New Ground for Divorce in Maryland – “Mutual Consent”

As of October 1, 2015, there will be a new ground for divorce in Maryland – divorce by “mutual consent.” But it won’t be available to everyone. Couples with minor children in common will not be able to use this new ground for divorce, even if they have worked out all custody and child support issues.

Four Conditions for Divorce by “Mutual Consent”

A couple will be able to qualify for divorce by “mutual consent” if four conditions are met:

  1. They have no minor children in common;
  2. They have a signed, written settlement agreement covering both alimony and property rights that they submit to the Court;
  3. Neither party asks the Court to set aside their written settlement agreement; and
  4. They both appear at the uncontested divorce hearing.

Separation before Filing not Required

What this new, no-fault ground for divorce does not require is extraordinarily significant. It does not require the couple to be separated for any period of time before filing for the divorce. The only other existing, no-fault ground for absolute divorce in Maryland requires parties to be separated for an entire year before they can file.

Positive Development

The “mutual consent” ground for divorce will allow couples to continue to live in the same household while they negotiate a settlement of the issues posed by their anticipated split-up, without delaying the date they can ultimately seek a divorce on no-fault grounds. As a practical matter, this is what many couples do anyway. It often makes sense to hammer out economic issues before making a commitment to buy or rent a second home. Indeed, until economic issues are framed and resolved, many couples don’t know if they will need to sell the marital home, or if one of them might be able to keep it. Under current Maryland law, living together under the same roof while negotiating property and support issues, delays when a divorce can be granted on no-fault grounds. Only after a couple has separated residences and has lived separate and apart for twelve months can one of them file for a divorce on no-fault grounds. So the amendment to the Maryland divorce statutes is a very positive development.

And who knows? Maybe in the future the legislature will extend this more liberal ground for divorce to couples with minor children who have worked out their children-related issues.

This is not legal advice. Please read our "disclaimer" to understand why this information is not a substitute for legal advice.