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  • Writer's pictureLaurie M. Wasserman

3 Major Changes to How You Can Divorce in Maryland—Coming This Fall

The Maryland General Assembly passed a few significant bills this year that will have major effects in the family law arena. These new laws will take effect October 1, 2023.



1. Divorce


Getting a divorce in Maryland is about to get a lot easier and quicker. Maryland has simplified the various grounds (i.e. the basis for the request) a person must establish to get divorced. The new law removes fault-based grounds for divorce such as adultery, desertion, and cruelty of treatment, and adds the new ground of “irreconcilable differences” (which is not defined by law). Mutual consent remains a ground under the new law if the parties agree to divorce and have a signed settlement agreement resolving all issues.


For those who obtain a divorce on the grounds of physical separation, the separation requirement has been changed from 12 months apart to 6 months, and it allows spouses who reside under the same roof, but pursue different lives, to still be considered separated. Previously, couples had to live separate and apart in separate abodes to be considered separated. The law also removes the court’s authority to grant a limited divorce, which was like a legal separation but did not resolve all property issues; all proceedings will soon be absolute (final) divorces. If you filed for a limited divorce, you could amend your filing to seek an absolute divorce orally in Court (with the other side’s consent), or in writing, after October.


The changes mean more people will more easily qualify for a divorce and will be able to obtain them faster. There will now only be three grounds for divorce: (1) irreconcilable differences; (2) separation, if the parties have lived separate and apart for 6 months; and (3) mutual consent if the parties submit an agreement that resolves all issues.


This new law will be found in the Annotated Code of Maryland, Family Law Article Section 7-103.


2. Child Abduction


Under this new law, child abduction has now been redefined as “the wrongful removal or wrongful retention of a child.” A wrongful removal or wrongful retention occurs when the taking or retention of a child breaches another’s custody or visitation rights. The court will have the authority to order child abduction prevention measures if it finds there is a credible risk of abduction of the child, including allowing a prosecutor to seek a warrant to take physical custody of a child. The law specifies factors the court must consider in deciding whether a child’s risk of abduction is credible. If the court passes an abduction prevention order, the order can include travel restrictions to the offending party, prohibiting the party from removing the child from school or daycare, and placing the child’s name in the U.S. Department of State’s child passport issuance alert program, among other remedies.


This law is a huge step forward toward the safety of Maryland’s children. However, anyone who files a petition under this law in bad faith will be subject to the other party’s legal fees.


This new law will be found in the Annotated Code of Maryland, Family Law Article Section 9.5-101.


3. Child Relocation


While not quite an abduction, the threat of one parent relocating a child is still anxiety-inducing to the other parent. This law requires the court to schedule an expedited hearing if a parent proposes relocating a child that would “significantly interfere” with the other parent’s predetermined parenting time schedule. Previously, a parent had to rely on an emergency filing (alleging threat of harm to the child) to get the expedited hearing, which is a high bar to clear, and those petitions were often denied. Now a proposed relocation will get a quick hearing to get the matter addressed. This will be a very helpful law for parents who are concerned that the other side will pick up and move the children without any recourse.


This new law will be found in the Annotated Code of Maryland, Family Law Article Section 9-106.


If you have any questions about the new laws taking effect on October 1, 2023, or other family law matters, please contact Laurie Wasserman at laurie@wassermanlawoffice.com or 410-842-1070. The legal team at Wasserman Family Law is here to help guide and advocate for you.


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Disclaimer: Opinions and conclusions in these blog posts are solely those of the author unless otherwise indicated. The information contained in this blog is general in nature and is not offered and cannot be considered as legal advice for any particular situation. For legal advice, you should directly consult a lawyer to discuss the specific facts of your matter.


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