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Mutual Consent Divorce in Maryland

Mutual consent divorce MDThe state of Maryland allows for a number of different grounds for absolute divorce. The grounds which apply best to you will in part determine what the process is that you have to follow. One of the grounds now available in Maryland is that of mutual consent divorce. After an initial introduction in 2015, the Maryland mutual consent policy has now been updated as of 2018.

As it was first applied, mutual consent allowed for parties without minor-aged children to proceed with a divorce without waiting for the typical 12-month separation period. The parties were required to come to terms on all matters pertaining to alimony and the division of property in a signed written agreement. As long as neither party filed to set aside the agreement, the two could show up to a final court hearing and be done with the divorce.

The 2018 update in a bill from the General Assembly of Maryland adds to this that parties with minor children are also able to pursue mutual consent as grounds for divorce. All of the above still applies, though here, the parties must also come to a written agreement on all aspects relating to the children, what the bill states as their “care, custody, access, and support.”

Further, when child support is applicable and agreed upon, an appropriate worksheet must be attached. The court then must determine that the agreement is in the best interests of the children.

As with Maryland divorce mediation, divorce via mutual consent allows for a potentially smoother and more rapid divorce proceeding and provides an alternative to contentious, drawn-out courtroom battles.

Fault Divorce vs. No-Fault Divorce in Maryland 

Divorce based on mutual consent is one of two “no-fault” grounds upon which divorce may be sought in Maryland. While many states only allow no-fault divorces, Maryland allows divorces based on both fault grounds and no-fault grounds. If you’re unsure whether you should pursue a fault-based divorce or no-fault divorce, a Bethesda mutual consent divorce attorney can help you decide.

Fault-based divorces are those that are based on accusations of wrongdoing by one spouse against another. This was the traditional route to divorce before no-fault divorce laws became popular. In Maryland, a spouse may seek a fault-based divorce based on the following grounds: 

  • Adultery 
  • Insanity 
  • Actual desertion
  • Constructive desertion 
  • Cruelty against a spouse or child
  • Excessively vicious conduct against a spouse or child 
  • Criminal conviction of a felony or misdemeanor 

A party alleging any of these fault-based grounds must prove them to the court using a variety of evidence. 

No-fault divorces are those that are not based on fault but rather on an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage or irreconcilable differences between the spouses. A party seeking a no-fault divorce does not need to show that their spouse did anything wrong. No-fault divorces in Maryland may be obtained in either of the following ways: 

  • Mutual consent (the parties have reached an out-of-court settlement and agree on all the issues of the divorce) 
  • 12-month separation (the parties have lived in separate residences without interruption or sexual intercourse for 12 months prior to the filing of the divorce petition) 

No-fault divorces generally are the easier route than fault-based divorces, as they remove the additional step of having to prove fault. 

Requirements for Divorce Based on Mutual Consent 

Mutual consent divorce is not for everyone. Disagreement about any issue precludes a couple from obtaining a divorce based on mutual consent, as the parties have not truly consented to all issues. Mutual consent divorce under Maryland law is available only if the parties have executed and submitted to the court a written settlement signed by both parties that resolve all issues related to: 

If the parties have minor children and the settlement agreement makes provisions for the payment of child support, they must attach to the settlement agreement a completed child support guidelines worksheet. Neither party may object to or file a pleading to set aside the settlement agreement prior to the divorce hearing. If, after reviewing the settlement agreement, the court is satisfied that any terms of the agreement related to minor or dependent children are in the best interests of those children, the court will incorporate the settlement agreement into the divorce decree. 

Mutual consent divorce sounds easy in theory, but the process of arriving at an out-of-court agreement that addresses the necessary issues can be incredibly burdensome, even through collaborative processes like mediation. For help crafting a settlement agreement that will satisfy the requirements for a mutual consent divorce, please contact a Bethesda mutual consent divorce attorney. 

Get a Free Consultation for Mutual Consent in Maryland

Whether you think mutual consent as grounds for absolute divorce is right for you, or you have questions about the process, what it means, or the latest updates, feel free to get in touch with our office. You can schedule a free consultation by calling us at 240.395.1418.