Baltimore County and officially titled SB 472, passed the senate with a vote of 40 to 6 and the House with a vote of 104 to 34. It was approved by the Governor on May 12, 2015 and goes into effect on October 1, 2015. It allows a court to “decree an absolute divorce” based on mutual consent when the couple requesting the divorce meets the following requirements:

  • Children. The couple must not have children together in order to qualify. If the couple has had children together, the waiting period remains.
  • Consent. The couple must also mutually consent to the divorce. They must both agree to the divorce, it must not be a contentious split.
  • Agreement. Finally, the couple must come up with a written settlement agreement and submit it to the court. It must be signed by both parties and resolve specific issues, including alimony and the distribution of property.

It is also important to note that both parties are required to appear before the court at the absolute divorce hearing in order to qualify.

Impact of the law

Removal of the one year separation requirement could be particularly beneficial to couples that want to ensure the property division determination of the divorce proceeding is complete before moving forward with two separate lives. Funding two separate households can be a difficult transition after a divorce, but living separate while still having funds and accounts comingled could be even more difficult. Having the property separation finalized can ease this transition for some.

Those in favor of the law also state that it can reduce the overall cost of divorce, as couples will not need to fund the process during that waiting period.

Importance of legal counsel

This law provides an example of the evolving nature of family law. Since the law is always changing, it is wise for those going through a divorce to seek the counsel of an experienced family law attorney. This legal professional will guide you through the process and advocate for your rights, working to better ensure a more favorable outcome.

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