Significant changes to Maryland Divorce Law will be finalized and will go into effect as of October 1, 2023. The new legislation repeals the entire section of the law that permits an individual to obtain a limited divorce and alters the grounds for absolute divorce in the State of Maryland.
Prior to the new legislation, Maryland recognized two types of divorce – limited divorce and absolute divorce. A limited divorce allowed individuals a basis for seeking temporary relief, perhaps who were unsure about permanently ending the marriage or for other reasons. However, with the new legislation, this ability to obtain a limited divorce has been repealed in its entirety and is no longer available under Maryland Law, leaving absolute divorce as the only viable option.
While absolute divorce remains available to those parties seeking divorce, there have been considerable changes to the grounds to absolute divorce. Prior to the new law, parties could obtain an absolute divorce under the following grounds:
- Conviction of a felony or misdemeanor with incarceration.
- 12-month separation.
- Insanity; or
- Cruelty of treatment or vicious conduct toward a spouse and/or minor child.
These grounds have been repealed under the new law and have been replaced with the following:
- 6-month separation if the parties have lived separate and apart for 6 months without interruption before the filing of the application for divorce even if the parties are living under the same roof or if separation is in accordance with a court order; or
- Irreconcilable differences based on the reasons stated by the complainant for the permanent termination of the marriage.
Under current law, a court may also grant an absolute divorce on the grounds of mutual consent. The bill does not alter provisions regarding an absolute divorce based on this ground. In some cases, the court may also grant a divorce based on the permanent legal incapacity of a spouse to make decisions.
Please access the Fiscal and Policy note here for more information. Legislation – SB0036 (maryland.gov)
The new MVLS factsheet on the 2023 Legislative Changes to Maryland Divorce Law is a guide to the new legislation and addresses additional information regarding the potential impact of the new legislation for attorneys and clients.
With the new law, obtaining a divorce will certainly be easier and require less time, without the need to prove the more complicated grounds set forth in the previous law, particularly for those clients who must represent themselves without an attorney.
If you are a volunteer working with a MVLS client, you may consider providing your client with a copy of these guidelines. More information will be forthcoming as we learn more about the law and the court’s implementation.