Prior to October 2015, in order to obtain an absolute divorce in the State of Maryland on no-fault grounds, the divorcing couple was required to be living separate and apart without cohabitation for a period of one year. This changed effective October 1, 2015 when legislation was passed which allowed parties who still lived together to divorce if certain criteria was met. The requirements were: (1) that the parties have no minor children together, (2) that they have a fully executed settlement agreement that resolved all issues between them, (3) that neither party had sought to set aside their settlement agreement, and (4) that both parties attended the uncontested divorce hearing.
The statute on obtaining a divorce on the grounds of mutual consent is again about to change. The Maryland Senate and House have passed bills which will take effect October 1, 2018. The new legislation repeals the first and fourth requirements set forth above. Specifically, the courts will now be permitted to issue an absolute divorce to a couple on the ground of mutual consent even if the parties have minor children together. However, the parties’ settlement agreement must specifically provide for the care, custody, access and support of the minor children, and the parties must submit at the divorce hearing child support guidelines for the Court’s consideration. The new legislation also repeals the requirement that both parties have to appear at the divorce hearing. Instead, just the moving party (or the “Plaintiff”) will have to appear in Court to obtain the divorce.