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From the Desk of Tartasha Harris, Esq.

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Proposed Legislation – Mutual Consent Divorce for Couples with Children

Married couples with minor children should be allowed to divorce by settlement just as childless couples do.   Couples without children may obtain an Absolute Divorce by “Mutual Consent,” effective October 1, 2015. Maryland residents are no longer required to physically separate to obtain an absolute divorce if the parties (1) have no children in Common (2) sign and submit a written agreement that resolves all issues regarding alimony and distribution of property and (3) appear before the Circuit Court for the final divorce hearing.

The new law is not applicable to couples that have children, even when the parties have devised a comprehensive parenting agreement.  Parents of minor children must live separate and apart for one year to obtain a familyholdinghandsdivorce by voluntary separation.

Senator Robert A. Zirkin states the Maryland General Assembly made a mistake, in permitting divorce by settlement only for couples without minor children, according to an article in the December 2015 edition of the Daily Record.   The Daily Record reports that Zirkin, a Baltimore County Democrat, introduced legislation last session that did not include the exclusion.  It was the House of Delegates that excluded couples with children from the legislation, in an effort to ensure children are protected in divorce.

 “Permitting people to divorce by settlement provides an incentive for couples to work it out,” Zirkin said, referring to child custody and the division of marital property that often leads to protracted and rancorous litigation.  “Couples with minor children are the very people that you are trying to give an incentive not to fight,” added Zirkin, who chairs the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, “But the law is forcing them to stay together even though they may have worked things out.”

The General Assembly session starts on January 13, 2015.

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