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A Change in Maryland Divorce Law: Maryland Legislature Passes New Law to Expand Ground of Mutual Consent

In 2015, Maryland added “mutual consent” as a ground for divorce in the State.  Under the ground of “mutual consent,” a married couple can obtain an absolute divorce in the State if they have already entered into a marital settlement agreement that resolves the issues of alimony and distribution of their marital property.  An important limitation to this ground is that the parties cannot have any minor children.  Thus, under existing law, Maryland residents can only get divorced on the ground of “mutual consent” if they do not have minor children. 

In the 2018 legislative session that just ended, the Maryland legislature passed a bill that would expand the ground of “mutual consent” to include parents with minor children.  Under the bill, Maryland residents with minor children can obtain an absolute divorce on the ground of “mutual consent” if they first enter into a marital settlement agreement that resolves all issues pertaining to their divorce, including the issues of custody and child support.  The bill will go into law if signed by Governor Hogan or otherwise not vetoed by him.  If the bill becomes law, it would be effective October 1, 2018

Granting of the divorce would also be subject to the Court’s determination that the agreement was in the best interest of the minor children.

This would be a significant change to current law.  Many Maryland residents presently obtain their divorce on the basis of twelve month separation, which requires the parties to be living separate and apart for more than twelve months before the Court will grant them an absolute divorce.  Under the ground of mutual consent, parents will not have to live apart for twelve months to obtain a divorce if they are first able to resolve their outstanding issues and enter into a marital settlement agreement.

A copy of Senate Bill 120 is available by clicking on this link:  SB120.

Please contact our office at (301) 444-4660 if you have any questions regarding this bill and its potential impact on your divorce.  A significant part of our practice is helping parties negotiate and prepare marital settlement agreements.

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