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Like many other States, Maryland has decided to simplify its divorce laws and abolish its divorce statutory regime that required the specification of reasons — or grounds — for a divorce. The Maryland divorce attorneys at The Law Offices of Thomas Stahl go over the new laws in this article.
Starting October 1, 2023, a couple wanting a divorce can get one, essentially, without explaining the reason. Divorce can now be granted when the couple has
- “Irreconcilable differences”
- “Lived apart” for at least six months or
- Agreed to a divorce by mutual consent
Governor Wes Moore signed the new Maryland grounds for divorce law on May 16, 2023. This most recent Maryland divorce statute also abolishes what has been called a “Limited Divorce.” Going forward, all divorces will be Absolute Divorces.
As noted, Maryland has retained its previous official “no-fault” reason/ground for divorce called “divorce by mutual consent.” To use this legal reason for a divorce, the couple must prepare a written Settlement Agreement in which the spouses agree on all the issues in their divorce.
These issues include division of marital property, alimony, and child custody and support questions. For child-related issues, the spouses’ agreement must comply with Maryland child custody laws. The Maryland divorce court will review the Settlement Agreement for compliance. Divorce by mutual consent will result in an Absolute divorce.
A new “no-fault” ground has been added called irreconcilable differences. No definition of this is provided in the new statute.
Separation as a reason for divorce has also been retained. However, the term of separation is now six months (or more) for divorce, and it is much easier to prove separation. The new statute also defines separation differently using this phrasing: “… if the parties have lived separate and apart for six months without interruption…” The new statute then goes on to state that: “Parties who have pursued separate lives shall be deemed to have lived separate and apart for purposes of … [this ACT] even if:
(1) the parties reside under the same roof; or
(2) the separation is in accordance with a court order.”
The old grounds for divorce — still valid until September 30, 2023, are these:
- Separation for at least six months for a Limited Divorce and at least 12 months for an Absolute Divorce.
- Cruelty — one spouse has committed some form of “cruelty and excessively vicious conduct” — note both is required. The abuse can be visited upon a spouse or a child living with the couple.
- Desertion — one spouse has abandoned the other; there are two forms of desertion — actual and constructive; actual means a physical abandonment, while constructive usually implies a refusal to engage in sexual relations or behavior that drives the other spouse away.
- Adultery — proof that one had sexual relations with a person other than the spouse.
- Imprisonment — one spouse has been convicted of a crime and sentenced to a jail term of three or more years; filing for divorce can occur after one year of imprisonment.
- Mental insanity — this ground requires a medical or judicial determination of insanity; the insanity must be deemed incurable and permanent, and the other spouse must have been confined in a mental facility, institution, or hospital for at least three years before a divorce can be sought.
After October 1, 2023, these six grounds will no longer be used for purposes of granting divorces in Maryland.
Divorce Attorneys in Columbia, MD
Contact the seasoned and experienced Maryland and DC divorce lawyers at The Law Offices of Thomas Stahl for more information about divorce laws in Maryland and the District. We have the skills and expertise you need. We have proven experience with family law for Maryland and the District of Columbia. Schedule a consultation today or call us at (410) 696-4326 or (202) 964-7280. We have offices in Columbia, MD, and Washington, DC.