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Circuit Court for Montgomery County, Maryland Announces “One Judge One Family” Case Assignments

Circuit Court for Montgomery County, Maryland Announces “One Judge One Family” Case Assignments starting January 1, 2016

Currently, the majority of Circuit Court for Montgomery County, Maryland cases can lack continuity in the court because multiple judges may hear and decide different portions of the case.  The One Judge One Family (1F1J) initiative identifies high conflict and complex cases that would benefit from being assigned to one judge.  A 1F1J case assignment will pull in all cases between the parties/involving the same child(ren), such as divorce, custody, child support, guardianship of a minor, domestic violence, and juvenile matters, to be handled by one team.  The team will consist of one judge, one magistrate, and one case manager.

Rules of Civil Procedure - Effective January 1, 2016

Two rules of civil procedure will go into effect January 1, 2016 that directly impact family law matters.

The first - 5-803 – Hearsay Exceptions: Unavailability of Declarant Not Required – applies in domestic violence protective order cases in which a court referred the case for a child protective services (CPS) investigation. Specifically 5-803(b)(8)(A)(iv) regards admissibility, at a final protective order hearing, of factual findings reported to a court in a CPS report, provided the parties have had a fair opportunity to review the report. It is the current practice in such situations for CPS to prepare and submit the report to the court, for the parties/their attorneys to review the report at court the day of the final protective order hearing, and for CPS not to send the investigator to court as a witness. The lack of witness could result in a CPS report not being admitted. The addition of this new rule will allow the CPS report to be received into evidence in the absence of a live witness from CPS.

New grounds for divorce in Maryland – Mutual Consent

As of October 1, 2015 there is a new ground for absolute divorce in Maryland.

Parties can now obtain an absolute divorce based on mutual consent if the parties do not have minor children in common, the parties submit to the court a written and signed settlement agreement resolving the parties’ alimony and property rights and neither party files a pleading to set aside the settlement agreement prior to the divorce hearing. Both parties must appear before the court at the absolute divorce hearing.

Process for filing for Divorce based on Mutual Consent in Montgomery County:

When filing for divorce based on Mutual Consent, the Circuit Court for Montgomery County, Maryland is requiring that the written and signed settlement agreement be submitted with the complaint and that the following new Joint Request for Uncontested Divorce Hearing form (exclusively for Mutual Consent grounds) be filed:

By: Christina P. DeVault

Vince Wills – Outgoing Chair of the MSBA Family & Juvenile Section

Vincent M. Wills, a partner of the firm, recently completed his year long term (2014-2015) as chair of the Family and Juvenile Law Section for the Maryland State Bar Association. During his time as president, Mr. Wills was involved in planning Continuing Legal Education seminars to be offered by the Section, the 2014-2015 legislative session and the planning for a new initiative called “Family Law for the Public.” Mr. Wills wrapped up his year as president by speaking to the Family and Juvenile Law Section for the Maryland State Bar Association at the annual bar convention in Ocean City, MD.

New Ground for Divorce – Mutual Consent

In the 2015 legislative session, the Maryland General Assembly passed a bill that allows for divorce based upon Mutual Consent. This new law goes into effect October 1, 2015.

The Mutual Consent ground for divorce allows parties to file for and obtain a divorce if:

  •  the spouses have no minor children in common (so, none born or adopted during the marriage),
  •  there is a written settlement agreement signed by both spouses,
  • the parties submit the agreement to the court,
  • the agreement resolves alimony and the distribution of property, including any monetary award and use and possession of any property,
  • neither spouses files a request to set aside the settlement agreement prior to the divorce hearing; and,
  • both parties appear in court at the absolute divorce hearing.

The Mutual Consent ground for divorce does not require the parties to separate or to end marital relations.

Law on Adultery and Divorce in Era of Marriage Equality for Same-Sex Couples

Maryland Legislator, Legal Advocates Hail Attorney General Opinion Clarifying Law on Adultery and Divorce in Era of Marriage Equality for Same-Sex Couples

(Baltimore, August 13, 2015) – Maryland advocates in the areas of family law and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights welcomed a formal opinion of the state’s Attorney General, Brian E. Frosh, which concludes that sexual intimacy between a married person and a person who is not their spouse qualifies as adultery, for purposes of Maryland divorce law, regardless of the gender of the parties.

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