Maryland divorce laws are getting a major overhaul this year, effective October 1, 2023. These changes are designed to bring Maryland into the modern age and make getting a divorce less time consuming and expensive. It is also supposed to dramatically cut down the fighting between divorcing couples.
While that last goal remains to be seen, we do support this streamlining of the divorce process so people can move on with a minimum of fighting. It is just best for everyone involved.
Out With The Old Laws
The old Maryland laws had eight legal grounds (read that as “reasons”) for divorce, and most were fault based – which meant you had to prove that one of the two spouses did something bad.
The old fault-based grounds included such devasting situations as adultery, desertion, and excessively vicious conduct. Proving these grounds was messy and caused extra fighting between couples who were already in turmoil.
Maryland had two no fault grounds for divorce, and the most common one was a one-year voluntary separation. That meant you had to move out of the house and live in separate homes for a solid year without interruption before you could get your divorce and move on with your life. If you slept under the same roof for even one night (not sleeping together – just under the same roof) your one-year clock could reset.
This was all sort of silly. It made getting a divorce in Maryland expensive and difficult. I think the original reason for all these grounds was that old politicians thought they were making divorce less common by making it difficult. That was never true. All those old laws did was make it more messy, combative, and difficult to leave unhealthy marriages.
In With The New Laws
So now the laws have changed, and all of the fault-based grounds are gone. As of October 1, 2023, there will be three “no fault” grounds for divorce.
(1) Six Month Separation: The time for a separation has been cut from 12 months to 6 months, and best of all you do not have to physically leave the marital home. You can still be deemed “separated” if you prove that you both have established separate lives, even if you technically still live together under the same roof. This is a change with major economic impact. You no longer have to be able to afford to move out to a separate house for a solid year just to get your divorce. If you and your spouse decide to live together but maintain separate lives, you can do that now.
(2) Irreconcilable Differences: This is the famous ground for divorce that you see in a lot of celebrity divorces. The news cites it like it means something. It doesn’t. It is vague on purpose. If you have differences, and those differences are irreconcilable, you can probably get a divorce on this ground. While it is not defined in Maryland, we suspect the courts will give it a vague and loose definition and allow it to fit a lot of situations.
(3) Mutual Consent. This law has been around since 2015 and it is available to couples who have worked out all the details in a separation agreement before filing. Read more about it in our Free Legal Guide to Divorce and also in this blog post.
Another big change is that Maryland got rid of the old “limited” divorce law. That just sounded odd, and it was. In any event, it is no longer a thing.
What will be interesting to watch is the future court cases that seek to define the details about these new grounds. We will keep you updated of any future changes right here on our website.
Conclusion & Next Steps
Want to know more? Discover what you need to know about divorce in Maryland. Click here to see our Free Legal Guide to divorce and get answers to your questions today. Know your options. Be informed. Protect yourself.
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