Maryland used to be an antiquated state in which a couple could not get a divorce until separating for one year. The only exception was adultery, where a divorce is always allowed immediately.
A few years ago, Maryland carved out a new exception, which allowed for an immediate divorce as long as three conditions were met:
- There were no minor children.
- There was a written agreement resolving all issues.
- Both parties showed up at the courthouse in support of the divorce.
In April 2018, the Maryland Legislature expanded the exception, so that even if there are minor children, as long as there is a written agreement resolving all issues and both parties attend the hearing, the divorce can be granted immediately.
The parties must still separate in order to obtain the divorce, of course, but they no longer must separate for a full year.
This new expansion to the law incentivizes spouses to reach full agreements in order to obtain a speedy divorce.
Of course, without an agreement, the normal divorce process still controls. After the filing of a Complaint for Divorce and Answer, the Court will bring all parties in for a scheduling conference. At that conference, the Court will determine the next steps, which could include parenting classes, mediation, possibly an interim, or pendente lite, hearing – followed by a settlement conference. Only when all else fails will the court conduct a divorce trial.
The goal of the Maryland Legislature is to provide spouses with positive options to move forward with their lives. Those able to reach an agreement receive the reward of an early divorce.
There is a little known dark side to the legislature’s well-intended statute, however. The fear exists that one spouse will be able to strong arm the other into a “quickie” agreement, followed by a speedy divorce. Once that divorce becomes final, the duped spouse would be out of luck, and potentially deprived of financial benefits and even custodial rights.
The moral of this story? Always meet with an experienced family law attorney before you sign your name to anything. These decisions can have a powerful impact on your future and the future of your loved ones. SIEGELLAW offers representation with that perspective in mind. Our attorneys provide creative solutions which allow our clients to lay the foundations for a better future. Call us today at 410-792-2300 or fill out our contact form to find out how we can put our experience to work for you.