As of October 1, 2023, there will be some significant changes to Maryland’s divorce law. The new law (MD SB0036 signed into law by Governor Moore) will apply to all divorce cases filed in Maryland on or after October 1, 2023. While these are significant changes, getting a divorce in Maryland will be simpler and more streamlined.
Limited and Absolute Divorce
Currently, two types of divorce may be filed in Maryland – Limited Divorce and Absolute Divorce. Limited divorce can be used if you do not yet want an absolute divorce or do not yet meet the absolute divorce requirements but want to ask the Court for temporary relief regarding alimony, child custody, child support, and/or use and possession of the family home or property. Limited divorce does not address the distribution of property or permanently end the marriage. Absolute divorce filings request the Court to grant a permanent end to the marriage and cover all aspects of marital issues. Limited divorce will no longer be available in Maryland as of October 1, 2023, making absolute divorce the only option for filing for divorce. This is a significant change in Maryland’s divorce law.
Divorce Grounds – Now Easier to Get a Divorce in Maryland
You may be familiar with the term “grounds for divorce,” which is essentially the legal basis in Maryland’s divorce law, where you ask the Court to end your marriage. Under current Maryland’s divorce law, parties may use multiple grounds for divorce in their divorce filing. Those grounds include “fault” grounds (such as adultery, cruelty of treatment, desertion, etc.) and “no-fault” grounds of one-year separation (where the parties must be living separate and apart, in separate residences and without cohabitation for the entire separation period), or mutual consent (where there is a written, signed settlement agreement that resolves all issues relating to alimony, property, and the care, custody, and support of minor or dependent children).
As of October 1, 2023, fault grounds will no longer be considered grounds for divorce. However, the Court may still consider such circumstances as part of a divorce (such as determining child-related and/or support issues). In addition, the one-year separation ground will change to a shorter 6-month separation period, with the parties no longer being required to live in separate residences – but they must be pursuing separate lives for at least six months before filing the Complaint.
New to Maryland’s divorce law is the ground of “irreconcilable differences”. Generally, the filing party presents the Court with a reason, or reasons, why the marriage cannot be saved or the differences resolved. There is no separation period for the ground of irreconcilable differences.
Summary of Maryland’s divorce Law – as of October 1, 2023
The option of limited divorce is being eliminated, making absolute divorce the only filing option. There will be three grounds for divorce: 6-month separation, irreconcilable differences, and mutual consent.
As for mutual consent grounds, those requirements and procedures remain the same as they are now (as listed above). There is no separation or waiting period for the ground of mutual consent. Mutual consent filings remain the best option for an uncontested divorce, especially when minor children, support, or other issues, such as property, may be involved.