New Maryland Law Extends Grounds for Divorce Without Separation

Posted on by Jennifer Buell in Family Law.

Maryland’s family law has been steadily expanding the ability for consenting couples to obtain a divorce with a minimum of expense and litigation.  A Maryland couple with children had to be separated for at least one year before an action for divorce could be filed, even if both husband and wife had agreed to the divorce and its terms.

The Maryland legislature has now created a new grounds for divorce by agreement, without separation, even if children are involved.  The new statute (SB120), effective October 1, 2018, provides that divorcing parties with minor children can get divorced with no required proof of separation so long as (i) they mutually consent; (ii) they have a written agreement; (iii) that agreement resolves all issues of property and economic support from one to the other; (iv) that agreement provides for the “care, custody, access, and support” of their minor children; and (v) a court finds that agreement to be in the best interests of the children.

The new law is a big step in the continuing process of making divorce easier to obtain in Maryland.  In 1937, divorce in Maryland was not allowed except for reasons of fault (such as adultery and abandonment).  In 1937 divorce was allowed on grounds of separation of five years. The period of separation was shortened to two years, then to one year.  In 2015, consenting couples without minor children were allowed to divorce by written agreement without any period of separation.  Now, that is extended to couples with children as well.