On October 1, 2023, Maryland modified its divorce process by eliminating limited divorces and adjusting the requirements for absolute divorce. The new laws were designed to make the separation process less confrontational and to help couples find more effective resolutions. However, these regulations have had a significant impact on couples seeking a divorce, as well as on lawyers and judges handling these cases.

new divorce law maryland

What Is a Divorce in Maryland?

Divorce, also referred to as absolute divorce in Maryland, is when a court legally ends a marriage. The court will enter an order, known as a “divorce decree” or a “decree,” and can also help settle the following issues:

  • Spousal support 
  • Child support
  • Child custody (decision-making authority and parenting time)
  • Dividing marital property

What Was Limited Divorce in Maryland?

Prior to the new laws, limited divorce or legal separation in Maryland was an option for partners seeking temporary relief to settle issues such as child support, custody, alimony, or access rights without completely dissolving the marriage. However, as of October 1, 2023, this option is no longer valid, and the new divorce procedures opt solely for permanent solutions, such as absolute divorce.

An Overview of the New Maryland Divorce Legislation

The new regulations in Maryland have significantly changed the divorce process in the state. These new divorce laws have eliminated the concept of limited divorce and allowed contested and uncontested divorces to be granted on no-fault grounds, such as irreconcilable differences or six-month separation. The ground of irreconcilable differences does not require a separation period, and the parties may file for an absolute divorce while residing in the same household, or if they have been separated for less than six months. However, in order to assert grounds of six-month separation, the couple needs to live apart for six months without interruption. The purpose of this update was to simplify and ease the process for those involved. 

These new laws have also revamped the procedures for obtaining a divorce by eliminating the required twelve-month separation period and allowing couples to file a faultless petition for contested divorce, making it more accessible for them to establish their eligibility. The new law also allows couples to continue living under one roof while leading separate lives. 

The New Legal Grounds for Divorce

Based on the new divorce rules, there will only be three grounds for absolute divorce: six-month separation, mutual consent, and irreconcilable differences. 

Mutual Consent

To pursue a divorce under mutual consent, the parties must submit a written settlement agreement executed by both spouses that resolves all their issues related to marital property, alimony, care of minor children, and custody.

Six-Month Separation

Separation will also remain grounds for absolute divorce. However, under the new divorce law, there will be significant changes to this separation period:

  • The period of separation will be reduced from 12 months to six months
  • The phrase “without cohabitation” will be removed 
  • New language will be added to clarify what qualifies as separation, including parties “who have pursued separate lives” for at least six months

Irreconcilable Differences

Under the new grounds for absolute divorce, couples can file for divorce based on irreconcilable differences.  Under this option, spouses can end their marriage if they believe they have an issue that cannot be resolved, and regardless of whether a separation has occurred.

The Bottom Line for the New Divorce Laws in Maryland

The new divorce law has changed the requirements for absolute divorce and eliminated limited divorce. In addition, the previous grounds for divorce are no longer applicable, as couples can now pursue divorce without having to establish fault. As such, individuals need to familiarize themselves with these changes before trying to dissolve a marriage.

Contact Rice Law Today To Learn More About the New Divorce Laws

To learn more about the new divorce laws in Maryland or if you would like to review your case in more detail, contact Rice Law today and speak with one of our experienced Maryland divorce attorneys.  

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