Maryland Mutual Consent Divorce Mediation Lawyer
Effective October 15, 2016 Maryland enacted the no-fault Mutual Consent grounds for Absolute Divorce.
The Requirements are as follows:
the parties do not have any minor children in common;
the parties execute and submit to the court a written settlement agreement signed by both parties that resolves all issues relating to alimony and the distribution of property;
neither party files a pleading to set aside the settlement agreement prior to the divorce hearing required under the Maryland Rules; and
both parties appear before the court at the absolute divorce hearing.
The Judge in a Mutual Consent Divorce in Maryland retains the authority to incorporate or merge the Settlement Agreement into the Judgment of Absolute Divorce; thereby retaining the authority to modify or enforce the terms of the Agreement and/or Judgment.
This new grounds for a “no-fault” divorce ended the requirement of a 12 month physical separation of the parties prior to a party filing for divorce for parties who do not share minor children. This means that if a party (or both) has a minor child from another marriage or relationship but none “in common”, they are eligible for Mutual Consent divorce because the minor children are not from their relationship.
Prior to the enactment of Mutual Consent Divorce in Maryland, filing for Absolute Divorce prior to the 12 month separation required fault grounds like Adultery, which grounds were often denied by the answering party and therefore created a contested case. Contested cases take many months to wind through the Court’s system, that often times the parties settled their case and moved forward with the absolute divorce on the less inflammatory 12-month separation grounds because the time period had already passed, all issues had been resolved except for the fault grounds.
The passage of the no-fault Mutual Consent Divorce law dovetails seamlessly with the mediation process. Many parties see the value of quickly putting the trauma of separation and divorce behind them and the most stress-free way to do that is to mediate and get a settlement agreement. Many couples are taking advantage of the new way to put obtain divorces in short order. Mediation for Mutual Consent Divorces in Maryland is a more progressive approach to conflict resolution in family law matters.
Be aware that Maryland’s residency requirement still applies. Specifically, if the grounds for the divorce occurred outside of the State of Maryland (i.e. the separation or decision to get divorced), a party may not file for an absolute divorce unless one of the parties has resided in this State for at least 6 months before the complaint for absolute divorce is filed.
Mediation to obtain Mutual Consent Divorce in Maryland is a positive step forward in Maryland divorce law. Using the non-adversarial process of mediation to reach agreement on all issues of Alimony, division of property and allocation of debts may be the best way to take advantage of the new law. The conflict resolution spirit of mediation is the right first step to take to accomplish a Mutual Consent Divorce. To start your process, call Nancy Caplan, Esquire at Maryland Divorce Mediation & Legal Services.