Many marriages deteriorate naturally. There is no cheating or abuse. There is no abandonment or harassment. There are no bitter feelings and regrets. The couple simply grows apart and mutually decides that they want to permanently end their relationship.
Under current Maryland law, in order for a Magistrate or Circuit Court judge to grant a married couple an uncontested divorce, the married couple must live apart and without cohabitation for at least 365 consecutive days prior to filing for an absolute divorce. For many spouses, the statutory separation period can unnecessarily draw out the divorce process. Many couples, although emotionally separated, may be so financially entangled that they cannot afford to live separately for an entire year, and if for any reason the couple share a residence during their separation, the statutory period restarts.
In order to address this serious problem, the Maryland General Assembly and Senate recently passed a bill that could authorize a court, under certain statutory requirements, to grant a divorce decree on the grounds of “mutual consent.”
Under the recently passed Senate Bill 472, a court may grant an absolute divorce on the grounds of mutual consent, without a waiting period, if:
- the parties do not have any minor children in common;
- the parties execute and submit to the court a written settlement agreement signed by both parties that resolve all issues relating to alimony and the distribution of property;
- neither party files a pleading to set aside the settlement agreement prior to the divorce hearing required under the Maryland Rules; and
- both parties appear before the court at the absolute divorce hearing.
If Senate Bill 472 is passed into law, this coming October, it has the potential to drastically increase the efficiency of obtaining a divorce for many married couples throughout Maryland. Under this law, as long as the couple consents to the divorce, execute a written settlement agreement, and both appear for the divorce hearing, the couple can obtain a divorce decree. This bill could provide thousands of families across Maryland the opportunity to efficiently move on to the next phase of their lives.