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The Maryland General Assembly has added “Mutual Consent” as new grounds for absolute divorce in Maryland, eliminating the waiting period, if

(1) the parties do not have any minor children in common;

(2) 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;

(3) neither party files a pleading to set aside the settlement agreement prior to the divorce hearing required under the Maryland rules; and

(4) both parties appear before the court at the absolute divorce hearing.

The new law, when signed by the Governor, will take effect October 1, 2015.

A permanent and final divorce is called a “divorce a vinculo matrimonii” (meaning from the bonds of matrimony) in Virginia. All divorces require proof of grounds. If you are filing for divorce, you have to have grounds before you file. If you cannot prove your grounds for divorce, accusing your spouse of these grounds may be grounds for the award of legal fees to your spouse. Pending the final divorce you should not do anything to give your spouse any grounds for divorce because it can probably be used against you. In Virginia you can be living separate and apart under the same roof, but this is difficult to prove, and requires planning.
The grounds for a final divorce in Virginia are as follows:
1. Adultery
2. Felony conviction – at least one year imprisonment.
3. Cruelty – one year after the act of cruelty.
4. Desertion continuing for one year.
5. Voluntary separation – for one year without interruption or marital relations and no reasonable prospect of reconciliation. If there are no minor children and the spouses have a written separation agreement, the require period is six months. In Virginia you can be living separate and apart under the same roof during the required separation period, but this requires careful planning and can be difficult to prove.

Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. said we have a great experiment going on with the laws in the different states in the U.S.  We can see which ones work best.

Arizona is trying to decide whether or not to increase the time of separation in that state from two months to six months.

Meanwhile, Maryland Senator Zirkin  has introduced Senate Bill 577 that would reduce the time from one year to six months for a voluntary separation in Maryland.  The period for involuntary separation would change from two years to one year.  If it passes, the bill would be effective for divorces filed after October 1, 2010.

This would bring Maryland in line with the separation period required in its neighboring jurisdictions, Virginia and DC.

“My husband and I have not been intimate for over a year,” Louise, an unhappily married woman tells Joe, a Maryland divorce lawyer, “and I want a divorce.”

“OK, any other woman in his life?” inquires Joe.

“No.”

“Hmmm, any domestic violence or threats?”

“No.”

“Then you’re going to have to move out of the house for a year before you can file a divorce complaint,” says Joe trying to push the box of tissues across his desk toward Louise unobtrusively.

“But we can’t afford that,” cries Louise reaching for the tissues, “There must be another way.”

Neighboring jurisdictions, DC and Virginia permit parties to be separated while living in the same house, but not Maryland.  In Maryland, spouses are required to live separate and apart under different roofs for one year if the both agree, and two years if they don’t.  This waiting period must occur before they can even file for divorce.  And the divorce might take a year or longer after that.  These are the no fault grounds.  Adultery and cruelty have no waiting period.

The purpose of this waiting period is to favor marriage over divorce and make sure the parties really, really want to be divorced and not married.  After all, sometimes people change their minds.  But the recession has forced many couples to live together in misery because they cannot afford to separate.

So Montgomery County Delegate Luiz Simmons, an attorney, will support legislation this year to add a new grounds for divorce in Maryland, according to this morning’s Frederick News Post.  If this law passes, couples who go a year without sex would be able to file for divorce.

Anuradha Das said her husband, Vincent Das, made her stay up all night in order to listen to him, isolated her from her friends and family, hitting, pinching and pulling her hair, and taunted her about what she would do when a protective order expired.   Anuradha filed for divorce in Maryland based on cruelty.  There was a trial and the divorce was granted.

Vincent appealed saying his wife had not proven cruelty as grounds for her divorce.  He claimed his conduct never endangered her life, person, or health, or would have otherwise caused her to feel apprehension of bodily suffering.

He cited older cases in Maryland which say that marital neglect, rudeness of manner, and the use of profane and abusive language do not constitute cruelty.  A divorce cannot be granted merely because the parties have lived together unhappily as a result of unruly tempers and marital wranglings, sallies of passion, harshness or rudeness.

However, there were several incidents of domestic violence over the history of the marriage including a one year protective order against Vincent.   Consequently, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals found that Vincent’s conduct far exceeded mere sallies of passion, harshness or rudeness.  It threatened Anuradha’s physical and emotional well-being.  The Court upheld the judgment of divorce on grounds of cruelty.  Das v. Das, 133 Md. App.1, 754 A.2d 441 (2000).