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Maryland’s 2015 legislative session brought about some significant changes to divorce and domestic violence laws. The changes in the laws, summarized below, went into effect on October 1, 2015. 

Maryland Divorces Picking up Speed


Until recently, couples wishing to get divorced in Maryland needed to be separated for one year prior to being eligible for divorce, unless they had another ground available to them, such as adultery. However, now there is no longer a mandatory separation period in certain cases. 

The new grounds, “mutual consent,” establishes a speedier divorce process for those who have resolved all of their differences and have no minor children in common. For many Marylanders, this may mean a more simplified and smoother transition to life after divorce.

What is required of both parties in order to grant a mutual consent divorce? Maryland courts may grant an absolute divorce by mutual consent if:

  1. The parties do not have any minor children in common; and
  2. They have executed a written settlement agreement signed by both parties resolving all property and support issues; and
  3. Both parties appear before the court at the absolute divorce hearing.

Divorce laws vary widely from state to state. In addition to dictating the speed of your divorce, your residency at the time of divorce can also dictate your rights with regard to your children and property.

Recent Developments in Maryland’s Domestic Violence Laws


In addition to the changes to the divorce law, there were several new bills passed that significantly impact Maryland’s domestic violence laws. 

Jurisdiction 


The new law clarifies the jurisdiction requirement and provides that a petition for a protective order may be filed if the alleged abuse occurred in Maryland, or if the person eligible for relief is a resident of Maryland, regardless of whether the alleged abuse occurred in Maryland. Md. Code Ann., Fam. Law §4-504(a)(2)

Person Eligible for Relief 


The new law expands the “persons eligible for relief” in the protective order statute to include individuals that have had a sexual relationship with the respondent within one year prior to filing the petition, even if they have not lived together.  Previously, such individuals would only have been eligible to file for a peace order, which provided more limited relief than a protective order. Md. Code Ann., Fam. Law §4-501(m)

Additional Relief 


The new law expands the relief available to a petitioner by providing judges with the authority to order any relief that they determine is necessary to protect an eligible person. Md. Code Ann., Fam. Law §4-506(d)(14)

If you have any questions about recent changes in the Maryland family laws or how they might apply to your personal situation, contact one of our family law attorneys at 301-340-2020.


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