Most U.S. states introduced no-fault divorce in the last half of the 20th Century, but Maryland was not among them. The Old Line State has been among a minority of states that uses the traditional divorce rules, in which someone seeking divorce over their spouse’s objections must prove that the objecting spouse did something that caused the marriage to break down.
But change may be coming to Maryland divorce law at last. The General Assembly has passed a bill that will bring no-fault divorce to the state if Gov. Wes Moore signs it into law. If he does, a contested divorce could become significantly easier to achieve.
Out with the old, in with the new (grounds for divorce)
The bill would repeal the traditional grounds for divorce in Maryland: adultery, desertion, insanity, cruelty, a three-year prison sentence and a 12-month separation. Many Maryland residents choose the last one, though most found having to wait a full year before initiation divorce proceedings inconvenient and financially difficult. Few like the idea of their marital status being in legal limbo for that long.
Instead of that, family court judges would grant a divorce based a six-month separation period, irreconcilable differences or one spouse having “medically proven permanent incapacity… to make decisions,” according to The Daily Record. Irreconcilable differences is the standard legal phrase meaning no-fault divorce. It means that, in the filing spouse’s view, the relationship is irretrievably broken. There is no need to prove “fault” for the breakdown as there currently is in Maryland law.
Mistreatment would still matter
This does not mean that a spouse’s misbehavior would become irrelevant. Evidence of abandonment, adultery or cruelty could still factor into the court’s decisions regarding child custody, property division and alimony. So if no-fault divorce becomes the law, you will want to discuss these matters with your attorney. These issues that led to your marriage ending can be highly personal. But what you tell your divorce lawyer is covered by attorney-client privilege.