The Maryland Legislature has continued a process, begun several years ago, of modernizing Maryland divorce law. Amendments became effective October 1, 2023. The Code changes eliminated fault grounds of divorce, repealed limited divorce, and created another no-fault ground for absolute divorce.
Until the most recent Code revisions, a party filing for divorce could allege both fault grounds (adultery; desertion) and no-fault grounds (separation; mutual consent). One of the major changes is the elimination of fault grounds, bringing Maryland in line with the growing trend towards no-fault grounds as the exclusive basis for divorce. Parties can still allege fault as one of the factors in the determination of property division and spousal support.
With the recent Code amendments, Maryland now has three possible grounds for an absolute divorce. The newly created ground of irreconcilable differences acknowledges that the spouses can no longer find common ground and continue their relationship. This ground does not require that parties assign blame for the breakdown, only that the breakdown has occurred and that it is irreparable.
The Code has long provided for an absolute divorce on the ground of separation and required that the parties have lived separate and apart, in separate abodes, for 12 months. The 2023 amendments reduce that period to six months. Notably, couples living separate lives under the same roof can now qualify as separated. For many couples, the ability to remain under the same roof while living apart, and while they negotiate a settlement and decide what to do with the marital home, can facilitate settlement and reduce the economic burdens of divorce; it allows them to maintain one household until they are ready to establish separate homes.
Finally, parties may divorce by mutual consent. This option requires both spouses to agree to the divorce and to submit a written settlement agreement addressing property division, alimony, and child custody.
The 2023 Code amendments also eliminated the limited divorce option. An absolute divorce severs the bond of matrimony. A limited divorce allowed for parties to live apart permanently but did not entirely end the marriage, meaning neither could remarry unless they later got an absolute divorce.
These recent changes to Maryland’s divorce law, along with changes made over the past several years, are a continuation of a trend to modernize Maryland divorce.