New Ground for Divorce — Mutual Consent

In 2015, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan signed legislation creating a new mutual consent law that expedites divorce, in some circumstances. The law eliminates the one-year waiting period for couples that have no minor children and have a written separation agreement, but it does not remove the one-year waiting period for parents with minor children Previously, even when couples both agreed to a divorce, Maryland law required them to live apart for one year before filing for divorce. That one-year period began on the date one spouse moved out of the residence, so in households where one spouse couldn’t afford to move out immediately, the law essentially forced couples to remain married for perhaps more than one year after agreeing to divorce.

Outdated Laws?

Many state laws were created at a time when attitudes were quite different than today. For example, some states still have laws on the books that prohibit the use of foul language. Maryland’s new mutual consent law is more in line with modern sensibilities, and it’s possible the 2016 legislative session may see further attempts to remove barriers to divorce. Sen. Robert Zirkin, author of the mutual consent legislation, told The Baltimore Sun: “We have a lot of remnants of very old common law and very old statutes. This is not the end in terms of modernizing our law.” Another new divorce law signed in 2015 shortens the residency requirement for people who want to file for divorce in Maryland. Previously, a spouse had to live in Maryland for one year before filing for divorce, but now that waiting period is only six months.

Possible Outcomes

The mutual consent law may have an effect on how couples approach divorce. If they know that they can now expedite the process by both agreeing to divorce and cooperating about the division of assets, Maryland courts may see a decline in the number of divorce cases entering litigation. A more subtle effect of the new law is that it will likely reduce stress and anxiety for couples who wish to divorce. The end of a marriage is difficult enough, but even more so when couples must wait an entire year before moving on with their lives.

Help with Divorce

Even when a couple mutually agrees to divorce and there are no custody issues to sort out, it’s wise to get legal advice before signing any formal agreement. That’s even more important if a couple owns a business, stocks, or investments that could produce significant income in the future. Sometimes, spouses accidentally sign away their rights to financial investments, because they’re unaware of their rights. Lusk Law, LLC, specializes in helping small business owners with their legal needs. Whether our clients need advice regarding divorce, property management, personnel, or other issues that could impact their business, we are prepared to offer our professional, personalized support and represent our clients in court when litigation is necessary. Our experienced attorneys have provided legal counsel and representation to business owners and individuals in Frederick County, Howard County, Baltimore County, Baltimore City, Carroll County, Washington County, and Anne Arundel County, and other counties in Maryland. Please call us at 443-535-9715 or fill out our contact form if you need a consultation regarding your rights.