November 19, 2015
Effective October 1, 2015, Maryland Family Law has a new ground for divorce called “divorce by mutual consent.” This is great news for many couples who arrived at the decision to divorce together and would rather not wait to meet the 12-month separation requirement. However, this new ground for divorce is not for everyone and can only be used under specific circumstances that we will cover in this article.
Who Qualifies for Divorce by Mutual Consent
Mutual consent as a ground for divorce is not new in the U.S. In fact, many states have adopted it with some modifications a while ago, and Maryland is finally catching up. However, Maryland’s version of divorce by mutual consent is stricter than a similar law in neighboring Pennsylvania.
To qualify to file for divorce by mutual consent in Maryland, the couple must:
- Not have any minor children in common
- Prepare, sign and submit to the court a settlement agreement
- Both appear for the final hearing
What’s Great About Mutual Consent
Mutual consent is now the second no-fault ground for divorce in Maryland. The first and only no-fault ground used to be the 12-months separation that required spouses to live apart for a year before filing for divorce. This was inconvenient for couples who were not allowed to stay under the same roof, even though it made the most sense financially. It also prolonged the divorce process and prevented couples from moving on with their lives, as any sexual relations outside of marriage would be considered adultery. Now, with the divorce by mutual consent, you no longer need to wait so long if you don’t have minor children and you and your spouse are willing to cooperate.
Who is Divorce by Mutual Consent for?
Divorce by mutual consent is a valid option for couples who are parting on good terms, can arrive at an agreement on all issues and who:
- Have not been married long enough to have children
- Have been together for a long time and have adult children
- Have decided against having or adopting mutual children
Keep in mind that the “no minor children” requirement refers to children the couple has in common. This means that children from prior relationships who have not been adopted by their step-mother or step-father don’t prevent you from using the mutual consent ground.
The Importance of the Settlement Agreement
Even if the two of you verbally agree on many things, this doesn’t mean that arriving at a mutually satisfying written settlement agreement will be easy. Meanwhile, being able to decide such things as division of property and amount of alimony is necessary in order to qualify for the mutual consent ground. Divorce on the ground of mutual consent has to be uncontested, meaning neither party can ask the judge to intervene in how things are being divided. Uncontested divorce is not impossible, but it requires a good amount of cooperation between the spouses, as well as the presence of experienced lawyers. Our Maryland divorce attorneys at Okun/Billian PA will be happy to assist and guide you through this process, no matter which ground for divorce you choose.
Call us or contact us online for a free consultation.