The Maryland State Bar Association’s February Bar Bulletin featured a 2016 Family Law Legislative
Preview by Lindsay Parvis, which appears below and can also be viewed on the MSBA’s website (http://www.msba.org/Bar_Bulletin/2016/01_-_January/2016_Family_Law_Legislative_Preview.aspx):
On January 13, 2016, the Maryland General Assembly begins its 2016 legislative session. Each session, the Family and Juvenile Law Section Council's ("FJLSC") Legislative Committee actively monitors all family law and related legislation, testifies in Annapolis, meets with legislators, and educates Section members. Here is a brief preview of some anticipated family law and related bills in the coming session:
In the recent 2015 session, the Legislature enacted a new ground for divorce - Mutual Consent. At present, the Mutual Consent ground (Fam. Law Art., §7-103(8)) is limited to couples who do not have minor children in common. While there may not be an attempt in the 2016 session to expand this new ground to all couples, such an effort is anticipated to occur at some point in the not-too-distant future. Meanwhile, §7-103(8)(ii) (2)'s reference to §8-208 regarding use and possession is an artifact of the original draft of the
bill (which did not exclude couples with minor children in common), which may result in a corrective bill in the upcoming session, or it may remain in the current version of the law until future attempts to expand the ground to include couples with minor children are undertaken.
In the meantime, the Mutual Consent ground has resulted in inconsistent procedures throughout Maryland regarding corroborating witnesses. Some jurisdictions require a third party corroborating witness, while others do not. This issue invites potential updates to two existing laws in the Family Law Article:
1) §7-101(b), which requires corroboration of grounds testimony; and,
2) §8-104, under which a separation agreement is corroboration of the ground of voluntary separation.
First, clarity is needed about whether third party corroboration is required for the Mutual Consent ground. It is also time to reexamine whether third party corroboration should be eliminated altogether. If so, this invites the question of whether the requirement of corroboration should be eliminated in all cases or just uncontested cases.
Second, with the elimination of "voluntary separation" in the 2011 session, §8-104 of the Family Law Article is no longer applicable. It is time either to eliminate it or update it to correspond to the new Mutual