A very positive family law bill is making its way through the Maryland General Assembly this session. Senate Bill 472, sponsored by Senator Robert Zirkin, would allow a court to issue a Judgment of Absolute Divorce on the no fault ground of “mutual consent” if the parties have a written settlement agreement that resolves all contested issues between the parties. There would be no required period of separation. The text of the bill is available here. The fiscal and policy note is available here. The bill was first read on February 6, 2015, and was the subject of a Senate hearing last Tuesday, March 3.
This bill would be a great step forward for no fault divorce in Maryland. It would allow cases that have settled to be filed as uncontested divorces, and for the divorces to be granted without the one-year separation period that is currently the state of the no-fault law in Maryland. Because it would only apply to cases with written settlement agreements, it would not cause more court congestion or litigation, as might happen if the separation period for no-fault divorces were eliminated entirely.
Of note, a similar bill was passed in the Senate last year, but was not passed by the House. We are eager to see what becomes of this bill, and think the passage of the bill would serve many of our clients’ interests well.