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Mutual consent law for divorce with children has changed

In October, a new law went into effect that allows couples with minor children to seek a divorce by mutual consent.

Maryland's mutual consent law was first passed in 2015. It allowed couples to seek a divorce if they agreed on all matters of alimony and property distribution. It was called an "absolute divorce" or "divorce by mutual consent" and its biggest appeal was that it did not require the mandatory one-year period in which the couple had to show they were living separate and apart.

However, it excluded couples with minor children. 

Conditions of mutual consent

In 2018, the Maryland legislature revised the law to allow those with minor children to apply for a divorce by mutual consent if they agreed on:

  • How to handle alimony or spousal support
  • Division of all property, assets and debts
  • Care, custody, access and support of children which includes a completed worksheet on child support guidelines
  • Attending the divorce hearing

Experts say the 2015 law was widely used and greatly helped speed up the divorce process in Maryland. They anticipate the addition of couples with minor children will have the same effect.

Prior to the new laws

Prior to the 2015 law, the only way to escape the one-year separation requirement required fault grounds such as adultery. Since these grounds were often disputed, the divorce cases entered the court system and took a long time to resolve. The removal of the 12-month waiting period in cases of divorce by mutual consent kept many divorces out of the court system.

Some motives were financial as well. Prior to the 2015 law, couples had to take on the burden of funding separate lifestyles for one year before a divorce was official without liquidating what is, for most, their largest asset - their marital house. The 2015 law allows couples with uncontested divorces to sell their assets and move on with their lives much earlier.

Until 2018, couples with minor children still had to maintain the one-year separation. But now, as long as they are in agreement on all the issues surround the divorce, they can apply for divorce by mutual consent.

Such legal maneuvers should not be handled cavalierly. The law requires specific handling by legal professionals. If you are considering a divorce and want to explore the possibility of a divorce by mutual consent, contact a lawyer.

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