Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Finally - Grown Up Divorce in Maryland

As of October 1, 2015, Maryland has a new grounds for divorce.   It's called Divorce by Mutual Consent.   Or as I like to call it "Grown Adults Deciding They Don't Want to Be Married Anymore."   It has some requirements, but it does away with a lot of the more onerous restrictions on obtaining a divorce.

Sadly, this only available to people with no minor children of the marriage.   More on that in a bit.

To get a Divorce by Mutual Consent you must:

1.  Have no minor children of the marriage (in common, with the other spouse, however you want to term it).
2.   Have reached a written settlement agreement resolving all property and financial issues.

3.   In Montgomery County, submit a Joint Line Request with Mutual Consent as the grounds.

4.   Both parties must appear at the final hearing to assent to the agreement (even if it is already signed).

That's it.

There is no longer any requirment that you live separate and apart for any period of time.   This gets rid of the need for people to finance two households for a whole 12 months while waiting to get divorced.   Or finding one of the grounds that do no require the 12 month separation period.   Those 2 are Adultery and Domestic Violence.   You can imagine how well either of those goes over when trying to get a quick, consensual divorce.    Even with an agreement, you had to live under separate roofs for 12 months.   No more.

Also, no requirment for a corroborating witness, at least in Montgomery County.    Both parties have to appear, instead of one.   But that beats trying to round up a friend/family member/coworker who knows you well enough to know you haven't slept (in every sense of the word) with your spouse.   I've had to put off hearings because a witness couldn't be found.

The hearing length is about the same as for the old uncontested.   About 10 minutes.   As one speaker noted when we were learning about this new grounds, Courts are not going to be jumping up and down to rush to grant the divorces.   However, it is a lot easier to get 10 minutes on the docket than it is to find a day or two for a contested hearing.

The agreement must be in writing and signed by both parties.   It has to address everything, all marital property, bank accounts, cars, houses, pensions and alimony.   The court will review the agreement for completeness.   If you leave anything out, you might not get a divorce.   Because once you are divorced, you can't come back and ask for alimony or a share of the pension.   So it better either be divided or explicitly waived in the agreement.   This is why you still need a lawyer.   A lawyer knows what needs to go into an agreement.

The only drawback is if you have kids.   You see grown adults with no kids don't have to wait a year, but if you have kids, the 12 month separation under separate roofs still apply.   Even if you reach an agreeement.   You can have a written custody and property settlement agreement which resolves everything, just like in the Mutual Consent grounds, but if there are kids, you can't get it quick.   Why?   I don't know.   The court will still most likely approval the custody arrangement.   The court will still most likely approve the property arrangement.   But for some reason, you are not deemed responsible enough to know you need a divorce if you have kids unless you wait a year.  

It's a step in the right direction at least.