For spouses who reach a settlement on all issues in the divorce, a Mutual Consent Divorce is the easiest way to get divorced in Maryland. We are often surprised that people are unaware of this option and instead believe they must be physically separated for a year before obtaining a no-fault divorce. Mutual Consent Divorce can make the entire divorce process quicker, simpler, and more affordable. Here is what you need to know about Mutual Consent Divorce.
How to Know if Mutual Consent Divorce is Right for You
If you and your spouse wish to avoid the messy litigation that is sometimes associated with the divorce process, a Mutual Consent Divorce offers a helpful option for moving forward. Mutual Consent Divorce is the ideal solution for couples who agree to divorce and who have reached a written agreement resolving all issues arising out of their divorce. A Mutual Consent Divorce is an option even if you have minor children, and even if you are still residing together and are waiting to physically separate. There is no waiting period required to request a Mutual Consent Divorce.
First Things First, Sign the Separation Agreement
Also referred to as a Marital Settlement Agreement or Property Settlement Agreement, Separation Agreements exist to resolve all marriage-related issues before the divorce process—all without couples having to endure a one-year physical separation. However, Separation Agreements require that both parties agree to the same terms, and that process can take some time while the parties reach agreements. With the help of their family attorneys or a mediator, spouses create a legal contract that outlines all relevant information and resolutions related to the divorce. Before drafting the agreement, couples need to reach an agreement on the following issues:
Grounds for divorce
Division of property
Insurance, debts, and other financial issues
If a Separation Agreement fails to address and resolve all these issues as required by the Court, the divorce may be delayed or denied altogether. Even if you’ve come to the terms of an agreement on your own, you should still consult a family law attorney to ensure that your agreement purports with Maryland law and you understand what you are getting—and what you are waiving—in your divorce.
Work Out Any Lingering Issues Ahead of Time
If you and your spouse are interested in a Mutual Consent Divorce but cannot come to an agreement on all of the issues in the Separation Agreement, mediation can be a great solution. By hiring a third-party mediator, you and your spouse can resolve any lingering issues before signing the Separation Agreement.
Throughout the mediation process, mediators operate as a neutral third party to help facilitate discussions between spouses to reach a solution that satisfies both people. The mediator will draft a formal agreement after all issues are resolved. The mediator will then encourage you to review the agreement with an attorney of your own. Mediation is considered a confidential process, so if an agreement cannot be reached, neither the mediator nor the couple can testify in court about what was discussed during mediation.
How to Request a Mutual Consent Divorce
The process of requesting a Mutual Consent Divorce from the Court is relatively quick and simple. Firstly, after both parties have signed the Separation Agreement, one spouse will file a “Complaint for Absolute Divorce” on the grounds of Mutual Consent. The person who files will be considered the Plaintiff. The next step involves the other spouse (also known as the Defendant) filing an “Answer” to the Complaint, which confirms that both parties agree on the terms and both consent to the divorce. At this stage, the Court will confirm that no outstanding issues are left to resolve and will schedule an “uncontested divorce hearing.” These hearings are required to confirm that all terms and information included in the initial Complaint and Separation Agreement are accurate, and typically only take a few minutes to complete. Currently, almost all uncontested divorce hearings across Maryland are being held remotely.
For those interested in learning more about Mutual Consent Divorce or require assistance drafting a Separation/Marital Settlement Agreement, please feel free to reach out to our office. Laurie M. Wasserman and Steffani L. Langston are also fully trained to serve as family law mediators and help resolve disputes before the divorce process. Contact us today to learn more. The legal team at Wasserman Family Law is here to help guide and advocate for you.
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