General Assembly passes divorce-by-settlement bill
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By: Steve Lash; Daily Record Legal Affairs Writer; April 13, 2015
ANNAPOLIS – The Maryland General Assembly on Monday passed legislation to enable married couples without minor children to divorce through settlement agreement and forgo the state’s one-year separation requirement before terminating a marriage.
Both spouses would have to sign the agreement and be present when a judge grants their absolute divorce.
The measure, Senate Bill 472, awaits Gov. Larry Hogan’s signature. If enacted, the measure would go into effect Oct. 1.
The Senate passed the measure on a vote of 40-6. The House approved the bill on a vote of 104-34.
Divorce settlements approved by courts under the measure would be categorized as divorces “on the grounds of mutual consent.”
Sen. Robert A. “Bobby” Zirkin, D-Baltimore County and the bill’s chief sponsor, called the measure a sensible way for couples to end their marriages when they can reach amicable agreements on the division of property without the acrimony of a trial or being legally bound to each other for 12 months.
The bill “keeps individuals from having to spend boatloads of money on divorce lawyers, like myself,” said Zirkin, who chairs the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee and runs a two-person law firm in Owings Mills. “The last thing a judge wants to see is a contested, ugly divorce.”
As originally proposed, SB 472 would have permitted married couples — regardless of whether they have children — to divorce via settlement without having to wait the year. However, the bill was amended in the House of Delegates in the past few days by legislators concerned that the best interests of the children would not receive adequate consideration in the bill’s divorce-by-settlement process.