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Maryland divorce laws changing in small ways (for the better)

Most every state has some marriage and divorce laws that seem odd by modern standards. Back when divorce was highly stigmatized (not so long ago), legislators felt they could compel couples to stay together by making divorce as logistically difficult as possible.

Some of those laws remain in effect today, right here in Maryland. Thankfully, one archaic divorce law could soon be repealed.

In February, state legislators introduced a bill that would put an end to the requirement of producing an in-court witness in cases of uncontested divorce. The measure passed in both houses and was sent to the governor in April. Currently, the spouse seeking the divorce must produce a witness who will attest to the fact that the divorcing couple has not spent a night together in the past year. This is to satisfy the legal requirement that couples must live apart for one year prior to finalizing an uncontested divorce.

Even under the best circumstances, the requirement to produce a witness is significantly inconvenient. A friend or family member may need to take time off of work to appear in court. At worst, it sometimes requires parents to ask their older children to testify if no other witnesses can be found.

Moreover, it should be obvious that nearly no witness could testify with 100-percent certainty on whether a couple has spent the night together during the previous year. One state legislator noted: "in order to actually know that, you'd have to actually be with one of them 24/7."

Critics of divorce have long argued that getting divorced is "too easy." This is simply not true. It takes a considerable investment of time, money, planning and emotional energy. If we can make the process even slightly less difficult by doing away with unnecessary legal requirements, we should make such changes a priority.

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