October 1, 2015 introduced new grounds for divorce in Maryland. Divorce by "mutual consent" is now available to certain couples in Maryland. Why is this development of significance? "Mutual consent" divorce eliminates the required 12-month separation period, so long as the parties meet the required criteria under the new grounds for divorce.
To qualify for divorce by "mutual consent" there are specific requirements:
1. No minor children in common
The parties must not have any children in common. This is true even if issues regarding custody and child support were uncontested. Parties who have minor children in common are unable to take advantage of the "mutual consent" divorce grounds.
2. Signed written settlement agreement as to alimony and property
The parties are required to execute and submit to the court a written settlement agreement resolving any issues relating to alimony or the distribution of property. This agreement must be signed by both parties and submitted to the court.
3. Appear in court
"Mutual consent" divorce does not eliminate the parties' appearance at an uncontested divorce hearing. It does however minimize the time necessary for the hearing and what issues will be heard at the hearing. Both parties must be present at the hearing.
Under current Maryland law, if couples reside in the same residence while trying to work out property settlement they are delaying when an uncontested divorce can be awarded. The "mutual consent" divorce allows couples to remain in the same residence and work out the details of the divorce without having to live separate and apart for a period of time, so long as they meet all the above criteria.
Although this new development is helpful to couples who elect the "mutual consent" divorce, the required pleadings for divorce are still necessary. The request for a "mutual consent" divorce hearing is not an answer to a divorce complaint. It is still advantageous and beneficial to speak with an attorney who can talk you though the divorce process and file the necessary paperwork. An attorney can also assist in drafting the written settlement agreement that is required by the court for the "mutual consent" divorce.
The Gardner Law Firm has over 30 years of family law experience. Our attorneys are dedicated to addressing our client's needs and walking them through the divorce process. If you are facing a divorce, you may or may not qualify for the "mutual consent" divorce grounds. We can speak with you about your options and assist you with your case. Contact our firm today.