No-Fault Divorce Coming To Maryland – What You Need To Know

There is a public policy shift away from laws that make it more difficult to divorce, and that trend is coming to Maryland. After Oct. 1, 2023, changes are coming to state law that could make it easier to finalize a divorce. This blog post highlights the significant changes coming this October to Maryland divorce laws. If you have questions about the divorce law changes or a divorce case, our divorce lawyers in Maryland at Shah & Kishore can address them today.

Maryland Divorce Law Overview

Under current Maryland law, the state recognizes limited divorce and absolute divorce. In a limited divorce, you can receive temporary relief if you are uncertain that you want to make the divorce permanent. When the judge grants a limited divorce, the marriage is not ended, and remarriage is prohibited. However, the new law taking effect after Oct. 1, 2023, eliminates limited divorces.

There will be several significant changes to absolute divorce, as well. The current law has fault-based grounds for divorce, including:

  • Desertion
  • Adultery
  • Conviction of a misdemeanor or felony with jail or prison time
  • Insanity
  • 12-month separation
  • Cruelty of treatment

These fault-based grounds are being repealed. Only absolute divorces will be available under the new law, with the following grounds:

  • Six-month separation if the two parties resided separately and apart for six months continuously before you filed for divorce. ‘Separate and apart’ in the new law applies even if you and your spouse live under the same roof.
  • Irreconcilable differences, per the reasons the complainant states in the divorce filing. The new law states that a couple that has attempted to live separately and apart must be considered to have done so, even if they live under the same roof or the separation follows a court order.
  • In permanent legal incapacity of a person who cannot permanently make decisions.

While fault is being eliminated as a divorce ground in the new law, fault may still play a part in certain Maryland divorces. For instance, courts may still consider the reasons for the estrangement when deciding property division and alimony questions.

What Is The Effect Of Maryland’s New Divorce Law?

Some legal authorities think that getting divorced under the updated law could be easier because of the new six-month wait time. Also, a couple can live under the same roof while waiting for the six-month separation period to lapse, possibly easing financial and logistical concerns with the divorce. It also is possible there will be fewer conflicts and less stress between the parties, and the adverse effects on the children could be reduced. Hopefully, this will allow the family to transition as the divorce progresses more easily.

Open Questions About The New Maryland Divorce Law

There are still many questions to be answered about the new law. Some of these questions are:

  • How will courts handle absolute and limited divorce cases filed before Oct. 1, 2023?
  • Will some divorce clients feel disadvantaged without limited divorce when they are uncertain if they want to end the marriage? Perhaps some parties will stay in an unhappy marriage because they can no longer have a ‘trial run’ of being divorced.
  • What will the definition of irreconcilable differences be? The general definition of irreconcilable differences is broad; it deals with a couple’s inability to resolve significant problems to rescue the marriage. Also, will a spouse’s misbehavior be a factor in determining spousal support and monetary determinations?
  • What guidelines will courts use to decide a divorce case involving permanent incapacity? Financial support and health insurance decisions are two aspects to consider when deciding these critical issues.

Potential Benefits Of The New Maryland Divorce Legislation

Our divorce attorneys in Maryland have worked with many clients who wanted a faster way to get a divorce. However, the process was often slowed down because of the 12-month separation provision. Also, the new law could make it easier and safer for domestic violence victims to get a divorce.

The inclusion of irreconcilable differences as divorce grounds is also a welcome change. Our divorce attorneys at Shah & Kishore want to help our clients meet their legal needs and goals, and many of the changes may make getting divorced easier.

It also is helpful that the new law does not require a couple to live in a separate domicile. This could help people in Maryland who struggle to afford their own homes or want to stay close to their children.

Last, it is notable that while divorce grounds in Maryland are changing, the new law will allow you to present them in the divorce filing for decisions on spousal support, property divisions, or custody. For instance, an individual whose spouse cheats might not be able to cite adultery as grounds for divorce, but that misbehavior can still be a factor in receiving alimony. Also, a person whose spouse is in prison can still point to that fact as a child custody factor.

Potential Problem Areas In The New Law

While there is much to like in the new legislation, there are some potentially problematic areas. First, eliminating limited divorce can be challenging for some parties. Some couples cannot or will not end their marriage legally but still need legal protection. Eliminating limited divorce could limit access to healthcare, for instance. There also are couples who back out of limited divorce because being apart helps them see they want to try staying together.

There also are legitimate concerns about the medical incapacity provision. What about healthcare access if the spouse who files for divorce is the one with insurance?

Our Maryland divorce attorneys will monitor the situation as the new law rolls out this fall, and we will keep you updated. Please let us know if you have concerns or questions about how the new legislation may affect your divorce.

Speak To Our Divorce Lawyers In Maryland Today

Getting a divorce is never easy, but the help of our Maryland divorce lawyers can make the process smoother. Our divorce lawyers in Maryland at Shah & Kishore can review your case and advise about Maryland’s pending divorce law changes, so call (301) 315-0001 for a complimentary consultation.

Our essential business is open during the pandemic Close