Clearly, the biggest change to Maryland divorce laws in 2015 is the new “mutual consent” law. We wrote about the new mutual consent law recently and you can read the details here. That law allows some couples with no children in common to get a divorce without either accusing their spouse of some wrongful act, or waiting a full year while they live separate and apart.
But there are some other new laws affecting divorce in Maryland that deserve some comment too. These laws also became the official law of the land as of October 1, 2015. And to read about divorce in Maryland generally, see our Free Legal Consumer Guide to Divorce in Maryland by clicking here.
Residency Requirement for Divorce: Previously, if you moved into Maryland and wanted to get a divorce from your spouse in another state, you had to wait a full year to establish residency before the Maryland Courts would hear your case.
One can understand the state requiring some time period in which you must establish residency. You shouldn’t be able to come for a one week vacation and suddenly get full access to our courts! But maybe one full year was too much time to wait. It didn’t fit the realities of life.
People usually find themselves in this situation when they need to leave a spouse in another state and move in with family or friends in Maryland. For example, if you left an abusive spouse in Virginia, and moved in with Mom here in Southern Maryland, you would be forced to wait a full year before filing for divorce and legally getting out of that relationship. That can be a real burden.
The state has decided to cut down the residency requirement in this situation to 6 months. That still may seem like a lot of time, but it is a lot less than a year. It should help people in the situation I mentioned above resolve their legal problems earlier than they could before now.
Limited Divorce Separation: Maryland has a provision for something called a “limited divorce.” You can read all the details about it in our free legal consumer guide on divorce in Maryland by clicking here.
Before now, for a party to file for a limited divorce, the separation had to be mutual and voluntary. Since the purpose of the limited divorce is to take care of some pretty important emergency issues (like child custody and support) pending the full divorce, this gave one spouse the ability to hold things up by claiming the separation was not voluntary. You can see how this could lead to some unfair outcomes.
In reality, people filing for Limited Divorce tended to fudge the “mutual and voluntary” aspect of the law. That is not the best way to run divorce court. This new statute means we no longer have to skirt the law to establish something vital like child custody.
In addition, the parties seeking a Limited Divorce had to state that there may be hope for reconciliation, and the parties would have to participate in good faith efforts to reconcile. How many people do you think really tried that? Again, attorneys tended to fudge this. It was an unrealistic provision of the law that, if followed to the letter, could cause some real problems.
Now, there is no longer a requirement for the separation to be voluntary, and no requirement for the parties to claim there is hope of reconciliation. Those provisions have simply been removed from the law. This is more in line with reality. It is a good change to Maryland divorce law.