In Maryland, as in many other states, in order to file for a divorce, a separating couple must also establish “grounds” for the divorce. In other words, the couple has to prove that the marriage is over by means of fault (i.e. infidelity) or because the couple has been living separately for a certain amount of time. Over the decades, Maryland has loosened up on what it considers “grounds” for a divorce. For example, back in the 1930’s, a couple could only get a divorce if one party could prove the other party was unfaithful to the marriage. In the 1960’s, the first mutual consent divorces were granted, but only after the couple had been living separately…for five years! Fast forward again to the (almost) roarin’ 2020’s and we find that the way courts are handling divorces is still evolving, with the latest legislation being passed earlier this month: Senate Bill 120. To learn more about SB120 and what it means for divorcing couples with minor children, read on…
Piggy-backing off of the 1960 bill (mutual consent after living apart for five years), legislation was passed in 2015 that allowed couples who did not share minor or dependent children to seek a divorce on the grounds of mutual consent without a separation period. Many divorcing couples found that this created unnecessary strain to the family, essentially forcing parents to stay together, or forcing the family through the tribulations of a parents’ separation.
As of October 1, 2018, Maryland Courts now have the authority to grant an Absolute Divorce on the grounds of Mutual Consent to parties with minor children without a separation. There are, however, a few caveats.
A separating couple who wish to seek a divorce under mutual consent must provide a settlement agreement that accounts for the care, custody and support of as well as access to the minor dependent children shared by the couple. The courts have the opportunity to approve the settlement agreement based on whether or not they feel the agreement is in the best interest of the child or children. Each parent must also fill out and submit a child support worksheet to the court.
In the same settlement agreement, the separating couple must also agree upon other matters not pertaining to the minor children: alimony, division of property and assets. Each person must appear in court to testify that they are in support of the terms of the agreement and have no intentions to file appeals in the future to void the agreement.
Once the court is satisfied with the agreement, an Absolute Divorce on the grounds of Mutual Consent will be granted. Unlike in other types of divorce, there is no waiting period under mutual consent.
If you are going through a divorce and need representation, please give us a call! Our Family Law attorneys are among the top-rated attorneys in the state of Maryland. Reach out today by calling (410) 535-6100 or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.