This excerpt from the 90 Day Report – A Review of the 2018 Session provides a good discussion of the 2018 changes to the divorce law concerning mutual consent.
Under current law, a court may grant an absolute divorce on the ground of mutual consent if (1) the parties do not have any minor children in common; (2) the parties execute and submit to the court a written settlement agreement signed by both parties that resolves all issues relating to alimony and the distribution of property, as specified; (3) neither party files a pleading to set aside the settlement agreement prior to the divorce hearing required under the Maryland Rules; and (4) both parties appear before the court at the absolute divorce hearing.
Senate Bill 96/CH849 (passed) repeals the requirement that both parties appear before the court in order to be granted an absolute divorce on the ground of mutual consent. Senate Bill 120/CH850 (passed) repeals the restriction that limits absolute divorces on the ground of mutual consent to parties without minor children in common. Instead, it requires the written settlement agreement submitted to the court to also resolve all issues relating to the care, custody, access, and support of minor or dependent children. The parties must attach to the settlement agreement a completed child support guidelines worksheet, if applicable. The bill also establishes that as a condition to granting an absolute divorce on the ground of mutual consent, the court must be satisfied that any terms of the settlement agreement relating to minor or dependent children are in the best interests of those children.
In regards to Twelve-month Separation , Oral Amendment to Divorce Application Statutory provisions set forth a process by which a court may grant a limited divorce, which does not sever the marriage but does grant the complaining party the right to live separate and apart from the other spouse. A limited divorce also can address issues of custody, visitation, child support, alimony, and use and possession of a family home. A court may grant an absolute divorce based on numerous specified grounds, including the ground of 12-month separation when the parties have lived separate and apart without cohabitation for 12 months without interruption before the filing of the application for divorce. House Bill 1368/CH782 (passed) authorizes an oral amendment to a previously filed application for a limited or absolute divorce, that is made by a party with the consent of the other party at a hearing on the merits in open court, to qualify as “the filing of the application for divorce” in statutory provisions regarding an absolute divorce on the ground of a 12-month separation.
These changes will go into effect October 1, 2018.
For assistance and more information on family matters please see the following:
- The Family Law Self Help Center provides self-represented litigants with legal information and forms for family law matters such as divorce, custody, visitation, child support and name changes. Located at the Law Library, the Family Law Self Help Center is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m to 4:30 p.m. (but closes for lunch from 1:00 – 2:00).
- Maryland Courts Self-Help Center provides phone (410-260-1392) and live chat assistance Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. until 8:00 p.m.
- The Law Library’s wiki site includes pages dedicated to Family Law Resources, including referrals, forms and reference materials.
- The Circuit Court of Anne Arundel County’s website includes a “Learn About” page addressing Family Law Cases.
- The Maryland Courts’ website includes information about Family Law Issues, such as adoption, child custody, child support, divorce, marriage and name change.
- The Maryland People’s Law Library has many articles on family law topics.
For more information or help getting started with your research, contact the Law Library!