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Understanding fault-based versus no-fault Maryland divorce

Maryland residents considering divorce may not be quite clear on fault-based versus no-fault divorce in our state.

In 2015, the law was updated with reference to the traditional waiting period. Here is what changed about divorce in Maryland and what stayed the same:

The new law

Until the 2015 law was signed by Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, couples who wanted to divorce had to undergo a waiting period of 12 months before they could file. Legislation passed by the General Assembly in April 2015 changed that. Now, couples can file under the new “no-fault” law if they meet certain conditions:

  •         They have no minor children in common
  •         They will sign and submit a settlement agreement to show the court that all issues regarding alimony and property division have been resolved
  •         They agree not to set aside the settlement agreement ahead of their divorce hearing
  •         They must appear at the divorce hearing

If both parties fulfill these requirements, the judge may grant an absolute divorce based on the ground of “mutual consent;” no waiting period will be required.

The fault-based divorce

Couples who do not meet the requirements set forth under the new law will still need to separate and remain apart for 12 months before they can file for divorce. That time period begins as soon as one of the parties moves out of the marital home. However, the waiting period will be waived for a “fault-based” divorce if one party can prove to the court that the other party is guilty of grounds that include desertion, adultery, cruel treatment, excessively vicious conduct, insanity or imprisonment for a crime.

Getting through the complexities

An experienced attorney will tell you that every divorce is unique, and every one has complexities to sift through, even if they seem to be fairly basic. Understanding the differences between fault-based and no-fault divorce structures will help you be better prepared if you and your spouse have decided to end your marriage.

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