Starting October 1, 2015, the preliminary time period required for two spouses to be separated in order to seek a divorce was eliminated in Maryland for certain couples. Previously, state law required that the two spouses agree to separate, agree to a separation agreement, and live completely separate for one year (12 months) before they would be eligible to file for divorce. During that one year period, the two spouses would be required to live absolutely and completely apart, and should an incident of reconciliation occur at any time during that period, the one year period would restart. The one year period would begin the moment one of the spouses moved out of the shared residence.
However, under the new divorce law that went into effect October 1, 2015, couples that satisfy a short list of requirements, could have the preliminary one year separation period eliminated all together. The requirements for the new Maryland divorce law are: the divorcing couple have no minor children, mutually consent to the divorce, and agree on the split of marital property. Essentially, a couple seeking an uncontested divorce, whom have no children, could have the one year waiting period eliminated and be granted an absolute divorce much sooner.
Although there were advocates on both sides, which raised valid arguments for why the new law should or should not have been passed, ultimately it appears the pros for passing outweighed the cons against. The main argument against the bill, was that the waiting period allowed for a “cooling off” period for couples; by having to wait and think about the divorce for a period of time, it was possible that some couples would reconsider the divorce and elect to stay together instead. However, on the side for the new law, the argument focused on assisting those couples that know reconciliation is an impossibility and want the chance to move on in their lives sooner rather than wait an entire year before even starting the divorce process.
The couples that satisfy the requirements under the new law have the ability to minimize the time they would normally have lost under the previous law, but also minimize the financial costs and hardships associated with divorce. These couples have agreed on everything, meaning the cost for attorneys and court costs are minimized, they are able to live in the same house during the divorce process, and allows for marital assets needed post-divorce to be divided and available to the spouses sooner.
The new law may not be great for Maryland divorce lawyers, financially, but it will allow them to assist their clients quicker and more efficiently. This minimizing of financial hardship on the couples should help remove the obstacles that hindered said spouses from being able to seek divorce in the past.
With this new law, Maryland takes a step forward towards modernizing its divorce laws, specifically doing so to help the people directly affected by it.
The Gohari Legal Group represents clients in family, bankruptcy, real estate, immigration, corporate and litigation matters in Maryland. The Firm is headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland and serves Montgomery, Prince George’s and Frederick Counties. We are a small firm, giving our clients the individual attention they need. We bring our decades of experience in the practice of law to serve each and every client in a speedy and cost-efficient manner.