New law allows for mutual-consent divorce for more couples

In October Maryland will make mutual-consent divorce a bit easier for those who have minor children.

Earlier this year Maryland lawmakers passed a law that will make it much easier for couples with minor children to get divorced. As U.S. News & World Report notes, in February the Maryland Senate passed Senate Bill 120, which allows parents of minor children a mutual-consent divorce without first having to live apart for a year. The change to the law, which follows a 2015 law that allowed Maryland couples without children to skip the one-year waiting period, represents a significant step towards relaxing what had formerly been some of the strictest divorce laws in the country.

No more one-year waiting period

Currently, married couples in Maryland who have a minor child must live separately for a year before they can get divorced. That is even if both spouses want the divorce and they have agreed on the terms of their separation. The one-year waiting period was designed as a sort of "cooling off" period to give spouses a chance to reconsider their decision.

However, in many cases, the enforced waiting period only caused divorce to be unnecessarily fraught and expensive. It meant that people were unable to move on with their lives and it created situations where one spouse could more easily manipulate the other spouse with threats or unreasonable demands.

On October 1, 2018, however, that will all change. On that date Senate Bill 120 will go into effect, which will allow the parents of minor children to get divorced immediately so long as they both agree to the divorce. In other words, there will be no need to wait a year before being able to finalize the divorce.

Undoing strict divorce laws

The change is just the latest step towards making Maryland's divorce laws, which had long been some of the strictest in the country, a little less hard on families. In 2015 state lawmakers passed a law allowing those without minor children to divorce immediately so long as the spouses mutually consented to doing so. Before then, the divorcing parties had to live apart for a year before they could actually get divorced.

However, it is important to note that there are still some restrictions on getting divorced, even if both spouses are in agreement. For one, the court may require the parents to have an agreement in place that provides for the care of the children or the court may reject the divorce agreement if it does not serve the best interests of the children.

Family law help

Getting divorced is never easy and keeping up with recent legal changes can be challenging. That is why anybody considering divorce should talk to a family law attorney as soon as possible. An experienced attorney can help clients understand what options they have and how to negotiate a settlement that best serves their long-term interests.