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Will Maryland’s divorce laws see changes this legislative session?

Even though a spouse might be more than ready to move forward from a marriage that they view as being irretrievably broken, it goes without saying that the ensuing divorce process will likely prove to be difficult.

While some of this difficulty can come from the emotional upheaval that frequently accompanies a dissolution of marriage, some of it can arguably come from the law here in Maryland, which many experts have argued is one of the most restrictive in the country when it comes to divorce.    

For example, when a person seeks to secure a divorce on no-fault grounds, they must demonstrate that they’ve lived apart for the 12 months preceding the filing. In fact, the only way to circumvent this lengthy waiting period is to present evidence of fault-based grounds for divorce (adultery, desertion, cruel treatment, etc.).

Interestingly, one state lawmaker is now looking to make the divorce process far less onerous.

Sen. Bobby Zirkin (D-Baltimore County) has drafted a bill that, if passed, would enable couples to file for divorce once they reach a mutually acceptable agreement concerning such important matters as property division, alimony and child custody.

The agreement would then be subject to an independent review to make certain that it is in the best interests of any children involved in the divorce.  

It’s worth noting that this isn’t the only divorce-related bill before the General Assembly, as Del. Kathleen Dumais (D-Montgomery) has also drafted a measure that would introduce significant changes to the process of securing a limited divorce.

For those unfamiliar with this concept, a limited divorce is similar to a legal separation in that the couple is still legally married but required to live apart. It’s typically pursued when the grounds for an absolute divorce are lacking.

Under the bill drafted by Del. Dumais, a party would no longer be required to demonstrate that 1) the separation is conducted voluntarily and 2) there is no possibility of reconciliation in order to secure a limited divorce, something that she argues would serve to protect spouses in abusive relationships.

What are your thoughts on these measures? Do you think it’s time to introduce some changes to the state’s divorce laws?  

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