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Maryland Law Shortens Separation Period For Divorce

May 23, 2011

For situations in which a couple separates, but one spouse does not want to end the marriage, a new law in Maryland shortens the separation period to file for a no fault divorce from two years to one year.

Prior to the enactment of this law, if husband and wife "mutually and voluntarily" agreed to end their marriage, then they only needed to be separated for one uninterrupted year prior to filing for a divorce. If one spouse did not want to end the marriage, the separation needed to be for two uninterrupted years. But, as of October 1, 2011, the agreement of both spouses is no longer necessary to use a one year separation as ground for divorce. So long as husband and wife are separated for one uninterrupted year, then grounds exist to file for an absolute divorce, whether the decision to end the marriage is voluntary or not. This new law does not impact any of the existing fault grounds for divorce, such as adultery, desertion, or cruelty.

Shortening the separation period for a no fault divorce from two years to one year in this situation has put Maryland on a similar level as surrounding jurisdictions. Presently, Virginia requires a six-month wait if there are no children, and the spouses agree to the divorce. Otherwise, it is a one year waiting period. In D.C., there is a six-month waiting period if the spouses agree to separate, and one year if they do not. There was debate in the legislature about shortening Maryland’s separation period to six months by agreement, but that did not pass.

If you would like to find out more information about this new law or any other issue involving family law, please contact Ferrier Stillman.

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