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What you should know about recent changes in Maryland divorce law

On Behalf of | Apr 14, 2024 | Divorce |

If you weren’t thinking about divorce last fall, you probably had no reason to pay attention to the changes in Maryland law around divorce that were enacted in October. 

The changes in the law were largely intended to help simplify the process for separating and divorcing couples in the state. Here’s a brief look at them.

Limited divorce and “separate lives”

Maryland used to have limited divorce and absolute divorce. Limited divorce wasn’t actually divorce but what’s more commonly considered legal separation. In a legal separation, a court codifies that a couple is living separately. 

Under the new law, there’s no such thing as limited divorce or legal separation. In fact, a couple may be considered separated even if they’re still living together as long as they’re living “separate lives,” as the law puts it. This can be helpful when couples need to establish separation in order to file for divorce but aren’t in a financial position to own or rent separate homes.

A couple must be separated (or live separate lives) for a minimum of six months (cut in half from the previous requirement of 12 months) before either can file for divorce based on that ground. A separated couple can still get a marital settlement agreement or separation agreement to codify things like child custody and support, use and division of property and other matters that couples living separately often need to determine. This agreement can be used as a basis for the final agreements that are part of the divorce.

Grounds for divorce

Maryland, like most states, doesn’t require that a spouse have grounds for divorce that involves the other’s wrongdoing like adultery or abuse. Under the new law, the three grounds for divorce are:

  • 6-month separation
  • Mutual consent
  • Irreconcilable differences

This helps couples divorce while keeping their differences and problems private.

Even with these “simplifications” to the law, it can still be confusing and frustrating to navigate the divorce process. The sooner you get legal guidance, the more smoothly the separation and divorce process can go. This will also help you protect your rights and your and your children’s interests. 

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