There are groundbreaking changes occurring in Maryland regarding family law matters, including grounds for divorce. These changes will go into effect on October 1, 2023 and will apply to cases that are filed on or after that date. In this article, we outline a few of the upcoming changes to the grounds for divorce in Maryland.
The new legislation regarding Maryland divorce laws include the elimination of several grounds for divorce, along with the addition of several other. Maryland will no longer recognize the following grounds for divorce: i) adultery; ii) desertion; iii) insanity; iv) criminal convictions leading to incarceration; v) cruelty of treatment; and vi) 12-month separation. Although the legislature has eliminated “fault-based” grounds such as adultery and cruelty, it did not eliminate consideration of these factors or the conduct of either spouse in determining the outcome of the divorce case. In other words, the conduct of each spouse during the marital relationship remains a relevant factor for the Court to consider when deciding issues such as the distribution of marital property.
In addition to eliminating the aforementioned grounds for divorce, the Maryland legislature has added two new grounds for divorce: i) 6-month separation; and ii) irreconcilable differences. Notably, the 6-month separation ground for divorce does not require the parties to live in separate residences. Instead, the Court may grant the parties a divorce on this ground if the complainant can show that the parties had been living separate lives, albeit under the same roof. This eliminates the major hurdle of having to “physically separate” prior to filing for divorce.
The introduction of irreconcilable differences as a ground for divorce is also a welcome addition to Maryland divorce law. This will allow and even encourage couples who have decided to go their separate ways to file for divorce for that exact reason – instead of having to physically separate or pursue other, more contentious grounds for divorce. It remains to be seen how the divorce grounds of “irreconcilable differences” will be interpreted and applied by the Courts.
Lastly, it should not be overlooked that mutual consent remains a ground for divorce in Maryland. We recently published an article noting the benefits of mutual consent divorce in Maryland.
Robert Greenberg, Esq. and the law firm of Greenberg Legal Group LLC have extensive experience representing clients in divorce actions. We welcome these changes to Maryland divorce law and are here to help you understand how these changes may apply to your specific situation. Our firm is located in Annapolis, Maryland and practices in Courts throughout the State of Maryland. Please contact our office at (410) 650-4242 for further assistance.