No matter the situation, divorce is a stressful process that can take an emotional toll on all parties, including children. There are often waiting periods and legal proceedings to go through in addition to resolving alimony and property division. However, despite the imposition of going through a divorce, many couples understand that it’s inevitable and best for everyone.
Luckily, for those couples who agree on getting a divorce, Maryland has introduced a new uncontested divorce law, also known as a mutual consent divorce. The new law essentially allows for couples to file for divorce without it turning into a major legal battle. The process is more streamlined and straightforward and does not require any extensive proceedings or waiting periods.
Traditionally, Maryland’s divorce law was intentionally designed to seem daunting as a way to discourage couples from seeking a divorce, especially those with children. The process was challenging, lengthy, and often expensive. Prior to 2015, couples in Maryland were required to meet one of the following legal grounds:
- A felony or misdemeanor conviction with a 3-year minimum sentence and one year of incarceration
- Cruel or vicious treatment of a spouse or child
- Complete, uninterrupted separation for at least 12 months
However, in 2015, Maryland created new grounds for couples seeking an uncontested divorce. Many refer to this new divorce law as a mutual consent divorce or even a “quickie divorce” due to the fact that there is no required separation period, and the process is much smoother and easier. Initially, if there were minor children involved, the couples still had to go through a waiting period, but in 2018 Maryland updated the law to allow parents in mutual agreement to forgo the 12-month separation period.
Though a mutual consent divorce is easier and does not require as many hoops for couples to jump through, there are still a couple of requirements in order to qualify:
- Both parties have signed a Marital Settlement Agreement that resolves property and alimony.
- If there are children involved, both parties must sign an agreement resolving custody and child support.
- Both parties must be present at the hearing, and neither may have changed their mind between the time of the settlement agreement and the date of the divorce hearing.
Though an attorney is not required to file for a mutual consent divorce, it is still advised to work with an experienced divorce attorney to ensure that the process runs as smoothly as possible. Mistakes can hold up the process and drag it out longer than necessary. Additionally, even when a divorce is wanted by both parties, it does not mean that reaching an agreement for the settlement of alimony, property, and custody/child support will be easy. When there are disagreements over money and children, it is highly beneficial to have a lawyer present.
To file for an uncontested divorce, you will need to:
- Provide the court with a Civil-Domestic Case Information Report
- File a Complaint for Absolute Divorce
- Provide a signed copy of the Marital Settlement Agreement
- Provide a signed copy of the Child Custody, Access, and Support Agreement (if separate from the Marital Agreement)
- Provide a Child Support Guidelines Worksheet (if there is an agreement to pay child support)
Once all documents are provided, the court will schedule a hearing typically within 45 days of filing. If both parties show up to the hearing and do not change their minds from the time that the Marital Settlement was agreed upon, then the court should grant both parties their desired absolute divorce without the need to separate.
If a couple can agree on getting a divorce, the process is often less stressful and much easier for everyone involved. While it is still an emotional process, a mutual consent divorce can be beneficial in many ways, including:
As previously mentioned, Maryland law initially had a waiting period requirement for couples seeking a divorce. The two individuals, whether parents or not, had to separate and live apart from one another before they could qualify. However, when both parties are willing to work with one another towards a mutual divorce, the court sees no need for the couples to have to suffer through a waiting period. While normal divorce proceedings can take over a year to finalize, an uncontested divorce often takes as little as four months to wrap up.
Uncontested divorces typically cost less because there is much less time and effort involved in the filing process. The more time you have to put into a divorce, the more fees you will be charged by an attorney.. For this reason, it’s highly beneficial for both parties to come to a mutual agreement. The sooner you agree and file the necessary paperwork, the sooner you will be granted a divorce and the less you will have to spend on legal fees.
When children are involved, arguing over custody and child support can turn into a nightmare situation. While children are not always directly involved themselves, the emotional toll the process takes on the parents can have an effect on the children’s wellbeing. Parents who are always fighting and arguing is not good for the children, so the smoother and quicker a divorce is dealt with, the better. As the 12-month separation period is no longer a requirement, parents can more quickly come to an amicable agreement that works best for everyone.
Divorce is a complex process. Whether you are going through a divorce that is mutually agreed upon or not, hiring an experienced divorce attorney can make a huge difference. The attorneys at Zirkin & Schmerling Law can answer your questions and guide you through the challenging process of understanding Maryland’s divorce law. We have no up-front fees and offer a free evaluation of your divorce case so you can get the legal advice that you need.
Contact us or call us at 410-753-4611 to set up an appointment with one of our divorce attorneys today.